U-Minnesota's Chi Psi to get house dad

"Mr. Mom" Michael Keaton

If Chi Psi needs a firm hand, I wonder whether it’s about to get it.

Its University of Minnesota chapter, which is on probation for alcohol problems and made the news recently for an alleged sexual assault (recently dropped for lack of evidence), has taken on a live-in house dad, the Minnesota Daily reports.

Starting this week, the man in charge will be Jim Anberley, a 1982 graduate of the U and a former member of Chi Psi. The Daily said he volunteered for the job, but I’m not sure whether that means he’s doing it for free or just stepped forward for the job.

Funny, I’ve never thought of having house moms and dads as a way to help keep students in line at fraternities — mainly because I’d never heard of them during my own fraternity days. But it makes a certain amount of sense. After all, sororities tend to have them — and the ones I knew were strict.

I couldn’t get in contact with Anberley or the Chi Psi president, but I called Chad Ellsworth, the coordinator of fraternity and sorority life at the U for a little perspective.

He said at least five fraternities have “house directors,” and two of them are female.

They are:

  • Farmhouse (female)
  • Sigma Alpha Epsilon (male)
  • Sigma Chi (female)
  • Omega Nu Alpha (male)
  • Delta Tau Delta (male)

So how old are these folks? There’s apparently no minimum age required of house moms and dads, Ellsworth said. He didn’t have a complete rundown of the directors, but said most at the U’s chapters appeared to be middle-aged or older.

On some campuses, however, they could be grad students.

At that point, I had a couple of questions:

  1. Couldn’t having a grad student be problematic? I’ve known a few grad-school party animals in my day.
  2. How much enforcement ability do these house directors have? Are they there to offer guidance, or can they crack some skulls when need be?

Ellsworth used his own experience as an example. He said he was a house director while he was in grad school — but was at a different fraternity from his own, and was not at his undergrad campus.

“That created some distance even though I was just a year or two older than the other guys,” he said.

And enforcement ability?

He answered in an e-mail:

It depends on the relationship of the house director and the organization. In some cases, they are hired by the house corporation board or the University (see: Student Affairs Residential Fellows at the University of Maryland), and they do have enforcement authority. In other cases, they are hired by the undergraduate leadership, and thus would not have as much authority.

I began my first year in 2002 as a house director in the latter category, but finished my second year in the first category (hired by the house corporation board).

He declined to comment on individual fraternity cases — or whether the university should adopt the system as a requirement — but said house directors can be helpful:

I think there’s some potential — having an adult presence — and it can lend some additional structure there.

I also found out there’s a national house director conference, and I ran across this house manager guide from Cornell.