From the ground up, the rebuilding of Greek housing at ASU

From the ground up, the rebuilding of Greek housing at ASU

Dust swirls through the air of the empty lot. Mounds of dirt are stacked about ten feet high to mark where the construction workers left off. It’s a deserted brown stain on an otherwise lively campus.

At Arizona State University, there’s an abandoned graveyard of sorts. It’s a dirt lot just southeast of the Wells Fargo Arena, but just five years ago, it contained the remains of the University’s fraternity row, Alpha Drive. In 2012, the last building was deemed “unsafe” to occupy and the remaining residents moved elsewhere.

Now, the ASU Panhellenic Council is seeking to give Greek Row an update with a proposal to build a new and improved Greek community on campus.

What Happened to ASU's Greek Row?

The houses never had the cookie-cutter symmetry of so many typical Greek Rows. There were no blindingly white, multi-story houses with Grecian columns or lush green lawns. 

In the 1950's, ASU built its first series of Greek Life houses, called Adelphi Drive. By 1961, Greek Life had expanded and fraternity members were in need of additional housing. ASU hired some of the top local architects to build a set of unique buildings for these fraternities, naming the complex Alpha Drive. 

The two communities served their purpose for about 40 years, but by the end of the 20th year the houses started to fall apart.

By early 2004, Adelphi Drive, or "Old Row," began to foreshadow Alpha Drive's fate. The houses were demolished because they were past the point of viable renovations. However, three of the four houses had been standing empty after their chapters were expelled from campus.

According to a news release published in 2003, ASU planned to provide housing next to the Adelphi Commons, named Adelphi II, for six fraternities, but it has since been turned into an additional living space for students in the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher's College. The fraternities did live in Adelphi II for a time, but they eventually left this space. 

David Jude, a 2012 alumnus, lived in the Pi Kappa Phi house on Alpha Drive while he attended summer classes on campus.

“The functionality of the houses were fine, but the integrity of the structures was definitely a question," says Jude.

The state of Alpha Drive only continued to deteriorate after a house fire completely destroyed the interior of two houses. Additionally, frequent partying only added to the houses state of disarray.

According to an article published by the Phoenix New Times in 2004, Alpha Drive had the most lax policy of all ASU Greek Life housing when it came to parties. Alcohol was allowed on the premises, but Greek Life advisers required a guest list to be turned in 24 hours prior to a party, guests to be carded upon entering, and there had to be "drinking" and "non-drinking" sections of a party.

Still, things could get out of control.

Jude says while the houses were a great way to socialize and bond with the other members of your fraternity, but that a few people could easily ruin that experience for everybody with reckless behavior.

"Obviously, you can't stop everyone from consuming alcohol and partying," Jude says. "However, you can give them guidelines to do it safely and navigate the risks."

In 2003, a proposal was made to demolish and rebuild Alpha Drive. These houses would be built in addition to Adelphi II. Assuming their homes would be redone soon anyways the fraternities made no further repairs on any of the existing homes. Paint chipped, air conditioning ceased to work, fences broke, lawns browned, and one by one, the fraternities left to find their own off-campus housing in Tempe. 

“There was a lot of mixed emotions (about the houses being torn down) ... I was a fraternity member and a concerned resident," says Jude. "I was for it as long as they could come up with some results and replace it. It was probably for the best for where this University is trying to go."

Years passed, and the developers never made a final agreement with the University due to financial disagreements between the fraternities and the University. By 2012, the last fraternity, Sigma Nu, departed Alpha Drive, thus officially eradicating any on-campus housing options for fraternity members.  

Gabriela Della Corna | The State Press
Where is Greek Life now?

In the early 2000's, ASU built the Adelphi Commons for 12 sororities on campus across the street from the Barrett, The Honors College dorms. Like Alpha Drive, the houses wouldn't fit in at a typical Greek Row. Instead, they’re designed in a similar fashion to many of the dorms on campus.

Security is also managed similarly to dorms on campus. Residents must swipe their ASU Sun Card in order to enter, unless the gates are opened for an event. Metal gates also separate each house from one another.

Girls are selected to live in Adelphi either through an application process similar to applying to live in a dorm, or if not all spaces have been filled, are entered into a “lottery” and are chosen to live there for the upcoming school year. Each resident has one roommate and two suitemates to share a bathroom with. 

After 15 years, the wear and tear of Adelphi has begun to show. Students report problems with bugs and the overall cleanliness of the building. 

Kelly Dempsey, a sophomore member of Kappa Alpha Theta and resident of Adelphi, says she has to “scrub” her room in order to feel clean. However, in her opinion, the benefits of living in Adelphi outweigh the negatives.

“We have to check-in (for events) at Adelphi so it’s very convenient living there,” Dempsey says. “I never really have to leave my room.”

Not everyone chooses to live in Adelphi. Isha Parikh, a marketing and supply chain management senior and member of Kappa Alpha Theta, says she thinks Adelphi isn’t the best possible option for providing housing for sorority members.

“I didn’t live in Adelphi, but I grew up with the idea of Greek Life having big houses with letters ... that Southern style charm,” Prikh says. “I don’t like how we’re separated, but at the same time, I like that we have something for sororities.”

Unlike sororities, the fraternities have had no choice but to relocate off campus, if at all. Many of the fraternities don’t have an option for members to live together, but those that do either rent houses or entire sections of apartment complexes to give members somewhere to call home.

However, these “houses” are completely unregulated by the University and are often susceptible to legal offenses. 

