Inhabiting the Frat

“It’s sort of like being at an overnight summer camp,” says AEPi brother Jacob Rabinowitz, describing what it’s like to live in a frat on the UofC Campus. “It’s the little things that happen all the time. Just hanging out…spontaneous things happen.”

Living in a fraternity allows brothers to have “quality fun through doing dumb things we want to do,” says a brother of another fraternity on campus. Examples of this “quality fun” include building an eight-person igloo during January’s snowstorm or constructing a four-story beer bong. Some fraternity brothers regularly visit the “better” Harold’s Chicken Shack on 65th Street, Others have an arsenal of jokes about a cat lady neighbor. One brother had his romantic life “mildly infected” by Zac Efron after his friends put a poster of the teen star over his bed.

These are the ties that bind. It may be that bonds such as these are unique to fraternities, where a group of self-selecting college males share one space.

A healthy mix of second-, third-, and fourth-year residents offers a more diverse community than the dorms, which are often heavily populated by underclassmen. Older brothers are always on call for advice on classes, internships, and professors. Living in a frat house provides a social network of continual motivation, which applies to studying, going to the gym, or increasing your count on the house pull-up bar. Filled with cracked leather couches and posters of suave men and rap groups, the Sigma Phi Epsilon living room is at once a movie theater, trash basketball arena, and a late-night study room. AEPi brothers love their top-floor homework haven, which they have proudly outfitted with whiteboards and study resources.

While apartments may be isolating, and dorms too big to allow intimate social groups to form organically, the fraternity house provides both a sense of brotherhood and a social scene. Plus, living in an all-male environment means never being afraid to walk around in your boxers.

But the houses do have a few unconventional complications. Hosting huge parties is obviously a fun, raucous, potentially profit-turning endeavor, but it does come with a down-side. One SigEp brother explains that he once found a girl searching for ramen in his room during a party. The brothers have locks on their doors for this reason. While cleanup after parties is often a contentious issue for those living in frats, cleaning charts and house managers help facilitate the process, keeping the houses cleaner than might be expected. Many fraternities employ cleaning services that come once a week. In fact, some frat brothers speak of their cleaning ladies as affectionately as they would a member of their family.

But if man is anything he is adaptable. After all those loud parties, Krishna Ravella says, “I can now sleep through anything… which may be a good thing or a bad thing…” But for Ravella, a second-year in Psi Upsilon, the thumping bass of house music is worth it. “When I was choosing, I was considering location, cost, cleanliness and who I would be living with. I expected the house to take some getting used to–weekends would be loud; cleanliness-wise, it could be dirty. But it’s totally been worth it” Ravella raves.

Rabinowitz agrees. “I expected the mess, the cleaning after parties as a second-year,” he says. “I lived in a basement room, but have you seen the top floors? Sparkling wood floors, flatscreens…it’s worth it.” Rabinowitz is also appreciative of the active Jewish life his fraternity offers. Other fraternities are known to house athletes on the same University teams, which has its advantages: brothers with big games and meets prepare together, whether with an earlier quiet hours request or a large family style carb-loading meal.

Frat house rent is, on average, much lower than the UChicago dorms and rented apartments. Though most brothers have reconciled the difficulties, there is one awkward situation Ravella reveals he and his pledge class did not consider: “It’s always funny, because girls don’t always want to come into a house filled with 25 guys–it’s intimidating.” Most importantly, consider the entry and exit points: “In Psi U, there are only two doors. If a brother hooks up with a girl, and he wants to sneak her out in the morning, it’s really hard. It takes a lot of getting used to.” Luckily for Ravella, this isn’t much of a problem: “I have a girlfriend, so it doesn’t really matter to me.”

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