Phase IV of the Oak Lane community, which features on-campus fraternity and sorority housing, is on schedule to open its first house this fall. This new phase will add to the existing 18 houses built in Phases I, II, and III.
The first house will be occupied by members of Virginia Tech’s chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, and should be open by a few weeks into the fall semester, said Vice President for Student Affairs Edward Spencer.
Construction on the first house began last fall after the fraternity was able to raise one-third of the project cost for the house. The university committed to the remaining two-thirds of the cost, which is the funding model for all 17 houses included in Phase IV planning. Spencer said the fraternity accomplished this mainly through alumni donations, which are made to the Virginia Tech Foundation and are tax deductible.
This method of funding provides many advantages for the university and its fraternities and sororities. For the university, this means new on-campus housing at two-thirds the cost of construction. For fraternal organizations, this means the opportunity to help design customized houses to meet each group’s specific needs at one-third of what it would cost to build on their own. The project offers both parties the opportunity to help build a stronger community for fraternities and sororities at Virginia Tech.
The first house and subsequent houses will be larger than the existing houses on Oak Lane. Each new house in Phase IV will feature single and double rooms for residents as well as an apartment for a live-in university professional staff member who will oversee the house.
No further Phase IV construction is planned at this time. Spencer said this is because other groups are still working on raising the necessary funds to begin design and construction. This type of large-scale fundraising can be challenging, Spencer said, because the fraternity and sorority system at Virginia Tech is relatively young. Many universities have well-established organizations that date back 100 years or more, while Virginia Tech’s system dates back only to the early 1970s. Many of the groups are still developing an alumni base that is able to offer significant support, he said.
The Oak Lane community has been in development since Phase I opened in 1983 and is part of a long-term initiative at Virginia Tech to strengthen the university’s fraternity and sorority community, which is something that has been a focus of Spencer’s career. During his tenure, he created an independent office for Fraternity and Sorority Life, which had previously been part of Student Activities. Spencer's support has helped the program grow approximately 40 percent over the past decade.
Written by Jennifer Gibson.