On the eve of launching the 175-year anniversary celebration of fraternal organizations and tradition at the University of Michigan, Fraternity & Sorority Life this December will move its operations to 1443 Washtenaw Ave.
The building, which sits just off campus near South University and Washtenaw avenues, will provide the fraternity and sorority community an official university space of its own. The 11,000-square-foot facility will give U-M’s 57 fraternities and sororities a place to meet, host events and welcome their alumni.
“This relocation is an opportunity for the university to affirm our commitment to Fraternity & Sorority Life and to enhance our outreach and support efforts with U-M’s unique and culturally diverse fraternal community,” said E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life. “We will continue to empower students to positively contribute to the communities where they find connections and support.
“I also want to acknowledge the leadership that the four council presidents have displayed in helping the university make changes that strengthen the community.”
Built in 1924, the building previously served as a Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity house. In the 1970s, following the Black Action Movement on campus, U-M purchased the house to create a center where African-American student groups could hold meetings and cultural events. The building was renamed the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center in 1981 to be more inclusive of students from many backgrounds.
“The special significance of FSL moving to this location, in my opinion, is that most of the fraternities and sororities we support were founded to promote collegiate participation especially focusing on the inclusion of women and underrepresented racial, cultural and religious people,” said Nicole Banks, assistant dean of students and interim director of Fraternity & Sorority Life.
The impact the move will have on visibility, education and collaboration among the fraternity and sorority community is not lost on the council presidents who represent U-M’s culturally-based organizations.
The building also provides a dedicated place for chapters that do not have their own houses — particularly culturally based organizations — to meet and work. For the first time, student leaders from each of the four governing councils will have designated office space within the building.
“I’m excited about all the new opportunities,” said Chyanne Laldee, president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council at U-M, which consists of historically African-American fraternities and sororities commonly referred to as the Divine Nine. “I’m excited that we’ll have a place to display and show the histories of all of the councils.”
The NPHC is one of four councils at U-M, accompanying the Multicultural Greek Council, the Interfraternity Council, and the Panhellenic Association. Unlike the latter councils, MGC and NPHC organizations do not have official chapter housing on or near campus.
“The move really brings home our ‘four councils, one community motto’,” said Anisha Konkipudi, president of the MGC.
Of the 57 chapters in the FSL program, 21 are culturally based organizations and 28 are organizations serving women.
With fraternities and sororities sharing a strong commitment to service and community engagement, the building will continue to be a focal point for philanthropic and civic engagement.
After it was announced last spring that U-M would shift to a first-year-student winter recruitment and intake practice for chapters beginning in January 2020, Nick Wasik, president of the IFC, said many students expressed concern about the university’s support for fraternities and sororities.
“(This move) is showing members that the university is taking an interest in Fraternity & Sorority Life by generously designating space for us that’s in the center of where many of our chapter facilities are located.” he said.
Taylor Fegan, president of Panhellenic Association, agreed. “It feels welcoming to have been given this incredible space on campus, and we look forward to helping add this new chapter to the rich history of fraternity and sorority life at the University of Michigan,” she said.
The program’s new location also will provide additional university staffing support within the immediate surrounding community that consists largely of single-family homes, churches and several sorority and fraternity houses. Fraternity & Sorority Life staff will continue to strengthen neighborhood relations by facilitating dialogue and promoting civic engagement to create a positive quality of life for everyone living in the nearby neighborhood, Banks said.
For decades, Fraternity & Sorority Life has supported and assisted chapters affiliated with the university by actively supporting their self-governance, and providing individual and organizational advising, educational programs and leadership development opportunities.
In order to fulfill the program’s mission and meet the needs of key stakeholders, including students, alumni, parents, university administrators, faculty and staff, the unit has grown from four full-time professional staff members to eight over the last five years.
The year 2020 will mark 175 years of fraternal organizations being part of the U-M community. Fraternities and sororities have been an integral part of campus life since 1845.
Over the past 175 years, U-M’s number of affiliated organizations has grown to more than 60 chapters. During the 2018-19 academic year, there were 18 Interfraternity Council fraternities, 18 Panhellenic Association sororities, eight National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations, and 13 Multicultural Greek Council organizations, representing 20 percent of the undergraduate population.
“For decades, fraternities and sororities have thrived at U-M,” said Laura Blake Jones, dean of students. “These organizations are woven into the fabric of the university. This anniversary is a time we can especially honor the history, traditions, and positive contributions sororities and fraternities have made on campus and celebrate the enduring value they add to our students’ college experiences.”