Former Beta Theta Pi house converted to transfer student housing as some remaining Beta members relocate to Alpha Delta Phi house
Without enough members to fill their fraternity house, some Beta Theta Pi brothers have moved into the Alpha Delta Phi house, while Beta’s house, House 22, has been converted into transfer student housing for the 2021-2022 academic year.
The changes to on-campus fraternity housing come amid the continued activism of the Abolish Greek Live movement, which points to systemic problems in Greek Life such as racism, sexism, classism, heteronormativity and interpersonal violence. While Beta Theta Pi had 84 members in Spring 2020, that number dropped to 18 by the fall semester. In Spring 2021, the chapter recruited only five new members, bringing their total membership to 23 according to Campus Life’s Spring 2021 Fraternity and Sorority Life Report.
In addition to declining Greek Life membership, the University has also seen an increase in transfer students due to the pandemic, according to Associate Director of Residential Life Will Andrews. With a high number of sophomore and junior transfers looking for housing, the University developed a goal of turning House 22 into a house for transfer students.
“By converting the house to a transfer community, it allowed Residential Life to house more sophomore transfers in on-campus housing,” Andrews wrote in a statement to Student Life.
Pandemic safety was another factor in the decision to make the housing changes, as the University restructured the housing provided for students and offered fraternities different options for compliance with COVID-19 rules.
“Given the circumstances of COVID, fraternity chapters were provided three options for 2021-2022 academic year: remain in the chapter facility, merge with another fraternity or open their space to non-affiliated members. Beta Theta Pi opted to merge with Alpha Delta Phi,” Executive Director of Campus Life Leslie Heusted wrote in a statement to Student Life.
Social events at chapter facilities are also not allowed under current health and safety guidelines, Heusted wrote.
Nearly 50 transfer students of all years moved into House 22 at the start of the academic year. Many students were happy with the community the house enabled them to form.
“It’s been really good,” junior Yasmin McLamb, who transferred from George Washington University said. “Our house is surprisingly really tight-knit.”
“It’s better than I expected because everyone here is so friendly and outgoing,” said sophomore Ashley Yap, who transferred from Malaysia. “I feel really welcome here.”
Even transfer students who do not live in House 22 have been walking over from the South 40 to hang out with other transfers, Yap said. “I just think it’s nice that WashU gave us a house for all the transfer students,” she said.
Those positive experiences come despite students’ initial apprehensions about living in a former fraternity house. Before moving in, many worried about the living arrangement, especially since House 22 and the Alpha Epsilon Pi house are located in the same building unit.
“The frat house was my last choice and I think a lot of other people’s last choice,” McLamb said. “I think it’s a thing now, that they put the transfers in frat houses [in the same building] with other frat house members, so I was a little scared coming in.”
Since moving in, though, McLamb and others have been pleased with the condition of the house.
“In the basement there’s a trophy room with relics dedicated to the old frat, so as a collective we went through it and read the history, but other than that it’s just a really nice house,” McLamb said. “It’s wonderful.”
This is not the first time multiple Greek Life groups have lived together in the same house. Fraternity houses have been used to house a combination of fraternities, sororities and non-Greek students several times over the last 30 years, Heusted wrote.
The housing changes come as the University continues conversations about space equity on campus. The Abolish Greek Life movement has maintained that institutional, on-campus housing for fraternities creates an unequal power dynamic. In the spring, Rob Wild, then interim vice chancellor for student affairs, agreed that “fraternities do have unequal access to housing space on campus compared to other organized groups.”
The University will convene a space allocation advisory committee this fall, Heusted wrote, adding that the group would work “to create a more equitable approach to distributing, assigning and allocating storage, suite and residential facilities.”
However, Assistant Director for Sorority and Fraternity Life James McLendon maintained that despite a difficult year for Greek Life, further housing changes are not a given.
“With the combination of COVID and Abolish Greek Life, it is difficult to actually identify a trend in membership.” McLendon wrote.
McLendon also spoke to positive aspects of Greek Life in a statement to Student Life.
“Sorority and fraternity life can provide a great deal to the community,” McLendon wrote. “Most specifically a comprehensive student experience that promotes bonding, leadership/personal development, scholarship and service to the community it is a part of.”
Members of Alpha Delta Phi declined to comment on their living experience with the Beta Theta Pi members. Beta Theta Pi president Noah Proft did not respond to email requests for comment.
Matthew Friedman contributed reporting.