Greek life moves into 17th Avenue

The 17th Avenue residence hall opened last week for students.

Theta Chi fraternity members Heng Ly, left, and Brad Fredrickson put the finishing touches on their chapter room Tuesday in the 17th Avenue residence hall. Theta Chi and sorority Chi Omega are housed in the new residence hall, which opened Monday for freshman student move-in.

Tyler Newman

Theta Chi fraternity members Heng Ly, left, and Brad Fredrickson put the finishing touches on their chapter room Tuesday in the 17th Avenue residence hall. Theta Chi and sorority Chi Omega are housed in the new residence hall, which opened Monday for freshman student move-in.

Melissa Berman

After 18 months of construction, more than 600 University of Minnesota students moved into the new 17th Avenue residence hall last week.

This is the first time greek organizations have been housed in a University residence hall, and the dorm’s other students said they are generally supportive of the Theta Chi fraternity and Chi Omega sorority leasing space in the $62.5 million building.

Global studies freshman Sam Schechtman, who moved into the new dorm last week, said he hopes the presence of greek chapters will create a more positive atmosphere in the residence hall.

“I think it’s good that the U is pushing greek life, and I hope it can grow,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t overpower the school, but I do hope it grows.”

In addition to Theta Chi and Chi Omega chapters, the dorm will also house the Pillar House, a Living Learning Community for freshmen interested in joining a greek organization.

University freshman Noah Busch said he’s looking forward to seeing how greek organizations affect life in the residence hall.

“The greek life is going to contribute an exciting vibe at the dorm,” he said.

A University task force set a goal in 2012 to add more than 1,000 new members to the school’s greek population by 2018.

Finance and accounting freshman and 17th Avenue resident Mason Zilka said he sees benefit with increasing the University’s greek population.

“I think the greek presence is good,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. It’s cool to have different grades and people living in one hall.”

In 2011, the University had the lowest percentage of greek enrollment in the Big Ten at 6 percent, according to a Greek Community Strategic Task Force report.

As fraternities and sororities attempt to grow on campus, some students, including Schechtman, hope perceptions of greek life improve.

“I think it’s going to break down the stigma a little bit of the typical frat boy [or] sorority girl,” he said.

Theta Chi recruitment chairman Jake Fritz hopes his fraternity can set a positive example for others as it returns to campus in the 17th Avenue residence hall.

“We want to show the new freshmen that we’re Theta Chi and get away from the negative stereotype of fraternities,” he said. “We want to show that fraternities are a good thing on campus.”