Gamma Eta Gamma, University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis, MN
by Mary Waldron
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Gamma Eta Gamma's beautiful red sandstone dwelling was built in 1892 in Richardsonian Romanesque style. Before being renovated by the University of Minnesota in 1966, the building was once a speakeasy and, during World War I, a storage area for munitions. Currently, 15 University of Minnesota law students reside in the home, which is located in a now "vibrant urban setting," living together and enduring the ups and downs of law school.
The goal of Gamma Eta Gamma is to provide low-cost housing to law students while allowing a close network of friends and colleagues to form various personal and professional relationships. Ranging from $275 to $350 per student per month depending on room size, rent at Gamma Eta Gamma is an extraordinary value. In addition, rent covers the costs of utilities and wireless Internet access.
Even more importantly, Gamma Eta Gamma provides instant connections to other 1L, 2L, and 3L students, making it an excellent resource when deciding which professors to take classes with, seeking advice, or coming up with strategies for surviving the emotional stresses and struggles that arise along the road to graduation. Many of today's United States senators and representatives, state and federal judges, and successful attorneys have been members of Gamma Eta Gamma.
In order for Gamma Eta Gamma to remain such a flourishing organization, it appoints leaders who keep the household running smoothly. Every year, the residents elect a president, vice president/treasurer, and social chair. The president is responsible for day-to-day upkeep of the house and generally overseeing everything that goes on there to make sure all goes well. The vice president/treasurer is in charge of paying all the bills associated with the home, collecting rent from students, and approving any necessary household expenditures.
Before the school year begins, the university sends out Gamma Eta Gamma applications and information sheets to all incoming 1L students. Over the summer, the president reviews applications and selects as many people as the house has room for. There are no real qualifications to get in, although new residents must be 1L students. The president looks for students who seem like they would get along with the rest of the group. Once accepted into the fraternity, law students have the option to stay all three years. As a result, the number of openings varies from year to year.
Living with 14 other people can be a bit daunting at times, but usually there is a fun, yet peaceful, atmosphere at the house. Davis Kessler, 3L student and the current president of Gamma Eta Gamma, commented, "It's nice to come home after a rough day at school and know that everyone you live with appreciates what you are going through because they do the same." Although everyone is expected to clean up after themselves, to ensure organization and cleanliness, members rotate the household chores. Every day, there is a different member in charge of cleaning the kitchen and doing the dishes. In addition, three members are responsible for weekly cleaning of common areas, including the bathroom. The busiest time and place in the house is early to mid-evening in the kitchen, but with four refrigerators and ample cabinet space for each student, rush hour is bearable.
Throughout the year, Gamma Eta Gamma hosts a series of amazing parties and house events. At the beginning of the school year, there is a Disorientation Party to welcome new law students and reacquaint the old. The Halloween Party is the largest of all the parties, with costumes, prizes, food, drinks, and dancing. The Mardi Gras Party is thrown by the Asylum Law Project in order to raise funds for their trip to Florida to work with immigrants seeking asylum in the United States. On the last day of finals, all law students are invited to the End of the Year Party to celebrate the completion of a long year.
House-wide gatherings include birthday celebrations, when members are honored with small parties and specially prepared "Betsy Cakes," the Christmas gift exchange for whomever wishes to participate, and the 1L Last Meal, for which 2L and 3L students prepare an amazing brunch for 1L students on the Sunday before their first round of finals.