By Leigh Ann Henry
Construction has been approved for a National Pan-Hellenic Council Garden that will offer recognition for the Greek organizations in the council and give them an opportunity to educate the Baylor community about their history.
Plans for the garden are to provide these groups with a place to meet because they are not represented at The Stacy Riddle Forum, where many of the panhellenic groups at Baylor meet thanks to alumni donations.
The garden will be located in what is currently a faculty parking lot at the rear of Marrs McLean Gymnasium and beside the tennis courts by Penland Residence Hall.
Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, dean of student development, explained the difference between Pan-Hellenic and panhellenic.
“Panhellenic is traditionally mainstream sororities,” Palacios said.
“The National Pan-Hellenic Council is historically African-American sororities and fraternities that were formed many, many years ago.”
Astrid Beltran, coordinator for Greek life and the National Pan-Hellenic Council/Multicultural Greek Council, said the National Pan-Hellenic Council was founded in 1930 but did not arrive at Baylor until the 1993-1994 academic year.
Stan Love, Baylor architect, said the first meeting regarding the construction of the garden was held in 2008 and included administrators and four or five members of the organizations.
The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Palacios said, is sometimes referred to as “the divine nine” because there are nine fraternities and sororities in the council.
Baylor represents seven of the nine: Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma, Omega Psi Phi and Zeta Phi Beta. The two not represented at Baylor are Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta.
Dr. Karla Leeper, Baylor’s chief of staff, said she engaged with students on campus to gauge what they wanted.
“This is history in the making,” Palacios said. “This goes beyond having monuments and letters and words. It really tells the history, the story.”
Brian Nicholson, associate vice president of facility planning and construction, said there will be eight designated plots in the garden, seven to represent each organization and one dedicated to Baylor.
The plots will each have a 4-foot granite monument with the crest of the corresponding fraternity or sorority carved into the side of it and tiles showcasing each organization’s representative colors.
Each organization will have a 20-foot-by-20-foot plot to represent itself and its history.
Love said this is symbolic of the post-civil war era in which each freed slave was granted 40-acre plots of land to tend.
Love referred to the construction as being relatively small physically, but a huge political statement.
“The garden is going to beautiful. It’s going to really improve Fountain Mall,” Nicholson said.
Work is projected to begin this summer as the roads running parallel to Fountain Mall are replaced with greenery and sidewalks.
Love and Nicholson said the idea behind this construction is to open the interior of campus, making it more aesthetically pleasing.
Also, the addition of shrubs and trees will bring shade to an area that currently offers none.
Using the area for the garden will be one way of showing what’s important to Baylor, Leeper said.
“We really haven’t been able to represent our students of color or our faculty of color, so this is really exciting that we’re going to actually get to have this garden,” Palacios said.
“Other universities that have large numbers of African-American sororities and fraternities have had different versions of their [National Pan-Hellenic Council] garden, and the fact that they’re noted on campus is really wonderful, but what we’re going to build here at Baylor is really first class.”
Palacios said this is a landmark in Baylor’s history.
“This is a chance for Baylor to be showcasing our accomplishments because traditions have been so historically embedded in majorities, so this is a big step,” Palacios said.
Along with sections devoted to the individual organizations, there will also be movable seating and additional trees around the garden area.
Nicholson said Baylor hopes to complete construction in the fall.