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Associated Press Newswires

Fraternity Gives Hispanic Students Voice, Unity

May 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Associated Press Newswires. All rights reserved. 

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Fraternities may give Hispanic students a stronger voice and a chance to get involved at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

The first Hispanic fraternity at Missouri - Lambda Sigma Upsilon - was approved earlier this semester. The university has had a Hispanic sorority - Sigma Lambda Gamma - since 1999.

"One way in getting involved in the community is getting united in a group," Lambda Sigma Upsilon president Ernie Reyes said.

Another Hispanic fraternity may be on the way. Jessie Berrios, president of Sigma Lambda Beta, hopes the fraternity will be recognized by the university this fall.

The formation of Hispanic fraternities is on the rise across the country, said Freddy Rambay, president of LSU National Latino Fraternity Inc. Rambay said Lambda Sigma Upsilon has added chapters at 20 campuses in the last three years and other Hispanic fraternities are also growing.

"The students will feel like they have a support group where they can let their guard down and be themselves," said Pablo Mendoza, director of the university's Office of Multicultural Affairs..

The fraternities have a predominantly Hispanic membership, but are open to any male student who wishes to apply.

Reyes, a native of Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, said he began recruiting for the fraternity last year. Reyes said the fraternity has eight members now and expects to add four more by the end of summer.

Reyes said he thinks Hispanics are underrepresented in numbers and in campus involvement. Of the nearly 19,700 undergraduates enrolled at the school last fall, only 293 were Hispanic. However, the number is nearly three times the amount of Hispanic people enrolled at the school in 1985.

"The student population here at Missouri is predominately white and most of the population here is not cognizant nor aware of other cultures," Mendoza said.

Berrios said he turned down a bid from a non-ethnic fraternity last year "because I felt like I would have been the token minority in the group."

Berrios said the goal of any multicultural fraternity should be the diversification of the Greek system.

"I think the problem with the Greek system is people don't see minorities belonging to it," he said.

In all, the University of Missouri has 50 fraternities and sororities, including eight historically African-American organizations.

Mendoza said there is also potential for a fraternity for gay men on campus, and also for Asian fraternities and sororities.

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