The history of FAU’s 30-year debate over fraternity and sorority housing

After almost 30 years, FAU’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life is still unsure if housing for Greek life is coming anytime soon.


Because FAU doesn’t provide on-campus housing for Greek Life members, the brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi often host parties in a house a few minutes away from campus. Photo by Simone Stewart

Kristen Grau, Features Editor

Last semester, FAU struggled to fit students into on-campus dorms and apartments — so they placed the excess students in a nearby hotel. But an even longer housing struggle they’ve dealt with is getting official, university-affiliated fraternity and sorority houses, either on or off-campus.

FAU has been proposing on-campus Greek housing since 1990, according to a Sun-Sentinel article that year. The idea started circulating again in 2007, 2011, and 2015, according to University Press articles. But after almost 30 years of wrestling with the idea, fraternity and sorority officials say that administration is still looking into it, but aren’t sure when — or if — Greek housing is coming to FAU.

“I don’t see it happening next year,” said Fraternity and Sorority Life Director Rafael Zapata. “I don’t know where in the future that might lie.”

The Greek life population at FAU has boomed from a total of 368 in 2002 to 1,357 as of last year, according to semesterly reports on Greek membership, GPAs, and philanthropy called community reports. But even as the Greek life population grows, it seems that FAU isn’t currently making the efforts it previously did to house the members.

The History Through Headlines by Cameren Boatner

Unofficial and unfunded

Though some fraternity and sorority members may choose to live together off campus, these houses or apartments are not officially affiliated with the university, Kristina Keel, executive vice president of FAU’s College Panhellenic Association, said.

“There are no letters on the outside or official financial backing,” she said, noting some differences between other universities’ affiliations with fraternity and sorority housing and FAU’s setup.

Keel, a sorority sister, said she’s glad that Greek life members are able to live with others who aren’t in their own fraternity or sorority.

However, some fraternity and sorority members said they would like FAU to keep pushing for Greek housing for a tighter sense of community.

“It’s quite a shame [there’s no housing], but I know that we’re welcome here,” Boca campus Governor and Pi Kappa Phi brother Luke Turner said. “I wish we could have Greek housing — it would just help create a better atmosphere for students, especially in the Greek community.”

Even if FAU Greek life members may be missing out on some of those experiences, Fraternity and Sorority Life Associate Director Elaine Jahnsen said there are upsides to not having official housing. A big one, she argued, was FAU’s “substantially lower” Greek life fees compared to other universities.

According to the University of Central Florida’s Greek life information website, the rent from housing alone can cost $1,500 to $3,300 — and members are expected to pay that on top of their chapter dues, which cost $300 to $400 per semester.

At Auburn University, a college in Alabama, the rent per semester for their official fraternity houses ranged from $800 to $2,950 in 2016. And like UCF, students have additional dues to pay on top of that.

But at FAU, the average total fraternity and sorority dues, or payments, are around $630. That amount only reflects organizations within the IFC and CPA, and only includes those whose dues are stated on their constitutions available on Owl Central. This also excludes one-time payment fees for new members.

For organizations with unofficial housing, members still have to pay fees to maintain it depending on the organization, but the fees are much smaller than traditional rents. For example, the sorority Alpha Delta Pi’s constitution says that members owe only $15 per semester for “decorations and furnishings.” And another sorority, Phi Mu, has a $75 fee listed on their constitution for “housing and decoration.”

Jahnsen also said that because most Greek life events happen at FAU, it’s convenient for students already living on campus and not at fraternity or sorority houses off campus.

FAU hasn’t ruled out official Greek housing, but recently, it hasn’t taken any major steps, and  administration doesn’t know when they will.

“I believe it is something administration is interested in,” Jahnsen said via email, “but [I] am not sure where in the planning process they currently are regarding housing.”

What’s been knocking down Greek housing?

In 1990, the Sun-Sentinel reported that FAU’s then-director of housing had granted fraternities a row of housing on the corner of campus by the Boca Raton Airport. But the Interfraternity Council, a governing body of fraternities, declined to use the space “with hopes of being re-zoned into a better location.”

But in later years, Greek life never got that “better location.”

In 2007, FAU even paid $6,000 to an outside consultant, Tom Jelke, for a week-long “assessment” of the Greek community, the University Press reported at the time.

The goal was to give FAU a clear idea on whether or not Greek housing was feasible. Jelke said that “the university could go either way” when it comes to introducing fraternity and sorority houses, but this assessment did not result in Greek housing, according to the University Press.

Another effort the Fraternity and Sorority Life Office made came in 2011, when they created a “housing task force” and traveled to Auburn University to scout their housing model, the University Press previously reported.

They considered a model called a “Greek Village,” where members of the same fraternity or sorority can live with or near their fellow members in the same building. The alternative model is off-campus, university-affiliated housing at universities like Florida State University and the University of Central Florida.

And the most recent attempt to bring Greek housing to campus was in 2015, when construction was halted in favor of the nature preserve near the football stadium.

The University Press reported that a Student Government bill proposed building Greek housing on lot five, north of the stadium. But professors and students argued against this, saying that housing would harm the preserve’s animals and possibly prevent biology research traditionally done in the area, and the idea fell through.

Zapata said that the process of bringing Greek housing to campus wouldn’t happen overnight. It’s a “complicated” process that involves city permits and commitment from organizations.

“It will take some time for anything of that stature to actually develop,” he said.

Kristen Grau is the features editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @_kristengrau.