In 2013, just one year after the last fraternity left Alpha Drive, The Arizona Republic published an article about a recent spike in crime at these off-campus locations.

Citations have been written for underage drinking, illegal partying and physical assaults. However, the fraternities continue to live outside of the University's supervision.

A New Era of Greek Life: Greek Village

At the intersection of University Drive and Terrance Road lay the remains of the outdated Cholla dorms. In its place will be a revitalized version of Greek housing: the Greek Leadership Village.

Emma Walls, the co-chair of the Greek Housing Committee and president of the Panhellenic Council, says the village will reflect ASU's status as the most innovative university in the country, voted by the U.S. News and World Report. Over the years, housing committees traveled across the country to get inspiration from other college's Greek houses in order to create a unique living space for ASU students in the Panhellenic community.

From this, the village was born. The "townhome" style houses are arranged in a triangle with a community center at one of the points and a row of additional housing splitting the community into two sections.

Michael Scott Nickerson, the co-chair of the Greek Housing Committee, Greek Housing Ambassador, vice president of the finance inner fraternity council and member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, says the new buildings will give Greek students a new outlet to express pride for their chapters.

"(The Greek Village is) definitely something that would also fit in with the general architecture of the residence halls at Arizona State, but with a unique twist to really fit each individual organization living on campus, those being our insignia and the letters on campus," Nickerson says. 

The committee also addressed safety concerns for students who may live in the village. Walls says the security system would be similar to current protections established at Adelphi.

Additionally, the houses would have "Greek Ambassadors" that would act as Community Assistants who work closely with the Tempe Police Department to ensure the safety of their residents. 

As for which fraternities and sororities will be living in the village, Walls says that has yet to be determined. Chapters can submit an application beginning Jan. 1 to see if their organization meets the qualifications to live in the Leadership Village. Walls says the committee is looking for chapters that follow the rules of the Greek community, pay their dues on time, follow the proper judicial procedures and have the appropriate member size to fill a house. If applicants meet these requirements, they will receive a written letter of support from the housing committee and the process will continue from there. 

The price for each member may vary, depending on the size of the house. Luckily, for students that qualify for financial aid, the Greek village will be considered "on-campus" housing so residents can use their grants, scholarships and/or loans to pay for their stay in the facility. 

Walls and Nickerson say they're also prepared for the Greek community at ASU to undergo frequent changes. They've both seen an increased interest in Greek life at ASU, but they also recognize that groups may "come and go."

"The hope is that upon finalizing this application (and) having applicants submit it that (they) intend to fulfill the lease agreement and continue to live in until their lease ends at which point they would re-apply," Walls says.

However, if an organization decides they no longer want to be a part of the Greek village it can do so, which will leave a spot open for the next fraternity or sorority to take its place.

While these new chapters wait to be offered a spot in the Greek village, they will most likely be stationed in Adelphi. Walls says this will serve as a "training ground" for living in the village.

"We're hoping to have a myriad of options that add to the significance and Greek experience at ASU," says Nickerson.

Johanna Huckeba | The State Press

ASU President Michael Crow talks with the State Press editorial board on Oct. 6, 2016 at the Fulton Center in Tempe.

ASU President Michael Crow says the initiative for new and improved Greek housing is primarily student-led, but is "entirely backed by the University."

"They’ve come up with the design, but we are the ones moving on the design,” Crow says. “The most important thing about this project from our perspective is that we didn’t come up with an edict, we didn’t come up with an answer. We said to the students,'Well what will you design?' And we think what they came up with is a great design."

"This is a subset of Greek organizations who want their students to be engaged in a way where they're focused on leadership development," Crow says. "The hope is that we can provide them a very big cross section of living alternatives for students. So do you want to be in this kind of house or this kind of house or live in the residence halls or live in an apartment or live off campus, live at home, you know, whatever helps you to be successful."

James Rund, the senior vice president of educational outreach at ASU, was the point-person on the project and says that the project was entirely backed by an investor and the school plans to pay back on the loans with the fees students pay to live there.

"There will be a thousand beds or so in the new buildings," Rund says. "Back in the day PV main was the place where the Greek life lived, then they outgrew that and then the leadership wanted something new and that's how the Adelphi commons came to be."

Rund says the students really drove the design, leaders in Greek life took a trip over spring break last year to look at the housing options for Greek life at other universities.

"We feel really good about their idea," Rund says. "They have thought about the issues they could face, and really, the students are better suited to tells us what they need and we go from there."

Rund says the project is set for completion in the fall of 2018.

Going Greek?

Thousands of ASU students are involved with a fraternity or sorority. However, obviously not everyone will be able to live in the Greek Leadership Village.

Allison Brafanti, a junior in Chi Omega, says she's excited about the idea of having additional Greek Life housing, even though she won't be able to live there before she graduates.

"I think it could be a positive thing because I know...a lot of Panhellenic communities have wanted something like that," says Brafanti. "I also feel like we need more information about it."

Outside of the Greek community, reactions may be mixed.

Dylan Kirkeeng, an actuarial science freshman, says he is not involved in Greek Life because he sees himself as a more independent person and doesn’t think he fits the mold of a “stereotypical” fraternity member. However, he says he does understand why people enjoy being involved in Greek Life. Kirkeeng believes the friendships people make in their sorority or fraternity are valuable, and their philanthropic efforts are important to the community. 

Kirkeeng also says he thinks the Greek Village could be beneficial to Greek Life and the university itself.

“If sororities and fraternities are gonna live together, they might as well do it on campus,” Kirkeeng says.