Has UNLV Ever Had a Greek Row?

UNLV_Las_Vegas_Student_UnionNot really. Back in the day, near the northeast corner of campus, squatted a pair of plain buildings fronted by Greek-ish columns. I would paddle my VW Rabbit past those Cottage Grove Apartments, with Greek flags (ATO! TKE! SAE!) proudly adorning sliding-glass doors. The apartments remain, but a parking garage, an elementary school and the Science & Engineering Building have since devoured the rest of that street’s real estate.

In addition to its commuter campus reputation, you can point to a confluence of curiosities for UNLV’s lack of a legit Greek Row. Importantly, the university came of age during an interesting moment. Enrollment roughly doubled during the 1980s, and in 1990, the Runnin’ Rebels won the NCAA men’s basketball championship. Both set the stage for a more active campus life.

But that era was also a tough time for universities and Greeks nationwide, both of which shared a reputation for hard partying. At UNLV, fraternity Rush Week included demonstrations by beer-chugger extraordinaire The Fox. We often joked that the best way to pack an anti-apartheid rally was to tap a keg. Then the beer hit the fan: Several highly publicized national incidents of hazing and alcohol abuse—some involving injury and death—brought intense scrutiny to the Greek system and their universities.

The result was a sea change in college life. In the 1990s, campuses either went dry or severely restricted alcohol possession and consumption. No more beer busts, no more hazing, no more keg-fueled rallies to free Nelson Mandela. And no more Fox. Booze certainly hasn’t evaporated from the college experience, but fraternities and sororities nationwide have since refocused on service and brother/sisterhood. Despite the de-emphasis on partying (at least on campus), Greek life remains an important consideration for many choosing a university.

Recently, UNLV revealed plans that included additional student housing along Cottage Grove Avenue, possibly swallowing the University Park apartments. But that housing is, according to an September 2013 issue of the Rebel Yell, intended for grad students—not traditionally among those looking for on-campus digs. Which begs the question: In the New Campus Order, should UNLV leverage its nearly 28,000 students to boost campus life, invest in a Greek Row and help revitalize its once-vibrant neighborhood? The time might be right. UNLV may have to expand its holdings across Maryland Parkway to do it, but Harmon Avenue—long home to unofficial student housing—appears ripe for redevelopment.

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