Student Government wants to put Greek housing on lot five

In a push for Greek housing, questions about the fate of the preserve arise


Ryan Murphy

Photo by Ryan Murphy | Business Manager

Gregory Cox, Contributing Writer

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 4.43.57 PM
Photo courtesy of Google Earth

The turtles and owls that you can find on the north side of the Boca campus may be getting some new neighbors — they are not going to be the quiet kind.

The Boca Raton House of Representatives passed a piece of legislation on April 3 saying that they are in support of building Greek housing on lot five, which is located just north of the football stadium.

The parking lot sits between two preserves that house gopher tortoises, a threatened species, and burrowing owls, which are FAU’s mascot.

The bill passed with a 14-1 vote. The members of the house who are in a Greek community had to abstain due to a conflict of interest.

“[Putting the Greek housing in lot five] just makes sense. They’re moving the student section to the north end of the stadium now, they’re going to be tailgating in lot five,” according to William McElligott, a junior studying political science and international business. McElligott is a member of Sigma Chi fraternity and the primary author of the bill. “To me it makes perfect sense to put Greek housing there,” he said.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 5.16.03 PMThat viewpoint isn’t shared by everyone. Biology department students worry that construction and building houses on lot five will disrupt the natural habitat of the owls and tortoises.

Jessica Huffman, a first-year master’s student studying biology, said a building in between the habitats “will fragment the habitats even more.” The population of tortoises “would either decrease, or it would cause health problems … A lot of our studies are showing that most of the tortoises are on the outside of the preserve, so if you cut it down even more, where are they going to go?” Huffman said.

FAU President John Kelly has a 10-year plan to be the country’s fastest-improving public research university, but Sarah Mitchell, a junior studying biology and geology, said “we use [the preserve] for a lot of research and FAU wants to be research oriented, but you can’t be research oriented if you take out the one area that we can use for research.”

Being a threatened species, the tortoises are state protected. In order to touch or handle them, one must have a permit from The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which could cause problems if construction workers were to move the animals without the proper permits.

There are people in the Greek community that agree with the concerns of the biology department. “I think Greek housing should be on campus, just not in that area,” said Rachel Davis, a sophomore studying biology and a member of Sigma Kappa. “If it’s killing animals, it probably isn’t the best idea.”

Freshman business major Critt Hughes agrees with Davis.

McElligott thinks that most peoples worries however are “because people saw Greek housing and thought ‘oh my goodness this is coming tomorrow,’ and thats not the case at all, this is just a conversation that we’ve been [having].”

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 5.11.09 PMHe and Chris Ferreira, another author of the bill and the Boca campus governor-elect, both explained that this is something that FAU will see in the next three to five years, as it takes a process to establish funding and logistics.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 5.19.53 PMWe “haven’t even talked about financing, how can you talk about where it is when you don’t even know how to pay for it?” said Corey King, the vice president of student affairs.

The financing for the Greek housing will fall onto the Greek fraternities and sororities, and some have even began to consider the expense of Greek housing on campus.

“We want to be able to pay for this on our own,” said McElligott “I know my chapter has started raising dues already, just trying to put money aside to put money for a down payment on a house.”

King explained that this bill is a student-led initiative and it is simply a topic up for discussion.

“That’s the students idea, not ours. I think the student’s had made a possible site and shared that with us,” said King.

This however, contradicts what McElligott explained. “It was actually brought up to me that there were two locations identified by administration. One was the lot five location, and the other one was an off-campus site right next to campus,” said McElligott. “The only two spots that I heard of were the lot five location and the one right off campus.”

“The administration asked for us … to reaffirm our commitment to the establishment of Greek housing, and that Greek life for the most part is behind this idea of putting it behind lot five,” said Ferreira.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 5.29.11 PMMcElligott feels these two locations were chosen because “it’s basically saying that administration isn’t planning to do anything with these two areas, this is a possible location that Greek housing could go.”

Evelyn Frazier, an FAU professor of ecology and entomology, would argue that the preserve is being used by biology students.

“We’re trying to use the preserve more and more as a classroom. We take our students to the preserve and teach our biology students this is what a tortoise looks like or this is how they live,” she explained.

“There this actual research being done in that environment,” added Frazier. “Imagine that [the preserve] is a building on its own. There are things going on there, leave it alone. Just because there’s no building on top of it doesn’t mean it has no meaning for the university.”

Another suggestion from Ferreira and McElligott was to move the preserve.

“My solution would be to move the preserve somewhere else, but then at the same time you’re destroying our school’s mascot,” said Ferreira.

McElligott thinks it might be better if the preserve was moved. “It might be an opportunity for them to these animals in a better suited environment for them, where they’re not gonna be molested by the racecar team, by traffic, by drunk kids leaving the stadium,” said McElligott.

The process may not be as easy as it seems.

“You can’t move the preserve. you can’t just plant a bunch of plants somewhere and make up the same environment,” said Frazier. “It’s easier to move the Greek house that hasn’t been built yet.”

Regardless of where the final location is decided, there is a definite desire for Greek housing from the students and administration.

“I regularly use the phrase ‘unbridled ambition’ to sum up our approach. And I make no secret of my goal to make FAU the fastest-improving university in America,” said Kelly in a press release.