The Lord would be pleased to know that heathens have been exorcised from at least one frat house on UNM's campus. That is, profanity, pornography and other faith-based immoralities are now banned from the recently renovated Sigma Chi fraternity house.
The 30 college students who moved into the building this month, renamed the Telos Christian Community, are also prohibited from indulging in alcohol and tobacco products. Ironically, those are the things, along with racism, harassment and sexual misconduct, that the former residents indulged in before being shut down.
The Sandia Church of the Nazarene, one of Albuquerque's many Christian churches, has set out to change the reputation of the building, and UNM's Greek community as a whole, by introducing a squeaky clean lifestyle to the university.
Zachary Kerns, one of the church's pastors and executive director of the Telos House, said they had been looking for a suitable building on campus to convert into a dormitory. According to Kerns, a Christian community is a much-needed ingredient for the recipe of making UNM a well-rounded institution of higher education.
"We think this community, which is radically different than anything offered at the university before, is something the community wants," Kerns said, adding that students of all religious backgrounds have expressed interest in living in the house since its opening was announced in April. "It's going to be better than all the lame programs here now, I think."
The building, owned by the Sigma Chi Alumni Association, is in a prime location, sitting closest to the center of the UNM campus on Greek row. It had, however, remained abandoned since 2002 when the fraternity was officially disbanded and kicked off campus after its members were found guilty of violating a number of university regulations, some of which led to criminal investigations by the city of Albuquerque. The list of crimes reads like a reality cops show, including numerous noise violations, out-of-control parties that resulted in the alcohol poisoning of several underage people and sexual harassment. One of the most publicized crime, though, and the one that burned the bridge between UNM officials and Sigma Chi, was an incident of racism in 2001 when a member of the fraternity duct-taped a swastika to the roof of a black student's car when she illegally parked in their parking lot.
"It was a wild, wild place," said Brian Jonnesy, a UNM alumnus who said he attended several parties at the Sigma Chi house. "It was like living the Animal House movie. It was only a matter of time until it was stopped."
The building, which had deteriorated in the years since Sigma Chi was booted off campus, deteriorated into an eyesore for all of UNM with broken windows and a disheveled yard. The Sandia Church of the Nazarene reached a deal with the Sigma Chi Alumni Association earlier this year to lease the building at least until 2006, when UNM's Sigma Chi chapter would officially be allowed back on campus.
Alex Christian, a spokesman for Sigma Chi, said the fraternity's national leaders have yet to decide whether to revamp the organization in 2006, or not. He said they are supportive of the Church of the Nazarene's efforts to use the building to promote a more sedate, morally focused lifestyle.
Kerns said they too want a good relationship with Sigma Chi but are doing their part to enforce UNM's decision to keep the fraternity's former members from visiting the house. He said there is a composite picture of the members to identify them if they try to get into their old home.
"We haven't had any problems like that though," Kerns said. "Most of the old members understand they aren't welcome here."
And those students are the only ones who aren't welcome. Kerns said the Telos House is open to any member of the community looking for a place to relax or study. There has even been free coffee for passersby interested in learning more about the Christian faith since the house officially opened June 1.
"It sounds like a good idea, I mean the more options available at UNM the better a college it will be," said Andrea Martinez, a UNM student. "I don't know how receptive students will be to it, but for the people who like those kind of things it will be good."
Overseeing the day-to-day operations at Telos, which will include religious activities and a church member filling the dual role of landlord and counselor. Telos, which is a religious word meaning complete, is the kind of life the church wants to offer UNM students looking for answers in their own lives, Kearns said.
While he has high hopes for the organization having a long and successful life at UNM, he knows those hopes could be cut short if the Sigma Chi fraternity is allowed back on campus. If that happens, he said the church will have to find another home to promote the gospel to the university community.