Fraternity, sorority houses now regulated as multi-tenant facilities

Licensing exemptions for Greek housing removed, effective immediately

Fraternity, sorority houses now regulated as multi-tenant facilities

Toronto City Council voted on May 23 to regulate fraternities and sororities as multi-tenant housing facilities. With previous exemptions lifted, Greek life housing will now require licensing to accommodate its residents.

Effective immediately, fraternities and sororities will have to register an official contact with the city, renew their licences annually, develop a fire plan, and undergo a fire inspection to ensure that their buildings are up to property standards set by the city.

According to Councillor Joe Cressy, the licensing framework is meant to improve safety at fraternities and sororities, and is supported by the majority of the City Council, U of T, the University of Toronto Students’ Union, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union, Toronto Fire Services, and local residents of the Annex. Cressy represents Ward 20, in which the St. George campus is located.

“It was long overdue,” Cressy told The Varsity. “I can’t understand why we would treat [fraternities] any differently than every other multi-tenant housing facility in the city.” He further stated that prior to the vote, fraternities and sororities were neither regulated by the city nor the university, which placed them in a “legal grey area.”

In June 2017, Cressy submitted a letter to the City of Toronto’s Executive Committee calling for the regulation of fraternities and sororities as multi-tenant housing facilities. In April 2018, the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee released a report listing possible solutions, one of which was the regulation of Greek life housing through annual reporting.

Cressy said that although licensing is “not a silver bullet,” and cannot regulate the behaviour of fraternities and sororities, non-compliance with the policies will lead to stricter conditions. “If you don’t play by the rules… there are consequences,” he said. Breaking the rules consistently may result in the licence being revoked.

According to the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee’s report, there were 78 incidents reported to the Toronto Police at or near fraternity or sorority houses between January 2014 and March 2018. Of these incidents, 12 per cent were related to sexual assault, and 62 per cent to thefts under $5,000.

“We are delighted the Council has agreed to impose full licensing and remove the rooming house exemption from the fraternities,” said David Harrison, Chair of the Annex Residents’ Association. He hopes that general behaviour and property maintenance will improve. Harrison added that “fraternities that operate in a civil manner” should have no problems with licensing, but for those “that are chronically, socially inept the challenge may be greater.”

Harrison also mentioned the recent death of Naiqi Helen Guo, an 18-year-old student at UTSC, in what is thought to be a violation of the Ontario fire code as evidence that proper regulation of rooming houses is crucial. “Clearly, parents of students and the students themselves should embrace licensing as it will better ensure safer residences.”

The Interfraternity Council, Phi Delta Theta, Delta Kappa Epsilon, and Delta Upsilon declined to respond to requests for comment. Phi Delta Theta, Lamda Chi Alpha, Theta Delta Chi, and Zeta Psi did not respond to requests for comment.

Safety risks at fraternities and sororities should remain a concern for the city

Re: “New city proposals to tackle issues with Greek life residences”

Safety risks at fraternities and sororities should remain a concern for the city

There are safety risks in the Greek life community that must be resolved. After years of unsafe practices at fraternities and sororities, and numerous complaints from their neighbours, recent proposals by the City of Toronto aim to resolve these safety concerns and help rebuild bridges between the two parties. Three of the six proposed solutions involve establishing open dialogue between Greek life community members and their neighbours, including holding meet-and-greets and assembling call lists of influential Greek life community members whom the public can contact.

These proposals are the result of an open letter penned by Ward 20 councillor Joe Cressy that suggested that Greek houses should be shut down if they fail to secure multi-tenant housing licenses. Concerns voiced by individuals and their respective resident housing associations are at the forefront of this inquiry.

Incidents over the years have become increasingly hard to ignore, from drug busts and house fires to stabbings and sexual assaults, as previously reported by The Varsity.

Many people likely assume that Greek houses are overseen by the University of Toronto, but they typically operate with minimal supervision and without any formal ties to the university. The activities at these houses, however, do affect the university, including the student residents of these houses and the many students their events attract. As such, it is vital that student safety be secured.

One solution, it seems, is to increase by-law officer patrols and thereby upgrade supervision during peak hours in the community. However it is not clear if the city can afford to reallocate resources to monitoring these parties. Moreover, residents of Greek houses should not have to passively accept inappropriate or dangerous behaviour from their peers.

