For the past five years, several USC students have tried to generate interest in a fraternity for gay men, yet their attempts have failed because of a lack of publicity.
This year, however, Nick Powers, a sophomore majoring in East Asian rea studies who identifies himself as gay, and Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT student resource center, are hoping to produce more publicity to gain support for a renewed effort for a gay fraternity.
Powers hopes to create a chapter of either Delta Lambda Phi, a national social fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men, Sigma Phi Beta, a fraternity for gay, straight, bisexual and transgender men or Delta Lambda Psi, a co-ed fraternity that aims to connect LGBT students to the surrounding community.
Delta Lambda Phi is the largest and oldest of the gay fraternities. Its slogan is, “Founded by gay men for all men.” Though Powers said he hopes to create a chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, the steps required might pose too much of a challenge.
“The problem with [Delta Lambda Phi] is it’s the most difficult to get a chapter because the requirements are so strict,” Powers said. “You have to have at least 10 founding fathers, set up bank account, get a mailing address — it might be a little too much for us to accomplish.”
Sigma Phi Beta, whose primary goal is to teach queer men about leadership and confidence, is also a potential option but does not have as strict requirements for membership as Delta Lambda Phi. Moreover, it’s a community fraternity, meaning it’s open to those who aren’t students at USC.
“All Sigma Phi Beta sent us was a sign-up sheet for the interest group,” Powers said. “It could be one person, five people, however many.”
Powers feels as if pursuing a smaller fraternity such as Sigma Phi Beta or Delta Lambda Psi, which only has one chapter at UC Santa Cruz and has no colonization requirements, will be more productive in the progression toward creating a gay fraternity at USC.
Powers said that because interest is currently low, they do not want to limit the fraternity to only LGBT members.
“There’s only three people in our group so far, so we’re a bit inexperienced,” Powers said. “We’re not getting a lot of interest, so we don’t necessarily need a frat just for gay people.”
Powers’ goal is to choose one of the three fraternities by spring break and have the application process completed by August.
“We really want to have it soon, and we think that’s possible with Sigma Phi Beta,” Powers said. “Delta Lambda Phi just wouldn’t be possible right now.”
If Powers were to start a new fraternity at USC, he and the founding members would have to decide which fraternity council — Interfraternity Council, Multicultural Greek Council or Professional Fraternity Council — their chapter would classify under.
Powers said Sigma Phi Beta recommends its chapters join the Interfraternity Council at the school immediately, while Delta Lambda Phi leaves the decision up to each chapter. Delta Lambda Psi has not specified which council it prefers its chapters to join.
Patrick Lauer, IFC president, said the councils have different requirement for new chapters.
“Each council has its own expansion process,” Lauer said. “IFC has a bunch of requirements that have to do with chapter advisories, alumni support and a bunch of other factors.”
Powers and Vigil are both working to publicize the possible enactment of a new chapter in order to prevent failure this time around.
“Three years ago, California State University, Long Beach came to USC to talk to students about starting [Delta Lambda Phi]. It has always been talked about, but there has been no drive or momentum to finish it,” Vigil said. “This year, the students have been very consistent about meeting and trying to recruit. They’re putting more energy into it.”
Vigil said he will serve as a guide to Powers and the other students involved by researching the different LGBT-related fraternities and talking to chapters at other schools.
“I’m trying to recruit four to five students as a core group every other week as well as information sessions, reserving venues and trying to get the word out,” Vigil said.
Powers said the previous attempts to form a gay fraternity were unsuccessful because people were not actively communicating with each other.
“When we really started last spring, what failed was no one really knew how to organize the group and do this on our own,” Powers said. “We started to realize what’s really important now is to check up on each other every week to keep up to date with progress.”
Powers said he feels the obstacles in bringing a gay fraternity to campus are worth it.
“Personally, before college, I was turned off by the Greek community, but when I saw what it really was, I wanted to be a part of it,” Powers said.
He hopes the creation of a gay fraternity, regardless of which of the three it is, will help to break down stereotypes and build a bridge between the LGBT community and the community at large.