When students begin their room selection process next week, most will find one less floor option in the Burgess/Norton dormitory to choose from.
A new learning-living community pilot program designed to specifically accommodate sorority women at the University of South Dakota is being implemented in fall 2014, with the intent to alleviate USD sorority chapter housing capacity strains.
Amber Groh, director of sorority-fraternity life and leadership, said the new LLC has been established between her office and the university housing office because of the higher chapter enrollment seen in the last four years in all four sororities at USD.
“The chapters traditionally on our campus for a number of years were able to house all sophomore, junior and senior women who wanted to live in the chapter house,” Groh said. “Because of the last couple of years with recruitment taking in larger numbers, seniors needed to move out to make room for incoming sophomores.”
Sororities at USD include Alpha Phi, Alpha Xi Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta and Pi Beta Phi.
Todd Tucker, USD interim housing director, said the choice to reserve the second floor of Norton for the sorority LLC will not affect university housing overall, because the number of sorority women expected to request the LLC will fill match the floor’s capacity.
“It’s a partnership — Greek life and housing work under the same offices, so it’s important to find ways to collaborate the two,” Tucker said. “It’s not about Greek life, it’s not about housing — it’s about USD students.”
Second floor Norton can house between 50 and 60 students, but Tucker and Groh estimate between 40 and 50 sorority women will opt to live in the LLC. The remaining rooms will become available to non-sorority women.
As a way to allow for more seniors to remain in the chapter houses, the LLC encourages sophomores — although Groh said the LLC is open to anyone — to remain on campus for another year with other sorority women. She added seniors provide a mentorship role to younger members in each house, which is currently not happening as readily because of chapter house capacity strains.
“Our role in this was to provide a solution to the problem, whether or not the chapters utilize the option is up to them,” Groh said.
Laura Roof, coordinator of sorority-fraternity life and leadership, has been the primary developer of the LLC programming.
“The structure of this LLC will have a self-governing body within their own Greek membership,” Roof said. “That governing body will do programming based around the four core values of the Greek letter organizations: leadership, scholarship, the brotherhood-sisterhood and the community service.”
University housing and the sorority-fraternity life and leadership office have been planning out the LLC since fall 2012 and presented the housing option to the Panhellenic Association earlier this month.
The president from each sorority house attends Panhellenic meetings and reports back to their respective chapters on what was discussed.
Once each house was informed of the LLC, they were asked by the Association to provide responses on if they would be in favor of the LLC program.
Jasmine Brower, president of Alpha Xi Delta at USD, said her sorority is in favor of the LLC, and the chapter house will participate in the program.
“A lot of seniors feel kicked out and excluded once they have to leave the house, and it’s a good way to keep younger Greeks together,” she said. “With the way it’s going, our house will max out at capacity, but we do have girls who won’t be eligible to live in the house because of grades, etc. so this is a nice alternative for them and for future members.”
Representatives from Alpha Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta and Pi Beta Phi did not respond to phone calls and emails asking if they were in favor of the LLC and if they will participate.
Groh said participation from each chapter house is not mandatory.
Because each sorority is nearing housing capacities, Groh said an exploratory committee met in January to discuss the possibility of bringing a fifth sorority to USD. The committee tabled the discussion and will bring it up again next fall after further assessments can be made.
Among the assessments will be a change to the way fall sorority recruitment works.
According to Groh, sorority recruitment week will begin the week prior to the first week of classes in August.
“We would never want women to miss class or lab due to recruitment, but due the high volume of women going through, if you miss an event, it is very difficult to make a connection with a chapter because there are so many women,” Groh said.
Groh said in the preliminary planning stages of the LLC, the Burgess/Norton and McFadden complexes were the two facilities being considered. Ultimately, she said, the Norton complex was chosen because of its proximity to the chapter houses.
“We’ve talked about working very closely with Greek life and working with our programming,” Tucker said.
Anyone living in the LLC will be charged university housing rates, and Tucker said the university would not be losing any money with the restructuring of the housing system.
Tucker said because second floor Norton will no longer be available to most, students currently living on the floor will be receiving an email from housing informing them of their displacement due to the LLC, and will receive priority when housing room selections begin next week.
“We’ll see how it goes and see how it affects housing and Greek life,” Tucker said. “If it’s something that’s a win-win for everyone, we’ll continue to do it.”