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Latino fraternity re-forms at LSU

Monday, September 6, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Alberto Elvira
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Latino fraternity re-forms at LSU

Hispanic enrollment increases
  • Advocate Capitol News Bureau
  • Published: Sep 6, 2010

  • The increase of LSU’s Hispanic student enrollment in recent years has led to the re-establishment this fall of Phi Iota Alpha — the nation’s oldest Hispanic fraternity and the only one at LSU.

Last fall, LSU counted 898 Hispanic students, not including nearly 200 international students from Latin American countries.

Rising to 898 students also put the Hispanic enrollment over the Asian student enrollment — 872 students last fall — for the first time in decades at LSU, according to university statistics.

Among those 898 is LSU junior Daniel Toro, who is the new president of Phi Iota Alpha on campus.

Upon joining LSU’s Hispanic Student Cultural Society two years ago, Toro, a New Orleans native who has Honduran parents, said he found out about Phi Iota Alpha through LSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Toro said he was intrigued and challenged to take the lead.

"Seeing as how LSU does not have a reputation for diversity in Greek Life, having an organization like Phi Iota Alpha fraternity on campus will attract young men from a variety of different backgrounds and ethnicities, especially Latino students,” Toro said in an e-mail response.

About the same time, LSU junior Marlon Boutin, a New Orleans native with Dominican and Cuban heritage, learned about Phi Iota Alpha online and later met some out-of-state Phiotas during Mardi Gras celebrations.

Boutin then discovered the national fraternity, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and LSU Greek Life all wanted to bring the fraternity back to LSU. Then he met up with Toro.

"We found out we wanted to bring back the same fraternity,” said Boutin, now the Phiota vice president. "So we joined forces.

"It’s time for LSU to realize there are Latin Americans here. There’s Latin American heritage,” he added.

Likewise, the Sigma Lambda Gamma sorority also is starting this semester at LSU. The sorority describes itself as "historically Latina,” but open to people of "all cultural backgrounds.”

That differs from how the Phiotas used to exist at LSU beginning in 1931. Back then, members had to be international students born in Latin American nations.a

For instance, Phi Iota Alpha’s most famous LSU graduate up to now might be Carlos Roberto Flores, who was president of Honduras just eight years ago.

But the fraternity faded from existence at LSU by the mid-1970s and the membership policies have since changed, opening up Phi Iota Alpha to people of all backgrounds.

"The rules changed, which is great,” said Boutin, who could not have been a Phiota earlier.

Chaunda Allen, director of LSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, said she is pleased the new Hispanic fraternity and sorority have gotten off the ground relatively quickly.

"This really worked out in perfect timing,” Allen said, noting the growth of the Hispanic enrollment and the converging interests in forming the organizations.

"It’s a really good start for two organizations that don’t have a base in Louisiana,” she said. "We hope it’ll be a growing trend. We’re cultivating a (Hispanic) community. It’s not just getting people here.”

With just four members, the fraternity is starting small, but Toro and Boutin said interest is growing.

Toro said the goal is to grow to at least 10 members this year. The next step would then be to become an official chapter — it is currently considered a Greek "colony” — and then establish a new fraternity house.

The focus of the fraternity, Boutin said, is on professionalism, academics and promoting unity of the Americas.

Of course, there will be some partying involved on a secondary level, he said.

"We are still a social fraternity,” Boutin said.

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