How should Greek Row be policed?


Greek Row sits empty on a night in October. Policing Greek Row has been a contentious topic, whether the status quo should stay or if the university and police should take control.

By The Editorial Board

Within the past two years, there have been two high-profile gun incidents in DeKalb involving members of NIU’s Greek community.

On Feb. 19, 2010, NIU student Zachary Isaacman shot another student, Brian Mulder, outside of Stevenson Towers. At the time, he was a member of Phi Kappa Theta.

On April 5, two NIU students, Mark Orozco and Richard Van Arsdale III, allegedly shot into an apartment at 1009 Aspen Court after being ripped off in a drug deal earlier that day. Orozco is a former member of Sigma Alpha Mu, while Van Arsdale, according to a variety of sources, was in the same fraternity, but in the process of being removed from the organization.

This is not an attack on the Greek community. Many of us have friends who are Greeks, while many of those who have come and gone through the Northern Star have been proud members of their respective fraternities and sororities.

But there are certain things that make us uneasy.

Four days after Isaacman shot Mulder, NIU Police found an AK-47, a revolver, a shotgun and a large amount of ammunition in Isaacman’s room in the Phi Kappa Theta house. The president of the fraternity said no one was aware what he had in his room – had they known, Isaacman would have been immediately expelled from the organization as it violated the house’s lease agreement.

It’s not just the lease agreement Issacman violated though. He violated the fraternity’s own risk management policies, which forbids members from keeping weapons in the fraternity house.

A number of fraternities on campus have similar policies that say the same thing: no guns allowed.

But that didn’t stop Isaacman. And while details about Orozco and Van Arsdale are still being revealed, we are left with one question: When it comes to safety, who keeps the fraternities in line?

From what we can tell, the houses on Greek Row police themselves. But how extensive and objective is this oversight? We’re not expecting professional searches and questioning, but we have to wonder if certain things, like illegal drugs or firearms, are swept under the rug for personal considerations?

We also wonder about the community. The police only searched the Phi Kappa Theta house after Isaacman’s arrest. It seems tempting to advocate for police searches of Greek houses, but this would be a gross violation of every student’s right to privacy. It would also validate the assumption that Greek members are deserving of suspicion simply because they are Greek.

But NIU might be able to step in. Even though fraternities and sororities are private organizations living in private houses, they are also considered to be student organizations. While fraternities and sororities themselves do not receive money from the Student Association, their umbrella organizations do: Interfraternity Council, the College Panhellenic Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the Multicultural Greek Council. In theory, NIU could twist some arms and promote more safety checks.

And it might be in NIU’s best interest too. NIU currently suffers from the perception that it is a dangerous campus. And incidents like Isaacman and Aspen Court do not help. If NIU were to take a more active approach to security on Greek Row, it could alleviate some of the perceptions about the safety of the area.

But the same problems that were mentioned with the police apply here. Every student has the right to privacy and the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

The point of this editorial is to start a conversation, not a shouting match. If you believe this is anti-Greek in any way, you need to read it again.

Isaacman, and allegedly, Van Arsdale and Orozco, are the outliers in what has been a predominantly good social system.

Our primary recommendation for ensuring the safety of Greek Row and everyone who lives and visits there is to keep up–or begin–self-policing efforts in the houses. Legally speaking, it is the least messy option available for the Greeks, NIU and the community.

At this point, we trust the system. But how long will this last if there are more revelations of Greeks participating in illegal activities from inside their lettered houses?