When he first heard Queens’ Greek community was going to be relocated from separate lodges to the basement of Wireman Residence Hall, Phi Kappa Sigma President Andy Wertz feared being “suppressed in a tiny cramped room.”
But Wertz and many other fraternity and sorority members said they were pleasantly surprised when the new Greek Village debuted Feb. 2 during a gala open to all students.
“I was shocked that they were going to do that,” Wertz, a sophomore, said of Queens’ plans for the Greek Village following demolition of the Greek lodges over the summer in preparation for campus-wide construction projects. But after seeing new accommodations, Wertz’s opinion about the space drastically changed. “I’m so excited now,” he said. “I love how interconnected all the organizations have started to become because of Greek Village.”
An estimated 200 students, including 75 non-Greeks, attended the grand opening, exploring each Greek organization’s room and mingling with members. Senior Jordan Davis was one of the few non-Greeks who attended the event.
“I like that the event was open to all students. It undermined the whole ‘Greeks are elite’ mentality. Some people think [Greeks] are so secretive and exclusive, but that isn’t the case at all,” said Davis.
“Initially it was going to be a community building event for all the Greeks, but since we hadn’t opened [the space] officially, we tacked [the gala] on to the grand opening,” said Zach Thomas, associate director of Greek Life and Leadership. “Our main goal was to create inter-community and cohesiveness.”
Six of the seven Greek organizations on campus once held functions in their former lodges. All seven fraternities and sororities received at least an 800-square foot room in the Wireman basement, along with a $10,000 stipend for designing their rooms, said Thomas.
Like Wertz, Alpha Delta Pi member Lauren Price was initially concerned about the change in location. “I wondered about the location but I think it works out well; it really feels like a community. There’s something about being inside together,” said Price.
Pi Kappa Phi President Ian Kowalski, a junior, added, “The change happened while I was studying abroad, so I didn’t see the houses destroyed. I was kind of sad. But [Greek Village] really emphasizes community and sharing spaces. I feel they’re bigger, nicer, newer and cleaner [than the lodges]. Each space is different.”
For Alpha Kappa Alpha Incorporated, the opening of Greek Village meant a chance to be reconnected with the Greek organizations. Prior to the move, Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. had a room on the first floor of Hall Brown Overcash Residence Hall. “Before [our space] was just large enough to do small functions,” said junior Saray Smalls, vice-president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. “Now, we can get to know everyone better. Although we’re few in number, we’re big in personality, and this has given them the chance to see that.”
The grand opening kicked off with Dr. Brian Ralph, vice president of Enrollment Management, thanking the Greek community for putting in more than 5,000 hours of community service last year. “Thank you for giving your time in both leadership and service. Please continue to model what you are doing,” said Ralph.
Smalls, along with several other Greek students, formed a committee and began planning the event last month. “The whole thing was planned in two weeks,” said Smalls.
While many of the Greek members felt the gala went well, Wertz wishes more non-Greek students had attended. “Some people find Greek life intimidating. They have this preconceived notion of what [Greek Life] is instead of having an open mind and enjoying a great event the school put on. But it was nice for everyone to be open and welcoming – to have fun with Greek houses they might not usually be with.”
“We probably could have publicized [the event] more,” said Thomas. “We could have also had the Greeks talk to non-Greek [students] more, and said ‘Hey, you can come. It’s open to you too.’” Thomas also feels that night classes may also have reduced the turnout.
At the event, John Downey, dean of students, mentioned that over the next few years, Queens hopes to expand the number of Greek organizations available to students. “There’s been talk about adding another fraternity or sorority that’s culturally based to the group,” said Thomas. Their goal is to add another Greek organization associated with the National Pan-Hellenic Council, he added.
“Ten years from now, the system will have grown, and we’ll have to move,” said Dean Downey. “There’s always going to be changes, and I hope that these changes continue to improve Greek Life.”