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Pair of sororities to leave Strong Hall, relocate to other residence halls

Kaiden Yu | Staff Photographer
A student enters Strong Hall.

Two sororities in the Panhellenic Association will move out of Strong Hall next fall after the University decided to relocate them to other campus residence halls.

Brian Joyce, the assistant dean of student life, said the Division for Student Affairs performs a “space needs” assessment of the campus each academic year, and this August will move Kappa Alpha Theta and Chi Omega into Building JJ and Townhouse A, respectively. Members of Kappa Alpha Theta said they asked the University to move them out of Strong Hall due to concerns with mold, pests and cramped living quarters for sorority members.

Leaders in Chi Omega did not return multiple requests for comment.

Joyce said Pi Beta Phi, the third Panhellenic chapter residing in Strong Hall, will continue to live in the hall next year but didn’t specify what officials plan to do with the rest of the space. Pi Beta Phi did not return a request for comment.

“The teams will evaluate and determine the best future use for Strong Hall in the years to come,” Joyce said in an email.

Chi Omega and Pi Beta Phi moved into Strong Hall in fall 2010 after officials renovated the community kitchens and the building’s entrance and added a “backyard plaza” — now known as Square 80 — for the sororities to host social events. Kappa Alpha Theta moved into Strong Hall in fall 2019 after members of Chi Omega and Pi Beta Phi expressed concerns to the University about “filling beds.”

Before housing Panhellenic chapters, Strong Hall was a women’s residence hall open to all undergraduate students before officials announced it would house sororities in November 2009.

Carrie-Anne Olson, the house manager for Kappa Alpha Theta, said she initially wanted the sorority to move into Townhouse A on Townhouse Row because it has been vacant this year, previously serving as a residence hall for first-year students last academic year after housing fraternity Sigma Chi until the end of the spring semester 2022.

Olson said she pushed for the chapter to vacate Strong Hall this year because Kappa Alpha Theta has the “worst living arrangements” out of the three chapters in the residence hall.

Members of Kappa Alpha Theta live on the second level of Strong Hall and use a common room on the basement level, where Olson said there are often cockroaches and mold in the air conditioning units, which she said caused chapter members to develop coughs. Olson said Kappa Alpha Theta’s second-floor rooms are smaller than those of Chi Omega and Pi Beta Phi members, who reside on the upper floors and penthouse of Strong Hall.

She added that the sorority has to hold its weekly chapter meetings in the University Student Center because the basement in Strong Hall is too small to accommodate all of their members.

“There’s not going to be roaches on the penthouse, and we have the smallest space and the dingiest,” Olson said. 

Olson said members of the chapter will be able to live in Strong Hall over the summer and at the start of next academic year will move into Building JJ, which previously housed the Kappa Sigma fraternity before becoming a first-year dorm in 2021. She said the move will be an “upgrade” because there is more room to house members with suites fitting up to five people, instead of only singles and doubles in Strong Hall.

Olson said it was difficult to get members to live in Strong even though the chapter requires them to live in the hall for their first two semesters because they would rather live in “nicer” residence halls like Shenkman Hall. She said this year, the sorority had to fill 95 percent of the beds in Strong Hall on their designated floor, and that Kappa Alpha Theta would have to pay for the beds “out of pocket” if they didn’t meet the requirements.

Both single and double rooms in Strong Hall cost $6,225 per semester, according to Campus Living & Residential Education’s website.

“A lot of girls would just refuse to live in, they didn’t want to get pulled in,” Olson said. “They would threaten to disaffiliate if we pull them.”

Olson said she hopes living in Building JJ will help boost the chapters’ new member recruitment because they will be able to host more events in a larger space than the second and basement floors of Strong Hall.

“A lot of girls join Greek life because they’re trying to find a sense of community, and it’s easier to do that in a nicer, bigger house, where people actually want to live,” Olson said.

Olson said Building JJ is not as accessible as Strong Hall because steep steps lead up to the entrance. She said Strong Hall also had steps leading up to the entrance, but there is a back entrance accessible via ramp. She said the University doesn’t have plans to add an elevator to make the staircase entrance of Building JJ more accessible.

“I do think girls might feel isolated if they need those accommodations and are able to live in the house,” Olson said. 

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