Sororities vs. Fraternities: Why the Institutional Discrepancies Count

If you are a Bucknell student, chances are you have attended a party hosted by a fraternity. It was probably an awesome time…  if you got in, which you may or may not have, unfortunately depending on your gender. In college, partying is often a very different experience for males and females. For many young women there is a fear of sexual misconduct in the context of college parties based on stories from others or past experiences. On the other hand, many men (particularly first years) are forced to wait outside for long periods of time without certainty that they will even be able to enter the party. It is important to question implications of differences between sororities and fraternities and the impact they have on both young women and men.

First of all, there is a big difference in the housing situations for sororities and fraternities on campus. Most fraternity housing is provided in the form of individual apartment buildings, with the fairly recent addition of two new houses: Lambda Chi Alpha and Kappa Delta Rho. Each of these new 26-bed buildings, completed in 2012, had a total cost of $3.03 million and cover an area of 13,000 gross square feet. Sorority housing is located in Hunt Hall, where each sorority occupies half of a floor, clearly at a spatial disadvantage to their male counterparts. There are many rumors about why Bucknell does not have individual sorority housing, one of the more popular being that there is a “Brothel Law” in Pennsylvania preventing 8 or more women from living under the same roof. In fact, this law is nonexistent. Additionally, there are no university rules against the provision of sorority housing. Bucknell has held agreements with alumni groups and certain national organizations that ensure the provision of fraternity housing; however, there seems to be no such economic push of support for sorority housing.

About ten years ago, the University started a conversation about housing arrangements for sororities, but at the time sorority members did not express a majority interest in options other than Hunt Hall. It should be noted, however, that the disinterest might have been related to the costs of insurance and potential liability that is associated with leasing/owning student housing. Rachel Cohen, a sophomore member of Alpha Delta Pi, says that she has “mixed feelings about the housing differences. On one hand, it’s a shame that each sorority doesn’t have their own house, because it would be a great space for everyone to hang out and spend time together”. She also notes that “on the other hand, all sororities are together so that if you have friends in other organizations you can still live close to them”.

Additionally, national organization policies and procedures prohibit any sorority from hosting a party that includes alcohol unless it is located at a licensed and insured third-party establishment. Roughly translated, men at Bucknell are the only students hosting parties with alcohol that are affiliated with Greek life. It is important to consider this in the context of the presence of sexual assault on college campuses. This is not to say that a difference in housing is the cause of sexual misbehavior at parties, but that there may be a relationship between who holds the power of being the party host and who is statistically at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted. There is simply no reason that students should have to experience bias in organizations purposefully designed for community building. Equality in the provision of housing between sororities and fraternities would promote a healthier environment for relationships between men and women on campus. Therefore, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the system of power that is indirectly implied in respect to Greek life housing on campus.