The question of having sorority houses at UM is one that has been answered with many rumors throughout the years.
The most salacious of these speculations is that the city of Coral Gables has a law stating that a residence with seven or more women is considered a brothel. According to the city of Coral Gables’ municipal codes, there is no such law.
Tony Lake, associate dean of students and director of judicial affairs, believes that it all goes back to a supposed agreement between sororities to not build houses.
“The issue with the houses right now is that back when the Panhellenic building was built, the sororities that were here at the time, created a compact that basically said they agreed together … that once they did this that none of them would seek to build a house off-campus unless all them could seek to build a house off-campus,” he said.
According to Lake, if this agreement exists, the Panhellenic groups would have had to vote on it every three years in order to keep it in the books.
“You’re talking about 80 years’ worth of history and agreements and codes and rules and land and people and ideas and things that all has to be dug through,” said Steve Priepke, assistant dean of students and director of Greek life. “I think that it doesn’t happen because it’s logistically very difficult.”
Priepke also noted the significance of the amount of money it would take for sororities to have a house. According to Priepke, the project of building sorority houses would take millions of dollars, and it is very unlikely that the national chapters would be able to support a house, mortgage and Coral Gables taxes.
Building these houses off-campus would also touch neighborhood agreements that state that the University of Miami is not going to be building more student housing.
According to Coral Gables zoning codes, however, sorority housing is permissible under the campus sub-areas zoning district.
“The reality is none of this would ever happen in the life cycle of a student,” Lake said. “So who’s going to carry the charge once the students who are pushing it … leave?”
Ultimately, the absence of sorority houses falls on traditions and philosophies set in place by the original Panhellenic council. According to an email from Vice President Emeritus William Butler, it was originally agreed that a Panhellenic House would be built and financed by the sororities so that the groups could have meeting places on campus.
“The philosophy in those days was that UM was a ‘finishing school’ for young ladies and that they were required to live in residence halls on campus,” said Butler, who also served as the vice president for student affairs from 1965 to 1997. “They had to sign in and out, and there was a ‘house mother’ assigned to every floor to make sure the ladies adhered to the rules outlined in ‘The Little Green Book’ published by the Dean of Women.”
Current Panhellenic President and Kappa Kappa Gamma Marshal Michaela Hennessy said she appreciates the Panhellenic culture.
“For me the fact that we don’t have houses has really helped us,” Hennessy said. “We’re not a very catty community, and I think a chunk of that has to do with the fact that we don’t have houses and we don’t have that culture associated with our community … I think it makes everybody’s life a little less stressful.”