For Nathan Birkman, most mornings begin the same way: a foul smell seeps under the door of the room he shares with three others, just as terrible hip hop blasts from the adjacent room. A girl that is here fairly frequently flees from yet another different bedroom door, saying a brief ‘hello’ to the convicted felon cooking breakfast on the main floor. It’s 7am, and life in Phi Alpha Gamma has never been better.
“I guess I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” said Birkman, a freshman mathematics major from Grand Island. “I knew I wanted to join a fraternity, and I knew the reputations of the greek houses, but I guess I didn’t follow all the evidence to the logical conclusion.”
Birkman is quick to emphasize that he is not complaining, despite the fact that, among other things, he shares a room with three people that was constructed to hold no more than two.
“It’s all part of the life we choose here,” Birkman explained, as his roommate Jeff awoke in a pool of his own vomit and blood. “Greek life is all about making connections, helping the community, and forging lifelong friendships.
“Yeah, friendships,” said Birkman, a little louder, as his nude roommate Adam roughly pushed him aside in a rush for the bathroom. “It’s all about mutual respect here.”
Birkman descended the narrow staircase, avoiding the loose floorboard at the top of the steps that has made for some ‘hilarious slips’ since it first became a problem in 1993, as he continued to explain life with his Greek brothers.
“Well, we found out only last year that the guys who were supposed to pay for the house when it was built in the 70s actually embezzled all the payments, so money is pretty tight around here,” said Birkman, as he passed a cracked window. Immediately outside the window is the furnace, which has not worked properly since 2008. “We still owe a bunch of money to the builders, and some renovations that were done like a decade ago still aren’t paid for. But it’s only interest payments, right? We’ll get through this, just probably not until I graduate.
Phi Alpha Gamma leadership rarely meets to discuss problems with the fraternity, largely because former leader Mitch is presently serving time at the Lancaster County Correctional facility for his 5th DUI arrest.
The sole calming force at the fraternity is presently house mother Judy, though even that relationship has become strained. “Well, my roommate Nate tried to fuck her daughter when he was really drunk earlier this year,” Birkman explained. “She kept saying ‘no, leave me alone, I’m married, you disgust me, I’m calling the cops’ and all that, but Nate was in one of his moods. Long story short, I may be getting a different roommate soon.
“But I’m a Phi Alph for life, come hell or high water. And,” Birkman added under his breath, “I only have to live in this house for five more semesters, so that’s great.”
Phi Alpha Gamma, on academic probation since 2011, was recently praised by UNL chancellor Harvey Perlman as “a beacon of good in the community, continuing to show all the good that Greek life does for our students, our university and our state.”