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Editorial: ASU’s elephant graveyard

April 19, 2012

By Editorial BoardMarch 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm Print This Post

However you refer to the stretch of payment that connects East 6th Street with University Drive — Frat Row, Alpha Drive or that boarded up, post-apocalyptic dysbropia— you will now be doing so only in the past tense.

The last fraternity residing on Alpha Drive, the ASU Sigma Nu chapter, received a letter from its national organization ordering the fraternity to vacate its house by March 18. The University gained ownership of the premises on March 15.

Whatever memories you hold of Alpha Drive — a thoroughfare for intoxicated wobbling after a night out during your freshman year, part of the pathway to the Wells Fargo arena or Sun Devil stadium for a sporting event or perhaps it was your first home away from home — memories are all they shall remain.

Despite recent appearances of boarded-up, condemned structures once used to house students, ASU’s very own elephant graveyard, the shells of houses on Alpha Drive is not the architecture of ASU’s New American University. Alpha Drive has, however, been a longstanding part of ASU’s history and now the wheels of discussion are put in motion. Was this an issue of safety or simply University aesthetics? What does this mean for Greek Life and the culture that took up residence in this little pocket of Tempe? And perhaps most importantly, what will be built in its place?

Greek Life will go on. Most fraternities that previously had homes on Alpha Drive have since relocated to other parts of Tempe by renting out entire floors and sections of area apartment complexes or houses close together in neighborhoods near campus. The members of Sigma Nu have even received monetary support from the University to be used toward rent elsewhere or offers to live in University housing for the remainder of the semester.

To say this was an issue of safety wouldn’t be far off. Condemned housing structures are havens for squatters, homeless people or youngsters in search of some trouble or adventure (but usually find only a rusty nail stuck in their shoe). And it’s not as if the fraternities kept these houses in the best of shape while they lived there. Alpha Drive has been in a constant yet almost ironic decline for several years. It has also seen its fair share of underage or binge drinking, a practice that was previously a responsibility of ASU Police to monitor.

And now, for the future: What does the University have planned for the space? Could it hold a living learning community, new dorms, a campus green space or perhaps more parking and University facilities? Only time will tell. Until then, you’ll just have to “frat hard” somewhere else.

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Categories: Editorial Opinion


Last fraternity vacates Alpha Drive

April 19, 2012

By Julia ShumwayMarch 25, 2012 at 7:37 pm Print This Post

Just before spring break, the members of Sigma Nu fraternity were evicted from their house on Alpha Drive. The members are moving into various apartments, and ASU has offered to compensate them. (Photo by Beth Easterbrook)

Shortly before spring break began, about 40 members of an ASU fraternity found themselves homeless when classes resumed.

ASU’s chapter of Sigma Nu, the last fraternity residing on Alpha Drive, received a letter from their national organization ordering them to vacate the premises by Sunday, March 18.

The eviction came as a surprise to Sigma Nu’s members, criminal justice senior and former Sigma Nu pledge marshal Sotero Rivers said.

“Mind you, this is the start of spring break,” Rivers said. “A lot of the guys weren’t even in Tempe then.”

Rivers, who was out of town when the fraternity received the letter, did not find out that Sigma Nu had lost its house until the middle of break.

He said rumors that Sigma Nu would lose its house had circulated since he first joined in spring 2010, and he knew they were likely to lose it someday — just not so soon as he thought and not in the middle of a semester.

For the past several years, ASU officials have harbored concerns about safety and deteriorating structures on Alpha Drive, University spokeswoman Julie Newberg said in an email.

In May 2011, the University sent a letter to the occupants of Alpha Drive explaining ASU could no longer tolerate those conditions and was willing to work with the fraternities to ensure that the houses were no longer used as residences.

During that summer, the other owners signed agreements allowing ASU to lease the properties during the school year, but Sigma Nu was unable to reach an agreement with ASU.

On March 15, ASU officially took possession of the Sigma Nu property, but took no action to evict the students.

The letter members received came from the Fraternity Management Group, a national organization that works with several fraternities and sororities.

ASU staff first learned of the eviction from a Facebook post on March 16, Newberg said.

At 1 p.m. that day, a team made up of representatives from various ASU departments met with the residents who had not yet moved out, Newberg said.

“In an effort to address the immediate situation, and to provide for the safety and welfare of our students, ASU has offered to relocate the students into replacement housing either on campus or a place of their choosing and pay their rent until the end of the semester,” she said.

History senior Nathan Fawcett, the president of Sigma Nu, said he and his brothers were grateful for ASU’s help.

“We’re really appreciative of what ASU has been doing,” he said. “They’ve been great about supporting us through this.”

Fawcett found a new place to live with financial help from ASU.

He said he and his fraternity brothers are planning on spending the rest of the semester focusing on school, but they believe Sigma Nu will have another fraternity house at ASU.

Rivers, who plans to move into a Tempe apartment complex upon returning from break, said he was glad to have ASU’s help including $1,500 for rent as well as $100 for moving expenses.

He said the loss of their fraternity house, as well as others on Alpha Drive, will not improve ASU’s reputation as a party school. It may, in fact, hurt it.

Rivers said fraternity houses on Alpha Drive provided a contained and relatively safe spot for parties, keeping citations such as minors in consumption and driving under the influence citations to a low level, but the loss of those houses caused the parties and the problems to extend to other parts of Tempe.

“All you’re doing is causing more MICs and DUIs and havoc around Tempe,” Rivers said.

Reach the reporter at julia.shumway@asu.edu


Fraternities, sororities adapt to changing Greek life climate

April 19, 2012

Julia Shumway and Danielle GrobmeierApril 16, 2012 at 9:54 pm Print This Post

Alpha Drive is vacated, boarded up and under construction. Fraternities like Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Nu are no longer allowed to live in Greek campus housing. (Photo by Jenn Allen)

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 Pi, Sigma Nu, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Delta Sigma Phi, Sigma 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 julia.shumway@asu.edu and dgrobmei@asu.edu

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