Why are there no sorority houses on campus?

This is the first of a series that will debunk Linfield myths

Daniel Clausen

For the Review

It is well known that Linfield fraternities have houses. Sororities, however, do not have their own residences.

The reasons for this gendered disparity seem to have been lost in the mists of time. Several myths have nonetheless gained widespread currency, one being that a state law prohibits large numbers of women to live in the same building on the grounds of preventing brothels. As Jane Failing Hall once housed over 70 women, this is unlikely the case.

The persistent myths circulating in the student population are essentially variations of two basic misunderstandings. One is the “stipulation” myth, the other the “equality” myth.

When the Review posted the question “Why are there no sorority houses on campus?” on the online Student Forum, the most consistent answer was some form of the stipulation myth.

It is a widely held belief that in Linfield College’s history one female donor had negative feelings about sororities. She was rumored to have made an enormous financial gift on the condition that sororities never have housing of their own. The story usually names the donor as Jane Failing, the namesake of the residence hall. Mrs. Linfield, from whom the college takes its name, was also mentioned as the curmudgeonly benefactor.

While both of these women indeed contributed generously to Linfield College, their donations had no such stipulations. It is possible the myth dates to as far back as January of 1936 when the new dormitory on campus was named in honor of former trustee Jane C. Failing. An issue of the Review from January 14, 1936 mentioned Mrs. Failing’s, “interest…in accommodations for the women students of the college.” There is no mention of sororities specifically, which often met at the houses of female faculty at the time.

The equality story has a bit more truth to it. This story states no single sorority may have a house unless every sorority has a house. Although no such Musketeer-esque rule exists in the Residence Life books, there may be some de facto truth to the sentiment. Any sorority that had a house while others did not would receive attention for this fact, and this inequitable attention would be problematic for intersorority relations.

“I personally like this because if we had houses I don’t know if I would have rushed in the first place, and I think it eliminates a lot of drama that accompanies being forced to live in the house,” senior Shawnie Dakan, a member of Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority, said.

Junior Hanna Bogen, also a Phi Sigma Sigma, shares her sorority sister’s outlook.

“In all honesty, I like that we don’t have houses on campus, just chapter rooms,” she said. “It helps us to maintain a sense of cohesion with the rest of campus, while still having our own space. I think Linfield is very community oriented, and doesn’t want to create situations in which students feel segregated.”

As for the real reason sororities don’t have houses, Jeff Mackay, director of residence life and associate dean of students, cited a lack of property in the vicinity of campus and the prohibitive expenses involved. He estimated the initial cost at nearly $500,000. Alpha Phi Sorority and Phi Sigma Sigma explored the possibility about eight years ago, he said.  Both concluded the undertaking was too expensive, especially because they were unlikely to be able to raise money from alumni who enjoyed their experience without residences.

 

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