The conflict appears to have been exacerbated by a lack of communication; the Interfraternity Council, which represents a majority of the fraternities on campus, has voted that no individual house may speak to the press, preventing members from publicly making or defending themselves against complaints. While Greek communities may be valued by students and help them feel like they belong at the university, the behaviour of certain members of Greek organizations, as well as the safety risks associated with their housing situations, cannot be ignored.

Anastasia Pitcher is a first-year student at New College studying Life Sciences.

The Breakdown: the origins of Greek life on campus

A brief history

The Breakdown: the origins of Greek life on campus

Greek life at U of T has recently become the focus of attention in the campus community following an open letter penned by City Councillor Joe Cressy calling for fraternity and sorority houses to be properly regulated as multi-tenant houses. The coverage has since brought into question the Greek’s relationship to U of T. Here, we break it down.

In 1879, Zeta Psi, an established American fraternity, started the world’s first non-American chapter at U of T. Kappa Alpha Society opened a Toronto chapter in 1892, and Alpha Delta Phi in 1893. The first Canadian female ‘fraternity’ was Kappa Alpha Theta, organized in 1887. The first Black fraternity at U of T, Alpha Phi Alpha, was established in 1908 and had two members on record, although the fraternity closed its chapter two years later.

The relationship between U of T and these Greek letter organizations began early on, starting in 1899 when a residence in the west wing of University College was closed due to financial issues, prompting U of T to use fraternities for student housing. Loans, favourable interest rates, and long-term land leases were given to various chapters. In 1901, Kappa Alpha leased the land known today as Massey College for $1 a year in a long-term contract with the school. By 1927, U of T was host to a reported 42 chapters, compared to 23 at McGill University in the same year. In 1959, U of T expropriated several fraternity-occupied properties on lower St. George Street, leading to their relocation north to today’s Annex neighbourhood.

Currently, two societies govern Greek life at U of T: the National Panhellenic Council, which recognizes seven sororities, and the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC), which represents 10 fraternities. Among these fraternities is Delta Upsilon, which is self-identified as being uniquely “non-secret.”

The individual houses tend not to provide media outlets with comment because, as IFC President Sam Jenison explained, the IFC voted that no individual house is allowed to talk to the press.

The current relationship, or lack thereof, between U of T and Greek letter organizations is also elusive to non-members. In an account of the University of Toronto’s history, author Martin L. Friedland reveals that after 1960, when a Black female student was denied entry into a sorority, U of T formally dissociated itself from Greek organizations based on their exclusivity.

This dissociation continues today. The university’s Director of Media Relations Althea Blackburn-Evans said in a recent Varsity article that the university does not recognize fraternities or sororities as campus groups “because they’re not open to everybody who wishes to join.” In his conversation with The Varsity, Jenison confirmed U of T’s dissociation, writing, “We don’t work under ULife and we have no affiliation with U of T.”

A subtle sip of sexism

Sorority policies banning alcohol consumption should be revised

A subtle sip of sexism

FRATERNITIES and sororities on campus, also known collectively as the Greek community, have a reputation for enabling alcohol consumption. It is almost second nature to associate ‘frat parties’ with ‘booze.’

In the midst of stereotyping, however, we often overlook how the Greek community actually creates tiered systems of access to alcohol. Alcohol is not officially permitted in sorority houses or at the events sororities host.

One consequence of this is that Greek Week — a week full of events for both fraternities and sororities — hosts an event that explicitly excludes sorority members. The Facebook page for Greek Week 2014 notes: “Boat races is back for another year… Please note that sororities will not be earning points in this event nor are they allowed to participate… ” For boat races in 2015, the page noted that they would be observing the same rules as previous years.

This is just one example of a larger, more troubling trend in Greek culture. By restricting sorority members’ access to alcohol unfairly targets female students. Underlying this system is the denial of female competency and responsibility regarding the consumption of alcohol. Sanctions for alcohol consumption imposed on women in sororities also reinforce gender roles, in which women were expected to not ‘let loose’ but instead remain ‘classy’ and ‘sophisticated.’

Leah McLaren draws attention to such pervasive gender stereotypes in her review of the CBC’s recently released documentary Girls Night Out. The documentary claims that the apparent rise of binge drinking among teenage girls is linked to instances of sexual assault.

In addition to showing that the consumption of alcohol by women is actually decreasing, McLaren writes, “We are encouraged to judge these girls for their keggers and drinking games, and yet anyone who has ever known a 19-year-old will recognize their experimental behaviour as utterly common… In the end, all they seem to be guilty of is having a good time.”

