Dustin Steinhoff, News Editor
The state of multiple University of Missouri–St. Louis fraternity and sorority houses is currently in limbo after safety checks reveal problems with them.
While two of the UMSL fraternity houses are independently owned housing, three sorority and one fraternity chapters are university-owned housing. In January, an UMSL fraternity chapter went through an internship process where the University of Missouri system sent workers into their house to do inspections. The inspectors discovered there were some issues with the housing codes.
“If you are going to have a certain number of people in that house, you have to have either the entire house sprinklered or you have to have two egresses on the second floor. None of the properties we have, had them in place,” Director II of the Millennium Student Center and Office of Student Involvement Jessica Long-Pease said.
After discovering the results of the inspection, students were removed from the housing for safety concerns. Members of Facilities Management are currently working on different chapter housing arrangements for students to choose from.
“What we are doing right now is to try and explore other options for the housing,” Long-Pease said.
According to Long-Pease, there are three major options to choose from in regards to what will happen to the houses. The first option would be to use them for student organizational housing such as fraternities and sororities or by a different organization, if the chapter members did not want to move back in.
The second option involves making the houses compliant for single family occupancy. This would allow the campus to provide housing to faculty or staff members who are in transition and need a place to live.
The third option would be to have the housing available for academic use.
“Exploring the costs of all of those to make a determination of what the next steps are,” Long-Pease said.
The sorority and fraternity chapters have been in talks with administration to find out if they are interested in having a house of that nature or not in the future.
“These are the conversations we are having. What are their needs, what are they really looking for on campus, has having a house been positive for them or more of a difficulty trying to get it filled,” Long-Pease said.
Members of the affected chapters were moved from the housing and offered housing in residential life on campus. They were offered rooms in Oak Hall that they were able to live in at a reduced rate. Students who had a contract with the university were able to break it so they could move on campus if they chose to do so. Program funding from Vice Provost of Student Affairs Curt Coonrod was offered to help the displaced members absorb any costs related to any programs they had planned on having in the house that they now had to have on campus.
The National Housing Corp. for the women’s chapters oversee the lease for the sorority properties and have been in talks with UMSL discussing what the national organization wanted. Their feedback was taken into account with individual meetings with the presidents of the student groups of organizations to see what they saw as being needed. From that point, they looked for other spaces on campus that might also be an option.
“The next step was to have a space request into facilities management as well to see if there are other places on campus that might be a better fit for them and have talks about what that looks like,” Long-Pease said.
The sorority and fraternity members have come back to Long-Pease’s office saying the houses were not what they needed or wanted—if they were to move back in it would need cosmetic upgrades—among other replies. According to Long-Pease, the responses have varied from group to group in what they are looking for.
“We are trying to figure out collectively what makes the most sense in those properties and how much of an investment each of those scenarios would cost the university at this point,” Long-Pease said. “We want to do what is best for the chapters and make sure that they feel supported and that they have the space that makes sense to them.”