Fraternities, sororities adapt to changing Greek life climate

Part 1 of 3: Alpha Drive, the former home of ASU fraternities, is one example of the changing face of Greek life.

This is part one of a three-part series. See parts two and three.

Alpha Drive, once a communal area shared by ASU fraternities, has become akin to an elephant graveyard.

Fences covered by green tarps with “No Trespassing” signs surround the rundown complex. The former home of ASU fraternities is one example of the changing face of Greek life.

Commissioned in 1961, Alpha Drive originally housed 10 fraternities, including Sigma PiSigma NuAlpha Epsilon PiDelta Sigma PhiSigma Chi and Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Every fraternity but Sigma Nu had moved off campus by summer of 2011.

The school had growing concerns for the safety of the residents of Alpha Drive because of the deteriorated buildings, ASU spokeswoman Julie Newberg said in an email statement after Sigma Nu’s eviction in March.

To ensure apartments on Alpha Drive would no longer house students, ASU sent owners a letter in May 2011 explaining the University’s desire to lease, exchange or purchase each property.

Computer information systems sophomore Adam Train, who was looking forward to moving into the Alpha Epsilon Pi house in fall 2011, said the University’s reasoning made little sense.

“I lived in Manzanita,” Train said. “Even though the fraternity row houses weren’t in the best condition, they were definitely better than some of the places the school wants kids to live.”

He chose to come to ASU instead of Louisiana State University specifically to pledge with Alpha Epsilon Pi, one of the few fraternities that still had a house.

Train said fraternities with houses had previously been considered the best by potential pledges.

“Now that everyone’s lost their house, it’s hard to establish which fraternities are the top,” he said. “I guess it’s because everyone's kind of in the same situation.”

Alumnus Jesse Rieser, who graduated from ASU in 2003, lived in Sigma Nu’s house on Alpha Drive.

“It’s just strange to think, to me, that a college of that size doesn’t offer that part of college life,” he said.

Rieser said fraternity houses provide structure for students. His house had a housemother who would cook meals. The members would often eat together, and each brother worked to take care of the house, he said.

“It was kind of like a home away from home, which is comforting for people,” Rieser said. “In a sense, you had about a hundred roommates that you knew decently well. You weren’t all friends, but you knew each other well.”

This was what Train expected when he first came to ASU from Texas.

“I never figured fraternities would worry about losing their houses or have constant worries about getting kicked off campus,” Train said. “I never thought those would be big issues, but it’s a fact. You can’t really do anything about it, but I’m still happy I’m in it.”

Alpha Epsilon Pi has been without a fraternity house since summer 2011, but next year plans to move into a section of an apartment complex near other ASU fraternities.

Several fraternities have begun creating their own fraternity “houses” in apartment complexes near the Tempe campus.

The challenges of evolving Greek life have impacted sororities, such as Sigma Kappa, as well.

Sigma Kappa had a chapter with ASU, but closed in 2002 because of declining membership

A chapter of Sigma Kappa recolonized at ASU this semester.

Melinda Mettler, spokeswoman for Sigma Kappa’s national headquarters, said in an email that the new chapter members have been “positively and enthusiastically” involved in the Tempe campus and the community.

“We are so grateful to have been given the opportunity to colonize a new chapter at this great educational institution,” Mettler said. “We are excited to be part of the ASU Greek community and appreciate all the support we have been given throughout our first semester on campus.”

Reach the reporters at and or follow @JMShumway and @danigrobmeier on Twitter.

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