Greek Life future faces debt and housing ordinances

By Zoe Bernardi, Staff Writer

USM fraternities and sororities have spent nearly ten years strengthening their reputation.
In 2010, Gorham banned all fraternities and sororities houses, resulting in ordinances and zoning codes that restrict Greek life housing. This ordinance put a restriction on current and future Greek life houses in both Gorham and Portland. The ordinance, “ensures the safe operation of fraternity and sorority houses … for residents who are living in these facilities and to ensure that fraternities and sororities are good neighbors within the immediate areas in which they are located.”

The restrictions made in 2010 ended housing for all Greek life chapters. Gorham has strict policies that make it difficult to reinstate housing for Greek life.

“The town created a definition for fraternity houses in the Land Use and Zoning Code,” said Gorham Councilman, Ben Hartwell. “Basically, with zoning, you list the allowed uses and sometimes list what isn’t allowed. If it’s not a defined allowed use, it’s not allowed, that’s how zoning works. So the town does in fact not allow new fraternity houses. The existing fraternities when existing fraternities were ‘grandfathered’ but they had to follow the ordinance I mentioned before.”

Previous Free Press articles from 2010 mention that the fraternity and sorority houses were not always the best neighbors. An article posted at this time from the Portland Press Herald written by Melanie Creamer, “Frats face uncertain future in Gorham.” It stated that often times after parties, student would cause property destruction and noise disturbances.

All chapters had safety violations and run-ins with the police. In five years, the fraternities and sororities houses had over 140 code violations and almost 150 phone calls to the police. USM Dean of Students, Rodney Mondor, explained that a majority of the code violations were from the fact that there were too many people living in one area. The Portland Press Herald said that the violations varied from not enough fire safety precautions to sewage issues in the basement.

Mondor explained that guests of the fraternities were more responsible for these incidences than the chapter. Although the parties occurred at their house, the people who attended the parties and what they did afterwards was the issue.

Greeks had many reasons for being kicked out of their houses. The parties they held and the lack of responsibility that their guests had was the major issue. “They just couldn’t control what happened from A to B,” said Mondor. Large parties gave all Greek life a reputation of uncontrollable college kids.

Greek Life is stated 12 times in the zoning code. Violations of these codes would result in fines and charges.

Mondor and the Coordinator of Student Activities, David Lewis, said that money was the biggest struggle despite health code violations, failure of keeping a safe household and many conversations with law enforcement. They said that many of the fraternities and sororities struggled with not having enough money to support their chapters at USM. The Portland Press Herald said there were three fraternities and sororities houses total in 2010. One of the fraternities had over $27,000 in debt for property taxes and code violations. Another fraternity owed almost $10,000 in taxes.

All chapters struggle with financial issues and funding for members. Members are trying to strengthen their chapters and make Greek life more present on USM campuses. Hannah Etter the Chapter President for Alpha Xi Delta- Epsilon Rho, explained how Greek life is so important for her and her sisters. “Being surrounded by a large group of motivated women is very helpful in these situations because there is always someone there to inspire you or lend a helping hand,” she said.

Current chapters are standing strong with these struggles and housing restrictions. “A lot of our sisters share apartments in Upperclass Hall or off campus so we still have a large number of sisters who live together,” said Etter. She said that Greek life is very small at USM, but that her chapter is trying to grow.

“I think that there are many people that do not even know that we exist. Through continued efforts to work with other student groups and organizations we will be able to grow the recognition of not just Alpha Xi Delta, but all of Greek life on campus.”
Mondor and Lewis stated that it is important for USM to have a strong relationship with Gorham.

“I was in a fraternity when I was at Cornell,” said Hartwell. “We had 43 of them there. That doesn’t include the sororities. I can’t imagine what college would have been like without that experience, I’m glad I had that opportunity, I feel it’s very unfortunate that those going to school here don’t have that opportunity available.”

Mondor and Lewis explained that on top of all these debts, each chapter at USM had dues for their organization. Every chapter, not just at USM, is correlated to either a national or a Pan-Hellenic organization that they have to annually pay dues. The dues go towards registration for each student, as well as providing funds for events and the organization.
Some members are unable to pay each year. Lewis says that it’s the same issue every time: the member attends recruitment and fulfill their obligations to the chapter but are not attending classes and can’t afford to pay dues. When this happens, many of the chapters will allow these students to be an official member. Sometimes the chapter tries to pay for the student and goes further in debt.

Lewis and Mondor said that a common problem is that students will sign up for a chapter and then try to leave. Greek life is a lifetime commitment. If students decide they do not want to be in the chapter anymore, they stop paying dues. This results in the chapter having to pay for a student who is no longer a part of their fraternities and sororities.

Both organizations, national or Pan-Hellenic, have a blanket policy that if something happens on another campus entire the organization will increase their dues to help contribute to the cause. This can hurt fraternities and sororities that already struggle with debt. One of the biggest reasons why USM’s Greek life has lost over half of it’s fraternities and sororities in the past ten years, according to Lewis and Mondor, is because they can not pay for it.

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