Education

Cal Poly considers building on-campus village for Greek students

These photos show the scene before and after a roof collapsed Saturday, March 7, on Hathway Street near Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
These photos show the scene before and after a roof collapsed Saturday, March 7, on Hathway Street near Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Courtesy of SLO Police Department

Cal Poly is considering building a village on campus that would house students from the Greek system, university President Jeffrey Armstrong told about 300 business leaders Thursday morning at a San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting. Students in fraternities and sororities now live off-campus.

The idea is conceptual only — and part of ongoing discussions with the campus and broader community as part of the university’s master plan, according to Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier.

“The idea of a Greek row or campus club village is part of a larger concept of specialty housing on campus that could also include villages focused on housing for faculty, staff, graduate students or alumni,” he said.

“Several possible campus locations are being discussed as potential sites for such specialty housing. However, at this time, no definitive decisions have been made regarding locations, timelines or specific operations or other logistics for such potential projects,” Lazier added.

Armstrong mentioned the possibility of Greek housing on-campus during brief remarks to discuss Cal Poly’s efforts to build positive relations between residents and students — and its collaborations with Cuesta College and the city — in light of the St. Fratty’s Day party that drew about 3,000 people and led to a roof collapse and injuries on March 7.

Armstrong thanked those who worked with the university to deal with that incident, as well as those who attended a campus forum later to discuss how to move forward with safer, more responsible student behavior.

Cal Poly officials are using outside investigators to determine who organized the St. Fratty’s Day event and hold them accountable for creating a safety threat to the participants and the community. A social probation against the Greek community was already in effect at the time because of reports of sexual assaults and extreme intoxication this year at off-campus parties. It is still in effect.

The university is in the process of updating its master plan, which will guide development of its land and buildings over the next 20 years. Cal Poly plans to share more specific details and maps, including the specialty housing and Greek row concepts, with the public to seek further input beginning in late April, Lazier said.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx and the chairperson of the Residents for Quality Neighborhoods, Sandra Rowley, both supported the idea of housing Greeks on campus — saying it would reduce partying in the off-campus neighborhood near the university.

“I think it would create a better living environment for the fraternities and sororities,” Marx said. “The Greeks who now do have a house don’t tend to have a house that’s big enough for everyone. Some of the students live in satellite houses, and often those satellites are where the trouble and parties originate.”

Having a Greek row would give Cal Poly students the opportunity to create their own positive programming and “not let the lowest common denominator lead all these people to do something destructive, anti-social and in this latest instance (St. Fratty’s Day), very dangerous,” she added.

Marx, a former assistant dean of graduate student housing at Stanford University, suggested the Greek students and their chapters could help design new housing — formulating plans for common and kitchen spaces and rooms — and perhaps even invest in the projects.

“If Cal Poly provides the land and policy decisions, I think there would be a great opportunity for partnerships and an interesting Greek row,” Marx said. “In addition, there could be theme houses potentially for groups of people — vegans for example — or those who share similar religious beliefs or cultural or ethnic backgrounds.”

Marx said the construction of Greek and other specialty housing on campus could also free up neighborhood housing for non-college residents, including families.

Rowley said she supports the idea of housing Greeks on campus, adding “it would be helpful to neighborhoods.”

“My only hope is that the location wouldn’t be near the perimeter of campus,” Rowley said.

Similar to her resident advocacy group’s position on Cal Poly’s dorm project near Grand Avenue and Slack Street, Rowley said the proximity of housing near the neighborhood can lead to problems.

Those include issues with noise, trash and vandalism when students attend parties in the neighborhood. A new housing location farther removed from the campus border is ideal.

“It’s not unusual to have a Greek row on campus,” Rowley said. “We would support that concept.” For more information on the master plan process, go to http://masterplan.calpoly.edu/.

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