First, a disclaimer: I know very little about Greek life.
I personally don’t understand the allure of joining a fraternity or sorority, and while I admire the effort Greek students put into their respective organizations, I rarely involve myself with that community.
One thing about Ohio Wesleyan’s Greek program that has continually baffled me, though, is the inability of members of sororities to live in their houses.
I know several sorority women, and they are all incredibly dedicated to the cause.
They work tirelessly planning events on and off campus, retreats to bond with new members and casual gatherings to promote not just their own sororities, but Greek life in general.
From my knowledge, it seems being in a sorority is a full-time job.
Why, then, are these steadfast devotees to the Greek community not allowed to live in the houses they pay dues to own and maintain?
I’ve heard several explanations—an old law that designates a house boarding more than eight unrelated women as a brothel is the most widely offered, supposedly out of its humor.
I find this explanation to be disgusting. An archaic statute that implies women become prostitutes when eight or more of them decide to live together is inherently misogynistic.
This law can’t exist anymore, right? Isn’t there a more sensible, progressive elucidation for why OWU’s sororities are nonresidential?
Indeed there is. According to Greek Life Coordinator Dana Behum, the sorority houses on Winter Street are not owned by the university, but by the national entities of the organizations or local alumni.
“OWU has no part in their property management decisions,” she said.
ResLife Interim Assistant Director Drew Peterson added the houses would require expensive renovations for them to meet the standards set by the national sororities.
Therefore, he said, even if the university cleared OWU members to live off-campus, they most likely wouldn’t be able to because the national organizations wouldn’t be willing to invest in making the houses habitable.
While this is an infinitely more logical explanation than the brothel law, to me it still doesn’t justify keeping sororities from living in their houses.
At OWU, the benefits of membership are disproportionately greater for the latter than the former.
Fraternity brothers get to live in fully furnished on-campus houses.
Yet their dues are lower than those for sororities.
The fact that sorority women have to pay to keep up properties they can’t even live in, quite frankly, doesn’t make sense to me. Higher dues and an obligation to pay for university board create an apparent cost disparity that’s quite alarming.
Both the university and the national sororities with OWU chapters should be more sympathetic to this. It is in their interest to reward and encourage the commendable work our sororities do for the campus community and Delaware.
To ignore their efforts would be truly tactless.
A financial partnership between the university and the national sororities, especially those with local alumnae, would not be infeasible.
It seems to me that if the national organizations were not fiscally alone in making proper renovations to the houses, they would be more inclined to do so and thus alleviate the financial burdens of the women that work so zealously for them.
Moreover, the university needs to put an end to the myth of the brothel law and make students aware of the reasons Greek Life and ResLife gave me for having nonresidential sororities.
While it seems funny on its face, the fact that it is the prevailing explanation makes Ohio Wesleyan and Delaware alike seem sexist and backward. I’m the first to admit Delaware isn’t the most cultured town, I don’t feel it’s right to give undue attention to misogynistic rules that allegedly existed here.
Nonresidential sororities are an unfortunate and unjust reality at Ohio Wesleyan, but they don’t have to be a permanent fixture. It’s up to the university and the national sororities—the institutions with the power to make a change—to create greater equity in our Greek community.