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Latino population increase leads to reopening of Phi Iota Alpha

Wednesday, September 1, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Alberto Elvira
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Latino population increase leads to reopening of Phi Iota Alpha

Fraternity returns after 35-year absence

By Kayla DuBos

Contributing Writer

Published: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 23:08

The Latino population on campus has been growing steadily since 1994, according to data from the Office of Budget and Planning.

In 2009, 898 Latino students attended the University, an increase from the 773 Latino students in 2005.

Oscar Melendez, biology junior and secretary of Phi Iota Alpha, a Latino-based fraternity, said the Latino population is small, but its growth is important.

"I feel like it’s still small, but there is definitely more involvement from Latinos on campus,” said Melendez, who’s of Honduran descent.

Phi Iota Alpha was re-established at the University in March after an absence of 35 years. Marlon Boutin, psychology senior and vice president of Phi Iota Alpha, attributed the return to the rise in the number of Latino students during the past few years.

"The increase in Latino population may have something to do with [the re-establishment] because there have been many attempts to re-establish Phiota before,” said Boutin, who is of Dominican heritage. "We just happened to be the first successful attempt.”

He said the Latino community is underrepresented at the University, but it’s still comfortable and easy for people of Hispanic descent to make friends.

"I believe the Latino community has grown mainly because of LSU’s initiative to recruit more minority students,” said Daniel Toro, finance junior of Honduran heritage and president of Phi Iota Alpha.

"Phiota” — as it is commonly called — was founded at the University in 1904 under the name Sociedad Hispano-Americano.

Sigma Iota was founded at the University in 1912 in place of Sociedad and led to the first Latino-based fraternity in America, Boutin said.

He said Phi Iota Alpha took the place of Sigma Iota in 1931 and remained on campus until 1975 when the fraternity withdrew because of a strong decrease in Latino admissions.

"Things were a lot different back then,” Boutin said. "Now we accept persons of all nationalities as long as they fit our requirements, but when it first began, Phi Iota Alpha only accepted men that were directly from Latino countries.”

Boutin said the fraternity focuses on getting to know each prospective member as a person and deciding what that person can bring to the fraternity, rather than his or her ethnicity.

Melendez and Boutin explained that Campus Life and Greek Life contacted men on campus about the fraternity, and they met with those interested. In the end, there were four members on the founding line.

"None of us are alike, but it unifies us as we learn about each other’s backgrounds and cultures,” said Boutin. "It’s the perfect example of pan-Americanism.”

Boutin said Phi Iota Alpha was prestigious when it was first brought to the University, and he hopes to keep that momentum going.

"We are very proud to be a part of such a great history,” said Boutin. "It really touches me to be able to celebrate my culture.”

Anyone interested in joining Phi Iota Alpha can attend an informational meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Castilian Room of the Student Union.

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