Division of Student Affairs
Fraternity and Sority Life Housing Update
Since fall 2010, a coordinated effort has been underway to examine the Fraternity & Sorority Life (FSL) program, including student participation rates, housing options, and financial resources. To provide structure and organization for this process, the University divided the timeline into three phases and contracted with two external consultants with expertise in this area. Phase One spanned into the summer 2011 and allowed campus stakeholders from Student Affairs and Finance and Administration to better understand national and peer school trends concerning staffing models, operating and programming budgets, membership trends, programmatic offerings, and construction of new facilities. The major findings presented to the Board of Trustees (BOT) at the conclusion of Phase One included:
- Although BGSU has strong fraternity and sorority participation (10% of the student population), membership has been declining in the midst of national growth, and BGSU chapters are smaller than comparative chapters.
- BGSU has best-in-class programming, however this has contributed to the largest overall budget and cost per member in a comparison of peer institutions.
- The existing fraternity and sorority housing stock would take nearly $20 million to upgrade, approximately 75% of the cost to replace. The renovated units would still have architectural and functional limitations, inconsistent with new housing development.
- A number of housing and financing models are available. It is likely that a blend of options will be necessary to meet student needs and build a sustainable financial model. The current live-in staffing model for new houses will also need to be reexamined to create a sustainable financial model.
Upon receiving approval from the BOT in summer 2011, Phase Two commenced and involved the immediate expansion of the Core Team to include student and chapter alumni volunteers along with staff from Marketing and Communications and University Advancement. Throughout the past 18 months, the Core Team, with support from the external consultants, has worked to develop a plan for moving the FSL program forward. Key accomplishments during Phase Two include: soliciting extensive feedback from current students, alumni, and (inter)national headquarters staff members; developing and honing construction prototypes and rent models for new housing; and critically examining ways to reduce duplication of services and overall costs. The following highlights are scheduled to be shared with the BOT at its December meeting to conclude Phase Two of the project:
- A spring 2012 reorganization that merged FSL into the Office of Campus Activities along with several other significant cost reduction strategies implement since 2010 have resulted in annual savings of approximately $200,000.
- Students, alumni, and (inter)national staff members have reached consensus that townhome-style prototypes (i.e., 40, 12-, and 18-bed units) are the best option for our University to build on either the current location of Old Fraternity Row and Conklin East and West or on the current location of Sorority Row behind the Bowen-Thompson Student Union.
- The University should continue to own and operate the facilities and select a live-in staffing model that aligns with financial resources from the project as well as continues to support the residential experience of the University.
As Phase Three begins in spring 2013, we should expect to see the University solicit partners for the design and construction processes. As partners are selected and the program is finalized, University staff in close cooperation with students and alumni will identify interim housing options for chapters that will be displaced until new units open. This exciting journey will also include plans to commemorate the official closing of current facilities as well as how to properly celebrate the opening of new units.