Greeks lease space in new dorm

The dorm will serve as an “incubator” for new chapters.

The new 17th Avenue residence hall recently signed leases with one fraternity, Theta Chi, and one sorority, Chi Omega, and will have dedicated front entrances facing University Avenue.

Image by Jaak Jensen

The new 17th Avenue residence hall recently signed leases with one fraternity, Theta Chi, and one sorority, Chi Omega, and will have dedicated front entrances facing University Avenue.

by Roy Aker

After signing leases in early June, two University of Minnesota greek chapters will have dedicated housing and meeting spaces in the 17th Avenue residence hall fall semester.

The one-year lease agreements are part of a University-wide effort to help former and new chapters establish themselves on campus — all for the ultimate goal of increasing the University’s greek population.

Fraternity Theta Chi and sorority Chi Omega have reserved residence hall living spaces for some members for the 2013-14 academic year and have also signed 12-month leases for two large meeting spaces.

According to the 2012 Greek Community Strategic Task Force Report, the residence hall meeting spaces are part of the University’s goal to add 1,000 greek students by 2018.

As of 2011, the University had 1,856 active undergraduate greek members, the fewest in the Big Ten.

“A part of that growth strategy was to have incubator space for new chapters,” said Director of Housing and Residential Life Laurie McLaughlin.

The designated residence hall spaces are meant to help the chapters grow large enough to move into their own houses, she said. The amount of time a chapter spends in the residence hall will depend on how quickly they recruit new members and find funding for a house.

Alumni and University support

Theta Chi president Austin Cariveau said when the Housing and Residential Life office was looking for chapters to fill the residence hall spaces last spring, Theta Chi was the first to express interest.

The fraternity left the University in 2000 after occupying the house that is now Bordertown Coffee and is returning with both alumni and University support, he said.

Cariveau said the new space is part of Theta Chi’s larger goal of obtaining a charter and becoming a University-recognized fraternity.

Unlike Theta Chi, Chi Omega will be active on campus for the first time this fall. Until spring semester, the University was the only school in the Big Ten without a Chi Omega chapter.

Panhellenic Council spokeswoman Reed Mosimann said Chi Omega was chosen to join the University last spring because of its leadership program, financial stability and marketing plan.

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life has also said they plan to invite the sorority Phi Mu, which was active on campus more than 40 years ago, back to the University between 2015 and 2017.

Chi Omega will be allowed to use a special recruiting process in the fall. After participating in the first round of recruiting, they’ll wait a week and then start recruiting again after other sororities have finished formal bidding. Women who drop out or wish to join a sorority outside of formal recruitment will also be eligible to join Chi Omega

Recruiting new members

The new space will benefit Theta Chi’s recruitment process, making the fraternity more attractive to prospective members, Cariveau said.

Ann Boarman, project manager for Chi Omega, agreed. During the formal recruitment process, she said, housing is always the first thing prospective members ask about.

She said the space is a prime spot for students, with its close proximity to campus and the houses on fraternity row.

Cariveau said Theta Chi’s space will have new couches, a flat-screen TV and a video game console. Chi Omega members haven’t yet decided what they want their space to look like.

Although the space won’t have bedrooms, many greek members have reserved rooms directly above the meeting areas. A third of all beds in the new residence hall will be reserved for greek members from other chapters who don’t have housing.

Furniture and extra décor for the meeting spaces were donated by Chi Omega and Theta Chi’s alumni associations.

Boarman said Chi Omega has a strong concentration of alumni in the area — more than 1,100 within a 25-mile radius.

She said its alumni network and University support is “crucial” for Chi Omega’s success.

“We are extremely grateful for the space,” Boarman said, “and very excited about the opportunity that it gives us — right away — to start functioning like a sorority on campus.”