Sunday, February 25, 2007

UC Berkeley's Gay Fraternity Recruits 1st Class

New Gay Fraternity Hopes to Boost Activism
By Vincent Quan
Contribution Writer

UC Berkeley’s only gay fraternity will be offering its first bids this semester in an effort to push gay rights to the forefront of campus politics.
Preceded by a chapter of gay fraternity Delta Lambda Phi that existed briefly in the 1990s, Sigma Epsilon Omega, founded this semester by junior Travis Garcia, aims to be UC Berkeley’s only gay fraternity to register with the Interfraternity Council, a process which will require $1 million in liability coverage.
With the goal of establishing a fraternity house by next fall, Sigma Epsilon Omega is already registered as a student group.
“A fraternity is pretty hard to start,” Garcia said. “We are talking about difficulties such as a lack of leadership and liability. These organizations require time, effort and dedicated people.”

Though Sigma Epsilon Omega will function as a general social fraternity, it will be politically and professionally oriented around the gay movement, Garcia said.

The fraternity will attend football games and organize events such as parties and dances. However, it will also have a strong focus on networking opportunities for gay students in professional fields, he said.
Though UC Berkeley is home to approximately 20 LGBT organizations, Sigma Epsilon Omega will be unique in its aim to bring like-minded people together, Garcia said.
“As a fraternity, Sigma Epsilon Omega is hoping to appeal not only to existing active members of the Berkeley gay community, but also to members of the gay community that have not yet found an organization that has aligned with their common interests or goals,” he said in a statement.
While oriented towards the gay community, Sigma Epsilon Omega will demonstrate no preference for homosexuals over other people, Garcia said.
“We will not discriminate against anyone, gay or straight,” he said. “If someone who is straight feels they would be a good match for the fraternity, they will be considered like everyone else.”

While Sigma Epsilon Omega has garnered generally positive feedback from campus and the Greek council, Garcia said he does not foresee a process free from opposition.
Yet, Garcia said he will attack the opposition head-on through debates.
“For being such a progressive campus, gay rights have kind of been on the back burner,” he said. “We are going to be unique because we are going to take an active approach to addressing gay issues.”

Sigma Epsilon Omega should not be seen as the gay fraternity, but rather as an alternative form of campus involvement and another choice members of the gay community can make, said Billy Curtis, director of the Gender Equity Resource Center at UC Berkeley.
Though Sigma Epsilon Omega may be UC Berkeley’s only gay fraternity, the Greek system has generally been very accepting of homosexuality, Garcia said.

“With over 30 chapters, the IFC has a proud and storied tradition of being an inclusive and diverse organization,” said IFC President Nikhil Bhagat. “SEO, and other organizations, will be welcomed and evaluated according to the same basic standards of membership as any other fraternal organization.”