As a member of a UR sorority, your housing is relegated to special-interest floors in upperclassmen housing.
Forget the columns and lawns of the buildings on the Fraternity Quad—if you’re in Phase, maybe you can hang your letters on metal-barred balconies. Make your way over to Towers, and you can have an elevator instead. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with sorority housing on campus, but it’s certainly different than what’s provided at other schools across the country, and many students do not know why.
Some students chalk up the reasons to rumors of obscure brothel laws.
“Rumor has it, a past president stated that we can’t have houses because ‘it could cause a brothel,’” freshman Jade Miller said. “But it’s unclear whether that’s actually true or not.”
Indeed, the brothel rumor is a popular one.
“I heard that New York state has an old law that goes something along the lines of ‘five or more women living in a house together is considered a brothel,” sophomore Anyah Wright said.“Which is silly, seeing as the South revoked that long ago.”
Mina Morkous, sophomore, doesn’t think it’s true, though. “New York state doesn’t say anything about that law—it’s the state of Pennsylvania,” he said.
He’s partly right, as there is no mention of this in New York zoning laws—but there’s also no mention of it in Pennsylvania. The brothel rumor is a modern-day myth that stretches across state lines to other institutions, where sororities also live exclusively on residence floors instead of owning houses.
“The reason why sororities cannot have houses is because they follow strict guidelines from the National Panhellenic Conference,” Morkous explained.
According to John DiSarro, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, when UR moved to the River Campus, it identified a section of land where fraternities could build houses. All of those houses were built before any sororities were recognized at the University.
DiSarro explained that, in the fall of 2014, the Panhellenic Association “approved a new bylaw that would prevent any chapter from residing in an official house” unless every chapter could concurrently do so. As stated in the bylaw, “this understanding is created out of courtesy to promote fairness and good spirit in the Panhellenic community.”
Not all sororities receive equal housing, however.
If a new chapter arrives on campus and is unable to find a space to house their members, current chapters are not obligated to give up their residences. Additionally, if a chapter loses their current residence due to extenuating circumstances, such as University disciplinary action or an inability to fill the floor with enough members, all chapters do not have to give up their housing.
So the brothel myth has been busted, and who needs the manicured lawns and Corinthian columns, anyway? For sororities, it’s all about equality—if one chapter cannot have a house, no one can.