Sorority women opt for cheaper rent by looking to frat row

All sorority chapter houses must close over summer because of national rules.
June 29, 2011

When Chelsea Kazmierczak visited her hometown of Fargo, N.D., last month, some of her friends and family members expressed concern about her summer housing.

“They were afraid that it’s dirty, gross and [that] booze is just lying around all the time,” the physiology and Spanish junior said. 

Kazmierczak said she understands their fear. She first heard as a freshman about sorority women renting rooms along fraternity row for the summer, and she “couldn’t understand why a girl would want to live there.”

Two years later, she calls the Beta Theta Pi fraternity  on University Avenue home for the summer, and said it is far from the stereotypical dirty party palace people may imagine.

“It’s not what you would expect,” she said. “It’s really not a bad place to live.”

When sorority houses on the University of Minnesota campus close their doors for the summer, a number of sorority women turn to fraternity houses for temporary housing.

Beta Theta Pi is housing eight sorority women this summer, chapter President Joel Livingood said. Ross Gebauer, president of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, said two women are living in their house this summer.

All sorority chapter houses are required to close because of national rules, said Megan McMurray, president of the Panhellenic Council.

Fraternity chapters see it as an opportunity to showcase their houses and make some extra cash, Livingood said.

Megan Yee, a 2011 genetics graduate, compared her experiences living in fraternities over the summer to living in a dorm.

She said men and women have separate bathrooms and fraternity members share the responsibility of keeping common areas like the kitchen and living room clean.

Yee doesn’t live in a fraternity, but has done so in the past and said she visited many of her friends in different fraternities.

“It’s a pretty typical experience,” Yee said. “There’s nothing too shocking about it.”

Kazmierczak agreed. She said women occupy one floor of Beta Theta Pi house and men occupy the other so that women are comfortable in an environment that more closely resembles sorority living.

Even so, she said she is still getting used to some of the things she sees on a daily basis.

“It’s a little different seeing drinking in the house. At first I’ll be like ‘Oh gosh,’” she said, highlighting that alcohol is banned in all sorority houses on campus. “But then I’m like ‘Oh yeah, that’s allowed here.’”

McMurray said each sorority house has different rules about when and where men can be in their houses, which Yee said is very different from fraternity houses where “you can visit a friend’s room whenever you want.”

Kazmierczak said living in the house is strange because she is used to sorority life, but that a non-greek student would probably feel right at home.

According to Yee, fraternity men advertise their openings and prices during weekly sorority dinners, but Kazmierczak and McMurray said many women made the choice to live in houses where they were already comfortable with the members of the fraternity.

At $800 for the entire summer, the women said they could save about $800 by living on fraternity row.

These savings make it a very popular choice for summer housing among sorority women, Kazmierczak and McMurray said.

Livingood said housing sorority women or non-greek students is a way for fraternities to overcome some of the stereotypes associated with fraternity life.

But Yee said some of the stereotypes hold true — parties and small gatherings are not uncommon — though she said that adds to the summer fun and relaxation she was seeking.

 Kazmierczak called this a “very academic summer for her” and said though people are always looking to have a good time, they are respectful of her efforts to study for her organic chemistry class.

For her, there is another unexpected benefit of living in the fraternity house: Women from four different sororities share the space, so she has gotten to know fellow greeks she may have otherwise never talked with.

Livingood said he, too, used to have stereotypes, and though they hold true for some chapter houses, providing an opportunity for any student to live with and get to know his chapter is the ultimate way of changing minds.

“We can keep a clean house and manage a group of tenants,” Livingood said. “We are proving that we can keep an atmosphere that is safe and enjoyable.”

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