U greek life eyes city law for reform

MSA and greek leaders claim housing rules are impeding the community’s expansion.

by Raj Chaduvula

As greek life at the University of Minnesota continues to swell, the community is pushing to loosen zoning regulations to continue its growth.
One ordinance restricts fraternities from occupying spaces that weren’t originally intended for greek life. Another ordinance caps the number of residents at fraternity and sorority houses to 32 and restricts their locations to within half a mile of campus.
“The current housing ordinances are very restrictive and [consist] of rules that don’t apply to any other group,” said Mitchell Kelley, president of the Interfraternity Council.
While greek leaders and the Minnesota Student Association are looking to help change city ordinances, surrounding neighborhoods sound off.
Current ordinances are incompatible with the expanding sizes of fraternities and sororities, said Sami Rahamim, who co-authored the MSA resolution supporting the greek initiative. 
The greek community experienced a 72.8 percent increase in membership over the past five years, Kelley said, jumping from 1,769 members in 2010 to more than 3,000 in 2015.
The MSA resolution to support amending city ordinances passed earlier this month and reflects campus-wide concern about student housing, Rahamim said.
“This issue was a priority from the beginning of the school year,” he said. 
Ward 2 Council member Cam Gordon said it’s crucial that leaders of the initiative remain sensitive to neighbors as they push for ordinance amendments.
“I think we can find a way so that they can find their needs met … in a way that’s also good for the surrounding neighborhoods and communities,” Gordon said. 
Currently, six University greek chapters are struggling to find houses for their members, Kelley said. 
Ty Visnick, president of the University’s Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter, said his fraternity has been fruitlessly searching for a permanent home for nearly two years. The fraternity currently operates in a boarding house and abides by boarding house zoning rules, Visnick said. 
“We weren’t able to put up our letters, [and] it was hard to get recognition on campus,” Visnick said. 
As of Monday, the fraternity was able to obtain a conditional permit that, unless appealed, would identify their residence as an official fraternity house, Visnick said. Still, Alpha Epsilon Pi needs an additional permit to place their letters on the property.
For a campus where the greek community makes up more than 10 percent of the undergraduate student population, Kelley said, the outdated ordinances limit the expansion of greek chapters. He said he hopes the changes to the ordinances will be effective by the beginning of the fall semester.