Live-ins keep fraternity members ‘accountable’

Kira Lerner

On a Saturday night in the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house, a member received a text message asking him to turn down his music. The police weren’t in sight and the partygoers were still having a good time. The message was sent from the fraternity’s graduate student house director, who lives on the first floor and was trying to fall asleep.

Three Northwestern fraternity houses, Phi Delt, Delta Upsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon, have live-in house directors who work for the fraternity’s house corporation, are responsible for the upkeep of the house and are accountable for the welfare of fraternity members. Dominic Greene, director of NU’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, could not be reached for comment.

Corey White, a SESP graduate student who works for Phi Delt, said he acts as the adult or the “mom,” as some brothers call him, of the house.

“I’m the last line of accountability to making sure the house is dry and making sure there aren’t raging parties,” the 26-year-old said.

Unlike NU’s sororities, which have live-in “house moms” who oversee aspects of house operations, only three campus fraternities have directors who live with the men. DU and Phi Delt both employed a house director for the first time this school year. White said Phi Delt’s alumni and house corporation realized the benefits of having a director for the purposes of safety and responsibility.

“In my experience, chapters that have someone in that role tend to be better behaved and have a stronger, more positive culture,” he said.

Garrett Taliaferro, the chairman of Phi Delt’s Chapter Advisory Board, said the fraternity decided to hire a house director when it moved into its newly renovated house this year.

“We felt we needed an adult to have a physical presence in the house to take care of minor incidents like alcohol and drugs and to maintain the safety and well being of the house,” he said. “We like to have the house looking nice, especially when alumni and parents come in, rather than have the old ‘Animal House’-type environment.”

Taliaferro said he spoke with other fraternity and sorority house directors before hiring a director for Phi Delt.

“It has worked out very well this year, but I don’t know if it would work for every fraternity,” he said. “We needed to be more proactive than reactive and let the guys know they don’t have free rein to do anything and everything they want.”

White, who began working for Phi Delt in September 2008 and had previously worked for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said he has been able to maintain good relations with the members during his year in the house.

“I was nervous about it,” he said. “I didn’t want to become the person they were trying to sneak booze around. But they do recognize that I’m older and more mature.”

Colin Finn, DU’s house director, said he maintains a working relationship with the other people in the house.

“They respect me a lot and come to me for everything,” he said. “They know that if I see something (illegal), then I’ll have to address the situation, but I guess I don’t go looking for it. I’ve had no issues yet.”

Finn, also 26, attended Iowa State University, where he was a member of DU. He said the NU chapter asked him to become house director this year to provide assistance to the house.

“They wanted someone there to give them extra guidance and help keep them accountable for their actions,” he said. “And they had the room available.”

In addition to maintaining order in the houses, directors help the chapters with city inspection requirements, plan summer housing arrangements, manage the fraternity’s budget and work with the executive board of the fraternity, Finn said.

Alex Bergjans, who lives in the DU fraternity house, said the addition of a house director has not changed much about the house.

“Initially people were apprehensive, but Colin has been a great addition to the house,” the Medill sophomore said. “We have a very good relationship based on respect. He’s an easygoing guy and approaches everything with great humor.”

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