The sorority suites that exist today were not always the home of Miami University’s sorority women. In fact, in the 1900s, sorority women did live in places resembling sorority houses; these were university cottages.
The cottages were situated in the current location of Wells Hall and they came about in order to alleviate the inadequate housing situation for female students, who, unlike male students, had more limitations on their housing situations.
An unmarried woman under the age of 21 was not permitted to live off-campus unless she was living with immediate family.
Though this type of housing existed, sorority women still ultimately preferred to live in Hepburn Hall and even held their chapter meetings in classrooms on-campus.
The idea of the sorority suite came into existence for two reasons.
First, much like the current suites, the housing allowed each sorority to have a permanent place for its members to connect on-campus.
And second, Panhellenic Council at the time, created a rule that in effect made sorority houses off-limits.
This rule is that sorority housing must be “equal and comparable.”
The basic concept is since each sorority has a different number of members, different amounts of dues to pay and different budgets to work with, each of the sorority houses would be of varying size and quality, creating an unfair situation as far as future recruiting is concerned.
If one house is fully furnished and has 40 well-decorated rooms to offer while another sorority has a smaller or less presentable house, the two houses are not comparable.
This creates an unfair advantage in favor of the sorority with more money to spend on a sorority house. University-sponsored sorority suites made more sense than sorority houses in order to remain within the confines of this rule.
The suites made the housing situations of sororities more fair and also helped avoid tensions within sororities that Panhellenic Council assumed would naturally arise with having so many women live within the same residence.
There are rumors circulating around the university regarding why sorority houses do not exist in Oxford.
One of the rumors is that in the early 1900s an older woman donated money to the school with the stipulation that sorority houses would not be built in the 50 years following her donation.
The other rumor regards the existence of a brothel law in Oxford, which states that a certain number of women can’t reside within a single house.
Both of these rumors are false.
In the early years of sororities, and for decades following, sorority women said no to off-campus houses and yes to on-campus suites within residence halls.
The sorority women had the ability to make this decision because as Miami expanded in the early 1900s, it made room for both women students and sororities, deeming sorority houses unnecessary.
This article is part of a series The Miami Student is running about the University Archives. All information in the following article was obtained from the University Archives with the help of University Archivist Bob Schmidt.