Coalition leader opposes historic designation

Greek student leaders said Lynn Swon helped their cause greatly, but some preservation proponents questioned her motivations.

Eric Swanson

The Minneapolis City Council Zoning and Planning Committee will decide Thursday whether to recommend the city make several University fraternity and sorority houses historic properties.

Leading the effort against the designation is Lynn Swon, chairwoman of the Coalition for Non-Profit Student Housing.

Swon and several members of the Greek Action Council – University students, faculty, staff and alumni who meet monthly to discuss greek issues – created the coalition in September 2002 to handle the historic designation. Since then, Swon has gathered the admiration of greeks and the ire of other leaders.

The coalition formed, when the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission requested a study of fraternity and sorority houses near the University. Greek community members feared more expensive

repairs and renovations from the designation and decided to get representation.

Swon – a retired Dain Rauscher training manager and Greek Action Council member – volunteered to lead the coalition and became the key organizer of fraternities and sororities.

Greek student leaders said Swon helped their cause greatly; however, some preservation proponents questioned her motivations and accused her of using scare tactics to rile students.

“(Swon) is doing a great job. She is going way above and beyond anyone’s expectations to save the greek system,” said Pat Funk, president of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority’s Delta House Alumni Association.

“She believes in the greek system as an integral part of the campus community,” Funk said.

Swon has committed many hours to greek student concerns, and although the historic designation issue has taken up most of her time, the coalition also opposes the University’s possible purchase of fraternity and sorority properties.

Others, however, are skeptical of Swon and the coalition, especially after their recent takeover of a Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association meeting.

Skott Johnson, a Sigma Nu alumni board member and Dinkytown Business Association president, said he became suspicious when Swon spoke about the historic designation at a Sigma Nu meeting.

“The whole scare tactic of the end of greek life on campus did not appeal to us,” Johnson said. “We have voted not to support the coalition. We were definitely unsure of their motives.”

Amy Lucas, senior director of the Heritage Preservation Commission, said she also had doubts about Swon.

Last week Lucas said she does not believe Swon is accurately explaining the city’s proposal to fraternity and sorority members.

But Interfraternity Council President John Kokkinen said Swon is the best person for the job.

“She is very helpful in looking out for the interests of undergrads in all different aspects, from economic to programming to social involvement,” Kokkinen said. “I believe she is doing a great job.”

Swon and coalition members said they plan to attend, and perhaps also speak at, today’s zoning and planning committee meeting.