The shaming of female alcohol consumption reflects a subtle sexism that still exists within the Greek community, which can result in various negative consequences.

The restrictionss on alcohol do not curb sorority members’ desire for it, nor should adult women be expected to abstain from alcohol. Many sorority members will go elsewhere to drink. These restrictions, by indirectly shifting the location of parties and drinking elsewhere, creating potentially unfamiliar and possibly dangerous situations for women.

Alcohol consumption remains a significant part of most students’ university experiences. Women are as capable of drinking responsibly as men are, and it is time that they are treated that way.

Sororities need to allow their members to participate in more events, even those involving alcohol, and at least allow women to keep alcohol within their own rooms. The adoption of such policies would also work towards removing the stigma around women who drink.

I am not advocating for increased alcohol use. I recognize the host of problems that come with binge-drinking; those concerns, however, are not the focus of this piece.

It is true that some sorority members drink alcohol in their rooms or at their events anyway. The official policies, however, do not recognize female autonomy and they create double standards. Sororities should quit imposing paternalistic and patronizing policies. A sorority sister is no less responsible or respectable, if she chooses to have a drink with dinner.

Chantel George is a fourth-year student at Woodsworth College studying neuroscience and physiology.

Brothers of the arts

Some of Canada’s most critically acclaimed artists have emerged from U of T’s fraternities

Brothers of the arts

These days, ‘frat boy’ is a term often associated with Sperry’s, Polo or Ray-Bans, and they’re often characterized as being rowdy or obnoxious. For nearly two centuries, however, many of U of T’s fraternity men have made meaningful contributions to nearly every area of social development.

The Varsity looked at some of the artists to emerge from U of T’s fraternities, whose works are noted for their enduring influence and the forming of a uniquely Canadian artistic output.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (Zeta Psi, Theta Xi chapter 1894):

Founded in 1879, Zeta Psi is the original fraternity at U of T. Located at the northwest corner of St George and Prince Albert, male students of distinguished talents were drawn to this community due in part to its reputation for cultivating leadership. One of those men was a student at University College who had won a scholarship to attend U of T, John McCrae.

McCrae excelled in biology, received his bachelor of medicine in 1898, and finally became a doctor of medicine in 1910. It is not his aptitude for medicine that McCrae is remembered for, but rather his poetic and literary expertise. “His poems, all admirable in their workmanship and concentration, distinctively original in structure and in form, educational in their rigid economy of words and finely displayed appreciation of word values, strong, true-ringing and purposeful,” describes a 1918 article published in The Toronto News. McCrae would become a casualty of war. He died on January 28, 1918, but his legacy lives on through his poem “In Flanders Fields.”

Lawren Harris (Delta Kappa Epsilon, Alpha Phi chapter 1904):

Lawren Harris attended U of T between 1903 and 1904. During his time here, he became a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity founded in 1898.

His artistic talents were quickly recognized by a professor who suggested he may do well to study art in Europe. After travelling until 1910, he returned to Toronto and spent much of his time studying and sketching various neighbourhoods in the city.

The Ontario Heritage Trust notes that he had a particular fascination with landscapes and was influenced by “urban realism, landscape regionalism, and theosophy, a transcendental, mystical school of thought” as well as a desire for “developing a distinctly Canadian art.” In the years following, he continued to innovate and experiment, eventually founding the Group of Seven.

The artist collective travelled all over the country depicting Canadian landscapes through a modernist lens. On his artistic philosophy, Harris stated, “with us in Canada, painting is the only art that so far has achieved a clear native expression and so the forming of distinctive attitude, the creative direction of the genius of our people and their higher aspirations are to be detected within it.”

Stephen Leacock (Zeta Psi, Theta Xi chapter 1891):

Another brother of Zeta Psi, Stephen Leacock was integral to the early development of a Canadian literary voice. He studied modern languages, and received his BA in 1891. He had published several scholarly works and was well known in academic circles. It wasn’t until Leacock began to write fiction that he would compose his most famous work. Likely set in the town of Orillia, just north of Toronto, Leacock wrote Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town in 1912. The collection of short stories features reoccurring characters living in the fictional Canadian town of Mariposa. Leacock chronicles the humorous and sometimes outrageous exploits of its citizens. The work masterfully captures the essence of the archetypal Canadian town and the colourful characters that reside within it. It became one of the first works to satirize the subject and has since become a celebrated work of Canadian fiction. Even after his success, and having spent 36 years teaching at McGill, Leacock’s fondness for his alma mater never diminished.