Greek letters line the outside of the apartment complexes across from the Engineering IV building. Where there was once dirt and train tracks, there now glistens omegas, deltas and kappas hung from the side of freshly built student housing. That’s the vision.
Cal Poly has proposed building on-campus housing for all students in greek organizations. However, not all greek life members are happy with the proposal.
Included in the most recent Strategic Plan draft is a potential initiative to create a Greek Village for all greek organizations, including Panhellenic (PHA), Interfraternity Council (IFC) and the United Sorority Fraternity Council (USFC).
Although a location still has not been finalized for the village, the ideal area for it would be north of Engineering IV, near the lower sports complex fields, Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey said in an interview.
The village is meant to support a measure to create safer, healthier and more leadership-based greek organizations.
This is not the first time Cal Poly has brought up the possibility of building on-campus housing specifically for students in greek life.
The possibility for all-greek student housing was first brought up in 2013. When Cal Poly entered into the deferred recruitment compromise, which created party registration and risk management policies and expanded the greek system, students in greek life asked the administration to explore the feasibility of a creating a Greek Village, Humphrey said.
The village would create a facility where all fraternity and sorority houses could be together and share facilities, effectively moving them out of neighborhoods.
“A lot of our greek organizations are living or holding membership functions in facilities that were not designed for the size of their organization,” Humphrey said. “So our students have regularly asked for the university to help them find and create facilities that are more appropriate to the size of their organizations.”
Since then, Cal Poly has looked to other universities’ on-campus housing for students in greek life as an example. One model the university has especially kept an eye on is the one at Arizona State University (ASU) because of the different model configurations organizations can choose from for their house, Humphrey said.
The Greek Leadership Village at ASU opened in Fall 2018 and includes 27 chapter houses as well as a community center and retail area, according to the ASU website. The project began in 2012 after members in the IFC expressed interest in on-campus housing for students in greek life, similarly to how the idea started at Cal Poly.
After the idea came to fruition in 2013, Cal Poly also sent out surveys to students in IFC, PHA and USFC to gauge their interest in a Greek Village, as well as amenities they would like to see offered in the village and how they feel about their current housing.
The last survey was sent out a few years ago, but Humphrey said the administration has checked in with sorority and fraternity leadership every year to ensure the project is still something students would want. So far, Humphrey said the consensus has been that they do.
According to the survey, benefits of the village would be unification of all greek organizations, ease of securing housing, creating a safer place to live, a lack of sensitive neighbors and an on-campus location for meetings.
However, not all agree that having more university oversight of greek organizations will be completely beneficial.
“I think just the mix of sororities and fraternities all in one place telling them, one, not to drink, two, you can’t make noise past whatever it is, 10 p.m. on weekdays, I do not know if that would be very successful,” agricultural business senior and Alpha Omicron Pi [AOPi] member Jen Harlow said.
Although students would have the option to keep their greek houses and live there or in the village if they choose, Harlow said the stigma surrounding being an upperclassman living on-campus could present difficulties getting greek members to live in the village.
Cost would also be another large area of concern for James Abundis, the diversity chair for Gamma Zeta Alpha, a Latino Interest fraternity in USFC. The computer science senior said that while the village could be beneficial in promoting interaction between all greek organizations, there may be other students on campus who could better make use of the facilities.
“I’ve thought about this before, it’s like, why should we get housing? There’s students who are homeless on campus who can barely afford tuition,” Abundis said. “I can’t help to think that people probably need it more than me.”
In fact, a Cal Poly survey conducted via email in 2016 found that 270 of 2,192 students, or 12.3 percent, reported being homeless.
Within cultural fraternities, many students are first-generation, low-income, or both, making paying high fees for on-campus housing on top of dues something that typically would not be feasible for many members, Abundis said.
On average, USFC dues range from $50 to $100 per quarter, while IFC dues range from $200 to $350 per quarter and PHA from $300 to $450 per quarter.
“I’ve seen a chart showing that 70 percent of the students here have families who make over $100,000 a year. We’re not from there, so if our members were to be charged the same rate as people from other [organizations] who historically, demographically have richer members, we probably would not be able to afford it,” Abundis said. “It’d just end up being predominantly white fraternities and sororities living there. I mean, that benefited them, but us it might not.”
Currently USFC does not have any official housing, so having a place to interact with other organizations could be beneficial if the pricing corresponded with income as well as dues for the organization, Abundis said.
“It’d be great if we had the option living in greek life housing and reduced greek life housing for greeks who come from poor income families, maybe that’s a better way to handle it,” Abundis said. “Not all of us can afford that on top of our dues. I mean, I can’t.”
The cost of living off campus versus on-campus could also be a factor in deterring students from living in the Greek Village, Harlow said.
“AOPi has a very discounted price to live in the house because very few people even live in the house,” Harlow said. “It’s dependent on your financial situation and your roommate situation … it’s not necessarily an alternative because I think very few people in greek organizations actually live in the house.”
The greek village is still in the conceptual phase, so logistics like cost and location still have not been determined and cannot be determined until the university Master Plan has been approved by the CSU Board of Trustees, Humphrey said.