Some Ohio State fraternities plan to spend millions of dollars making home improvements, like installing sprinkler systems, leading up to the on-campus living requirement set to go into effect Fall Semester 2016.
Greek houses must meet a set of new standards, the Greek Housing Standard, in order to house second-year students, and the list includes rules banning alcohol in common areas, requiring there to be one desk per bedroom or dayroom and maintaining a live-in adviser.
Not every chapter house will need to make changes to meet the standards and the program is voluntary, so every house might not participate, Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said in an email.
“Right now we are setting up committees that will look at the best way to implement each of the standards,” Isaacs said. “Those committees will have students, alumni, faculty and staff as members and will be important as we move forward, especially as we look at the best way the university can support the process.”
Isaacs said OSU has 65 sorority and fraternity chapters with a total of about 4,500 members.
The chapters that decide to comply will be able to house second-year students after Fall Semester 2016 and participate in the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program.
STEP is a co-curricular component of the requirement for second-year students to live on campus that sets up students with faculty mentors in various groups. It will likely not be mandatory for students.
Casey Leech, a fourth-year in economics and president of Kappa Sigma’s Alpha Sigma chapter at OSU, said the no alcohol policy is definitely the biggest change for his chapter.
“Not allowing alcohol in common areas is going to force people out of (the fraternity) house and push them toward annex houses,” Leech said. “IFC already monitors parties to make sure everything is safe when sororities go to fraternity houses to drink, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way things are currently working.”
Leech said he expects other changes will need to be made to Kappa Sigma’s chapter house in order to comply with the STEP program, including adding centralized heating and cooling and adding a sprinkler system.
The biggest change culturally, Leech said, is that they will need to have a live-in adviser.
“During the renovation process, the live-in adviser requirement will be added into our funds because we will build a nice bedroom and bathroom for them to make sure they’re living comfortably,” Leech said.
Leech estimated the renovations at the Kappa Sigma house to cost anywhere from $1 million to $5 million.
“Fraternity Management Group is an outside firm that’s going to help us with the renovations,” Leech said.
Fraternity Management Group works with Greek chapters on professional assistance needs, according to its website.
Leech said Kappa Sigma plans on participating in STEP once the new requirements take effect, which he thinks will make the fraternity house look more appealing to potential members.
“If a freshman chooses us and we have the STEP program implemented and other chapters don’t, we will have a huge advantage,” Leech said.
Robby Mulvey, a third-year in biomedical engineering and president of Tau Kappa Epsilon’s Omicron chapter at OSU, said it will be a significant financial burden for his chapter to meet the new live-in standards.
“The biggest thing for us is that the new standards require chapter houses to have a sprinkler system, so we’re guessing that’s going to be the biggest cost,” Mulvey said.
According to the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website, the cost of installing a home sprinkler system is about $1.35 per sprinklered square foot.
The Tau Kappa Epsilon house is 8,581 square feet, according to the Find the Best commercial properties website, so the total cost could come to more than $11,584.
Mulvey said he has no ballpark guess of how much the renovations will cost and that his chapter is currently discussing whether they plan to participate once the requirements take effect.
“We need to get a more sound number value of how much we are going to need to spend because it might be out of our budget,” Mulvey said.