What’s the deal with Gamma Alpha?

Gamma Alpha is a cooperative, co-ed, and ecologically conscious house for students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Originally, Gamma Alpha was a national scientific fraternity (see the homepage and the Wikipedia article), but our mission now as a 501(c)(2) non-proift is to provide affordable housing and a close-knit community to graduate students at UM. The co-op owns the house, so residents buy a share of the co-op and are responsible for self-governance and the house’s upkeep.

Can I live in Gamma Alpha?

Because this Gamma Alpha exists to provide housing and community to graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty members at the University of Michigan, we cannot offer long-term housing to those not associated with the university. If you are affiliated but not a student, postdoc, or faculty member (visiting scholar, etc.), you may live in the house for up to a year. We look for residents who can commit to long stays at the house–this helps strengthen community and retain knowledge–so PhD students are especially welcome to apply (although all graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members are welcome)!

What’s the difference between a resident and a member of Gamma Alpha?

A resident of Gamma Alpha is anyone who has completed the application process and has been living in the house for more than 2 weeks. A member is anyone who has lived in the house for at least four months, is a student/postdoc/faculty member of the University of Michigan, and has been approved by a vote by current members. A resident may live in the house for up to one year. Members can live in the house for the duration of their program/position plus two additional years following their graduation date/termination of position. Both residents and members are expected to equally take part in maintaining the house as described and can participate in meetings. All residents are allowed to vote on all issues except on potential inhabitants and house membership; these two matters are voted on by house members only.

What does it cost to live in Gamma Alpha?

When residents first move in, they purchase a share in the co-op, pay a deposit, and begin paying monthly rent. All of these costs are about the same. We are a non-profit organization, so you’ll find that our rent is extremely competitive; all money goes right back into the house and is used for upkeep, buying house staples, paying for utilities and property taxes, etc. See the section about openings (below) to determine the current cost (currently being updated).

Is there a spot for me?

If you want to know if we have a spot open, the best thing to do is to email us at gamma.alpha.mi@gmail.com and ask.

What is the timeline for applying to and living at Gamma Alpha?

Receiving an application – After emailing the house recruiter with basic information about yourself and your program/position, you can expect to receive an application within one to two weeks after being deemed eligible to apply.

Scheduling an interview – If your application is pre-approved by the house, you will be notified in one to two weeks if you are being scheduled for an interview (in person or via video chat depending on circumstances).

Moving into the house as a resident – If accepted following your interview, you can coordinate with the house recruiter on moving in to the house based on available spots.

Becoming a member of the house – After four months of living in the house, current members of the house will vote to accept eligible residents of the house as members.

Moving out of the house – Once you plan to move out the house, you must give the house recruiter four (or more) months’ notice ahead of your move-out date.

How do I apply to be a resident?

If you think you would be a good fit for the house (and vice versa), send an email to gamma.alpha.mi@gmail.com. If we mutually decide to begin an application, there is a written set of questions, as well as an interview (we invite people for dinner if they’re in town; otherwise it’s by video chat). After that, we call a house meeting to discuss and vote on applicants to the house.

When can I move in or out?

Whenever all rooms in the house are not occupied, we consider admitting new residents. Therefore, depending on availability, you could move in anytime. Since we are currently all graduate students, though, people tend to leave at the end of semesters, so moving in at the beginning of the semesters is typical. Summertime often is quite flexible.

When you move out, we require that you leave at the end of a semester (or summer) and give at least four months’ notice.

Where’s the nearest store, park, laundromat, etc.? Do I need a car for the location?

