Greeks ready to build

Stuart Hughes

Greeks are ready to increase their campus presence with construction of a long-awaited 20th Avenue location. But the proposed Greek Village is raising questions as to whether or not campus administration is prepared for the growth.

University administration currently leaves issues of safety and discipline to national chapters of fraternities and sororities. National chapters schedule routine checkups with varying regularity to regulate Greek houses on campus. Compliance with fire and electrical codes, discipline and other risk management issues are standard components on every inspector’s checklist, and every house has a risk management officer to police safety issues.

The Greek population is around 3 percent of SDSU’s student body.  There have been no major discipline issues in recent memory. So, the university is not planning to expand student guidelines to include Greek housing, according to Maryzs Rames, vice president for Student Affairs.

Student Affairs Associate Vice President Doug Wermedal said he is “utterly unconcerned” about campus safety being negatively affected by the new Greek community and any discipline problems created by an increase in the Greek population. He said other universities with larger Greek systems have different factors affecting Greek life that would not affect SDSU, and Greeks do not cause an increase in crime statistics.

“You can look at large Greek communities, but you have to look at the communities they exist in as well,” said Wermedal. “When you increase the population, you increase criminal activity.” He also noted Brookings has historically had very low crime.

The President of Sigma Phi Epsilon Michael Dendinger said SDSU Greeks want to show the campus who Greeks really are. They will do so by eliminating worries and misconceptions people have about the Greek system.

“We do a lot for the community,” Dendinger. “People will realize once we build

Greek Village that we don’t just party every night, and we’re actually really active in the community. We have Bible studies and rake lawns for the elderly, and raise money for charity.”

Due to the relationship between Greek students and the Brookings community, the SDSU Administration and the South Dakota Board of Regents have been working on Greek housing since the 1960s when land was set-aside for a Greek Village. Due to a lack of funding and collateral, Greeks were unable to build new houses.

Recently, SDSU developed an agreement with the State College Development Association whereby SDSU leased land to the association. The association will then lease the land to individual Greek houses, who will have to privately fund their individual projects.

Through the lease agreement, SDSU retains the ability to regulate the Greek community while allowing Greek houses to retain autonomy. So long as the houses strictly follow the guidelines of the University Student Code of Conduct, they will be allowed to police themselves.

USD’s Assistant Director for Greek Student Life Amber Groh said the nature of their houses is self-policing, much like a real city or village would be; this policy is what makes Greek life so beneficial to students.

“We’ve had no problems with (this) policy so far,” said Groh. “The Greek system oversees itself, and part of being a self-policing system is learning. It’s such a nice opportunity for students to mature and grow.”

SDSU University Police Chief Timothy Heaton was unconcerned for campus safety in regards to the development of Greek Village.

“We have a good working relationship with both Greek Life and Student Affairs. We don’t have much trouble from Greeks, and I’ve even talked to Greek presidents, and campus safety is also a priority for them too,” said Heaton. “I don’t foresee any problems.”

Rames, a major proponent of the Greek life project, is excited to increase opportunities for the campus as a whole. She also emphasized that SDSU students are well behaved and have the ability to handle themselves responsibly.

“Out of 20 years, and 200 student groups on campus right now, we’ve had maybe five incidents [of serious student misconduct]. SDSU has very well behaved students, and I hope the Greek community will grow to fill a void on campus in student life,” she said.

Rames said the majority of Greek houses have guidelines more rigorous than SDSU’s student code, so any regulation would re-state policies that Greek chapters already adhere to.

“We work closely with the chapters and their national offices, and most of the houses have rules that are more strict than our Student Handbook; which applies to every person on campus,” she said.

Greek Village will need time before any construction begins. While the houses are being designed, most of the Greek houses will still need to raise significant funds in order to break ground.