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Striving for Equality: The Addition of Sorority Houses to Bucknell’s Campus

Last Tuesday, my sorority had the honor of hosting President Bravman for a conversation about the campus climate at our weekly chapter meeting. We discussed many hot topics, lots of them relating to women’s issues and issues of sexual assault. One member of my sorority raised her hand and bluntly asked, “Why don’t we have sorority houses?” To my surprise, Bravman had a look of utter shock on his face. “Well. Do you want them??” he inquired as if he has never heard the idea before. In one simultaneous yell, we all responded, “YES!!”

Why don’t women have sorority houses on campus? This is a question I have pondered ever since arriving at Bucknell. Fraternity men are awarded large houses that provide a space to casually hang out as an organization, bond over meals, host social gatherings, and learn the definition of brotherhood. Without sorority houses, women are left bereft of all these outstanding benefits, often eating their meals in the cafeteria or bison with freshman men and other sorority women. It’s time to unpack the issue of sorority housing; lay out the facts, and demand change…here we go:

Wait…aren’t sorority houses illegal in Pennsylvania?**Pennsylvania state law says that if more that eight university women live together in one house, it constitutes a brothel and is therefore illegal.**

NOT TRUE!! This law does not exist and never did in Pennsylvania. It is a powerful rumor that has been viciously circulated to keep women’s mouths shut so we don’t question why the fraternity men are awarded mansions, and we are awarded half of a floor in a dorm building. If this were a state law, it would be confusing why Pennsylvania universities like Dickinson and Lehigh both have multiple sorority houses on campus. The borough of Lewisburg, in its zoning laws, makes no distinction between sorority and fraternity houses.

We would have a chef and a communal eating space.

Let’s not forget one of the most important benefits: a chef. Not only do you get meals tailored to your organization, but also you get time to sit down with your sisters and chat—something that has proven to be priceless for fraternity brothers. I understand fraternity dining food is not always luxurious or up to the highest food or sanitation standards. However, eating meals together is about much more than just having “good food.” We currently do not have any communal spaces to bond and hang out with each other that can accommodate our entire sorority or even one pledge class. Therefore, if we had sorority houses, we would have a space that lends itself to riveting conversation and a place to unwind after a rigorous day of classes.

Along with bonding time, the additional houses and kitchens would create opportunities for local jobs, adding seven new chef openings to Lewisburg residents, and further strengthen our ties with the outside community.

We can handle the responsibility—this is what we want.

There is power and prestige assigned to having a house that surpasses the downside of responsibility. Sure, there are huge responsibilities associated with having a house such as security, but that shouldn’t mean that only fraternity men could handle it. I understand that not every sorority woman would want to live in this house, as it could be loud, messy, expensive, and too social—but that does not mean that the women have to live there. They can opt out of the house, as I’m sure many fraternity men currently do.

Bucknell sorority women took a poll about seven years ago and decided to have Hunt Hall as opposed to sorority houses. However our values, culture, and campus climate have all changed since then—and it is time to reevaluate what sorority women really want on campus in regards to housing.

To make sure houses are really what sorority women want, I reached out to a few of them and asked their opinions on the matter. Maddie Seymour, Delta Gamma President, put her thoughts perfectly when describing the benefits of sorority housing. “I strongly believe that individuals flourish when given communal spaces to congregate, think, talk, and live. Although our current suite-system allows this, it also restricts us simply by the number of women that can be on the suite at one time.”

Rachel Wahl, President of Kappa Kappa Gamma explained her thoughts on the matter in a positive and upbeat way. “I am a huge advocate for building sorority houses on Bucknell University’s campus! These houses would allow members of the Panhellenic community to eat meals together and continue building strong bonds of sisterhood,” Wahl said.  

Alpha Chi Omega President, Katey Duffey, elaborated on the importance of communal sorority eating. “I believe that having a house would be extremely beneficial in the sisterhood bonding aspect of AXO. I think the biggest benefit would definitely be eating meals together!” Duffey said.

Laura Schipper, new member of Alpha Delta Pi explained how women on campus need communal spaces. “We currently do not have a place that the entire chapter can go to hang out. We need a bigger space to call our own.” Lauren Smith, a new member of Alpha Xi Delta, summed up the sorority housing issue quite nicely. “Women on campus need a space where we have autonomy and agency to make our own decisions, and have some control in social gatherings.”

My question is: what are we waiting for? Bucknell is making moves towards major structural and institutional changes, such as adding an entire dorm for seniors and juniors that will be constructed in less than two years. Housing will drastically change, as the amount of off-campus living will be capped to about 125 men and 125 women, further limiting women’s options to reside in their own houses.

I say we band together and demand sorority houses. Even if it takes years, it will be something we left at Bucknell, something we will be able to look back on. We’ll be able to look back and say we did something big. We’ll be able to look back and say we stopped listening to fake laws and started making real changes. We’ll be able to look back and say you’re welcome sorority women…take responsibility, be humble, respect your space, and eat dinners with your chefs…you deserve it.

Gabby is a sophomore political science and women and gender studies double major at Bucknell University. She was born and raised on Long Island, NY with the hopes of owning her own law firm in NYC one day. Gabby has always had a special eye for issues concerning women today, and hopes to convey that passion through her writing. Gabby is extremely politically active and enjoys watching/reading the news, engaging in friendly debate, and making fun of Sarah Palin as much as possible.
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