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Frats getting live-in ‘dads’

BY MICHELLE HILLENBRAND | FEBRUARY 17, 2010 7:30 AM

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Decades ago, UI fraternities had house mothers. The older women swept, cooked, and maintained the houses.

The times have changed.

Now, many UI fraternities will select young, fresh-out-of-college men to serve as their house dads. No cooking necessary.

Next semester, all UI fraternities and sororities will be required to have a “house parent” living in their chapters’ home. This decision stems from a 2006 assessment of the UI’s greek community, an effort to better serve chapter members.

Most UI sororities have a house mother, while a handful of UI fraternities, such as Beta Theta Pi, are already benefiting from a house dad.

“To us, it wasn’t even a question of whether the university wanted us to have one or not,” said Kevin Lindenberg, the president of Beta Theta Pi.

Cody Kiroff, the organization’s current house director, offers advice to Lindenberg and helps foster communication between active members and the housing corporation.

“It’s a huge support network, just a huge resource,” Lindenberg said.



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Kelly Jo Karnes, an associate director of the Office of Student Life, said the position of a house director will be a trustworthy adviser whom members will be able to consult in difficult situations.

“It’s difficult to hold your peers responsible at all times,” she said. “It’s difficult to be a student and a leader.”

In one instance, Karnes said, a fraternity member was threatening harm to himself. When chapter members weren’t sure what to do, the house director stepped in and said the student needed to get help.

Of the UI’s 13 fraternities with a house in Iowa City, the seven without house dads are making plans to select one before next year.

Phi Kappa Psi officials have been in contact with a recent alumnus, who will receive free room and board in addition to the fraternity meal plan, said member Steve Pasdiora.

Most fraternities plan to compensate their directors, who will most likely be alumni, in this way, several fraternity members said.

Mark Rigby, the Interfraternity Council president, said he thinks having alumni as house directors will be beneficial to active members.

“It’s definitely another mentor,” he said. An alumnus has been through the fraternal experience and can help members live out the fraternity’s values, he said.

While some fraternity members might think the requirement is aimed at curbing underage drinking, Karnes said this wasn’t the main reason for implementing the change.

“I don’t think suddenly we will have no underage drinking,” she said. “I don’t think we ever thought that in a million years.”

Statewide, other universities are more lenient when it comes to house directors.

Iowa State University leaves requirements up to each chapter’s national base, said Jenn Plagman-Galvin, the director of greek affairs. However, about 85 percent of structures do have a house director, she said.

The University of Northern Iowa doesn’t require house parents because its greek chapters don’t have official houses, said Jessie Stinson, the program coordinator of greek life.

While roughly half of the UI’s fraternity community has yet to reap the full benefits of house directors, current Greek leaders said they are hopeful about the outcome.

“This is something that is a long time coming,” Pasdiora said. “It will do a lot of good things on our campus.”


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