LARAMIE — Despite an October draft plan from University of Wyoming administrators, the university is unlikely to demolish the Sigma Phi Epsilon house and Tobin House to make space for new dormitories, UW Trustee John McKinley said Wednesday.
A drafted proposal to build some new dormitories near Fraternity and Sorority Row drew the ire of students and alumni involved in the Greek community.
At a Wednesday meeting of the trustees’ facilities committee meeting, McKinley said his board doesn’t have “any intent to proceed with tearing down the buildings on Fraternity and Sorority Row.”
Instead of pursuing the location on the edge of Fraternity and Sorority Row, McKinley suggested UW should zero in on constructing dorms on the two blocks west of 15th Street between Lewis and Bradley streets.
If UW pursues that plan, it would likely come in addition to constructing dorms on the administrators’ other preferred sites: the location of the UW Police Department and the parking lot immediately to its south, as well as the location of Wyoming Hall and the two parking lots immediately to that building’s north and south.
McKinley’s suggestion came as a group of Greek stakeholders, led by former legislator John Hursh, came to the facilities committee meeting to urge administrators to take the possibility of construction on Fraternity and Sorority Row “off the table.”
Reassurance from the trustees, Hursh said, would end the pushback UW is getting from the Greeks.
“Let these students get back to work, let these alums settle down and let me get some sleep,” he said.
During the meeting, those stakeholders discussed the benefits to students by keeping that section of campus intact.
Skyler Everitts, a student in Sigma Phi Epsilon, said the chapter houses are key to its members’ academic successes and sense of camaraderie.
“We have homes aways from homes,” Everitts said. “We have friends that feel like brothers and sisters.”
Tobin House, formerly the Pi Beta Phi chapter house, is now owned by the university and was also offered in October as a potential site of new dorms.
Ruth Arnold, a Pinedale resident who was inducted into the chapter in 1965, said some alumnae affiliated with that sorority have vowed to discontinue donations to UW if the house is razed.
Eilis Olgren, chapter president of Chi Omega, said construction on Fraternity and Sorority Row would hurt the expected expansion of UW’s Greek community.
A sorority is expected to arrive on campus in fall 2019. Olgren said UW should expect nine new fraternities over the next six years.
Hursh said some of those fraternities are planning to build new houses on the row.
“If they get here and they get their numbers, they will build at their own expense,” he said.
Hursh said that could help UW’s capacity issue in the dorms.
“You need beds,” he said. “We can do that. The Greek community is flourishing again. We have corrected the problems of the past.”
However, trustee Kermit Brown also said new fraternities would also exacerbate the campus’s parking shortage. He suggested Hursh provide some “positive suggestions that take into account 2,000 new beds and parking.”
At a Staff Senate meeting later on Wednesday, President Laurie Nichols said the present predicament over where to building housing is another reminder that administrators need to update the campus’s master plan.
“If we would have done this a few years ago, we wouldn’t be having the controversy we’re having right now with where we site our dorms because it would have been part of our campus master plan,” she said.
Staff Senator Christina Maki expressed concern about demolishing Wyoming Hall and then moving those staff temporarily into Hill Hall.
Neil Theobald, vice president for finance and administration, said “a lot of the feedback I’ve gotten about Wyoming Hall as office space is that it’s not desirable.”
Maki noted Hill Hall would present “the exact same issue.”