The first on-campus residences for 14 fraternities and sororities are part of a housing boom campuswide, driven by increased enrollment.
By CORY SCHOUTEN
Published July 27, 2003
TAMPA - For University of South Florida greek organizations, it's a whole new form of competition.
Taking a break from philanthropy, recruitment and intramurals, greek members will focus on chandeliers, hardwood floors and giant TVs.
In the coming weeks, 14 greek organizations at USF will decide how to decorate new chapter houses.
"People are going all out," sorority member Tiffany Messingham said.
After more than 20 years of trying, USF will open its first on-campus greek houses Aug. 8.
USF opened in 1960, and in 1967, Lambda Chi Alpha became the first greek organization to establish itself at the school. But until now, the fraternities and sororities have been located in private apartments and houses off campus. Built for about $14-million in the northeast area of campus, the Greek Village - which was previously known as Greek Park - will include houses leased to six sororities and eight fraternities.
About 340 students will pay between $425 to $500 a month for rooms. Some members who don't live on campus will pay to help maintain common areas and chapter rooms, which some organizations paid extra to build next to their houses.
The project shows how USF is changing, said Messingham, vice president for the Panhellenic Council.
"Our school has traditionally been a commuter school," she said. "Now we're headed in a different direction."
The availability of student housing is growing campuswide. In 1997, USF offered 2,300 spaces; it expects to offer more than 5,000 by 2007.
Maple Hall, a 230-bed freshmen residence, also is set to open in August.
The culture of campus is changing, too, said Mike Farley, coordinator of greek life.
He said USF is the first college choice for more students, who also are becoming more active in campus life.
"All of those things come together in an environment so students can get things done here and not get in car and drive home," Farley said.
About 5 percent of the 32,400-student campus is in a fraternity or sorority, Farley said, but that number is growing.
Fraternity member Andrew Feliciano said the new houses are a selling point for the school and for more people to "go greek" at USF.
He said the houses have the potential to change perceptions of greek life.
"I think the frats themselves are more concerned than administrators about the stereotypical Animal House behavior," Feliciano said. "We don't want to be seen as the partiers and drunken frat boys."
USF is a wet campus so alcohol will be allowed in the houses for those of legal age, but some fraternities will keep their off-campus houses for partying.
Social activities are only one aspect of greek life, Messingham said. "We waited for houses; we earned them," she said. "And when you earn something, you're not going to ruin it by letting a party get out of control."
Plans are already in the works for a second phase of the Greek Village, which would add six chapter houses.
USF is one of only a handful of campuses across the country that is building new greek houses, said Pete Smithhisler, spokesman for the North American Interfraternity Conference.
He said the school's growth and commitment to greek life make it a "rising star" in the fraternity and sorority community, along with the University of Central Florida.
A village of new greek houses is in the early planning stages at UCF, but it first must be approved in a university master plan, said William Faulkner, director of leadership programs.
USF's new greek houses face a grassy courtyard that will be used for social activities and events.
Each of the houses, near Maple Street and East Holly Drive, shares a wall with another house and has a parking lot in back.
Design features vary, but each has a greek column and silver greek letters.
"(The houses) have a lot of character," Farley said. "They look to me like you're walking into a beautiful community of homes."
Messingham can't wait to make the inside of her chapter house feel more like home.
She and her sorority sisters plan to hang pictures on the walls and make the house livable before recruitment begins.