-We’re about 1/2 a mile (as the crow flies) east of the intersection of Washtenaw and Geddes. The nearest corner store is about 1/2 a mile away, and the People’s Food Coop, Trader Joes, and larger supermarkets are 1.5 miles away or more. We are close to several University of Michigan and Ann Arbor city bus lines that some members of the house frequently use.
-At any give time, about 1/4 to 1/3 of our residents do not have cars. Between your feet, a bicycle, the bus, and shared car rides, everyone is able to get where they need to be. If you have a car, we have parking in the driveway or on the street.
-Getting to campus is easy on foot or by bike: central/medical campuses (~15-20 minutes walking) and north campus (~35 mins. walking, 15 mins. by bike).
-We have in-house laundry machines, which all residents are welcome to use. All members are asked to keep track of the laundry they do, and the totals are added to rent at the end of a given month ($0.50 for a load of the washing machine and $0.50 for the dryer).
-We are a 5 minute walk from the Geddes entrance to Nichols Arboretum, which is a popular botanical garden that offers visitors a quick nature getaway.

How much work is required of residents?

Not too much, but more than if you rented an apartment or house owned by someone else. In order to maintain the house and keep it running, we require that all residents take part in the following:

  1. Weekly chores (e.g., cleaning the kitchen). Each chore takes about 30-60 minutes.
  2. House job (e.g., taking care of the yard, scheduling city inspections, or managing waste and recycling). Each job takes ~1-2 hours/week.
  3. House repairs (e.g., painting, fixing a broken chair, or re-tiling the bathroom). Each resident does 5 hours per semester.
  4. House cleaning days. Twice per year, we set aside an entire weekend day and work together to clean the house from top to bottom.
  5. House meetings. We meet about once a month during the school year (and less during the summer) to discuss all manner things relevant to the smooth operation of the house (e.g., budget updates, decisions about major repairs, planning for our 2 house parties, discussing applicants to the house, etc.). These meetings last 1-2 hours on average.

Does living in a community mean I’ll always have to wait for the shower, stove, etc.?

Rarely, despite the fact that there are 13 residents in the house. In addition to private rooms for all residents, we have a guest room, 2.5 baths (i.e., 2 showers and 3 toilets), a living/dining room, a kitchen, a sun room, and a basement with on-site laundry. At any given time, residents of the house have varied schedules, so it is relatively uncommon to have waits for bathrooms. Similarly, there always seem to be enough spots on the stove.

Because residents spend their time both in private rooms and communal spaces (studying, socializing, or napping), you can strike a balance between privacy and community.

How does sharing of supplies and food work?

Although our house is big, we have only a limited amount of space in the pantry, fridges, etc. Each resident is assigned one refrigerator shelf, one freezer space, and 2 pantry shelves for personal supplies. This has proven to be adequate as we share some commonly used food staples (flour, rice, butter, spices, oils, etc.). We also share supplies for cleaning and house repairs. The cost of shared food and supplies comes out of the monthly rent.

Which room will I have?

This is a tricky question. Rooms are assigned by seniority, so that whenever anyone leaves the house, the most senior member has “first dibs” on the room. If the most senior member wants to stay where they are, the second most senior member has the option to move, and so on down the line. Therefore, short of convening a house meeting, it is quite difficult to say which room you may have.

In lieu of actually answering this question, it may be helpful to get a feel for the range of rooms. All are quite livable; some are larger than others, but recall that, as a member of the house, you have access to all common spaces in the house (kitchen, living/dining room, sun room, etc.). For a full view of all room pictures (which is currently being updated), visit the Room Photos page!

What about all of my stuff

We have plenty of storage space. We also have furniture that can be used in residents’ rooms (every room has a bed, a dresser, and a desk that residents can choose to keep in their room or move to storage for the duration of their time in the house). We also have a fully-stocked kitchen, so you are not required to share your favorite cups or pan with the house. You are, of course, welcome to do so if you choose!

Can guests stay in the house?

Our community is what makes our house special, and we always enjoy meeting friends of residents. If visitors wish to stay overnight, we have a dedicated guest room that may be reserved on a first come, first serve basis. There’s no charge for guests using that room up to a week, but after that we require financial contribution. Visitors are also welcome to stay in your room. We expect guests to follow the same guidelines for behavior (i.e., no loud noise late at night, cleaning up after oneself, etc.) that we expect of each other, but we’re really a quite welcoming house.