Student accuses University fraternity of discrimination

Eleanor Dearman

Lambda Phi Epsilon is temporarily suspended and under investigation by its national board after a student reported being denied a bid due to his sexual orientation.

Civil engineering senior Diwu Zhou said he rushed for the fraternity this fall but was asked a “derogatory” question in the initial interview process. He said he believes he did not receive a bid because he is openly gay. According to Zhou, those involved in the interview were members of the official University chapter of the fraternity, as well as members who ran an “underground” chapter that operated while the organization was banned from campus for a six-year period. Zhou said he believes the “underground” members were leading the discrimination.

When he was told he did not receive a bid, Zhou said a member of the fraternity came forward and told him the reason he was not selected was because he is gay.

“I feel like more people should know that stuff like this happens on campus,” Zhou said.

Albert Liang, an undeclared natural sciences sophomore who said he was involved with the alleged underground chapter, said he was offered a bid but did not take it to support Zhou.

”I thought it was really unfair how they could give me a bid and not give him a bid because he’s gay,” Liang said. “I wasn’t going to just let that slide. I really wanted to stand up for him because I knew it was the right thing to do.”

Zhou said he told officers of the Lambda Phi Epsilon national chapter that the UT chapter operated unofficially and unfairly denied his bid. Zhou said he received a call from Charles Andrean, the fraternity’s national president, who said the board is looking into his claims.

When asked about the investigation, Andrean said the national chapter had been informed of possible misconduct at the UT chapter and was launching an investigation. He said the board has suspended the University chapter for the time being.

“We have received a complaint about the undergraduate chapter, and our priority right now is a full investigation and finding out everything that potentially could have occurred here,” Andrean said.

David Chen, business graduate student and officer and media contact for the UT Lambda Phi Epsilon chapter, declined to comment on behalf of the fraternity.

The fraternity’s suspension by the national board comes after it was banned on campus between 2005-2011 after Phanta “Jack” Phoummarath, a Lambda Phi Epsilon pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after attending a party hosted by the fraternity.

In fall 2013, the fraternity restarted at UT. For its first year, it was on suspension with the University, and, this year, it is on probation.

“While the organization is under suspension, they are not allowed to conduct any activity on campus,” said Phil Butler, sorority and fraternity life advisor for the Office of the Dean of Students. “So they can’t table, they can’t post fliers [and] reserve space, that kind of thing. That has changed this year, now that they are on probation. So, since May, they have been able to do some things on campus that basically any other student organization could do.”

Zhou, who also filed a report with the Campus Climate Response Team, said the fraternity operated underground from 2005-2012, even after its ban had ended.

Butler said he was not aware of the operation of an “underground” organization.

“It doesn’t immediately alter their status at the University,” Butler said. “However, if the result of the investigation is that there was a violation of University rules or policies, then they could face disciplinary actions.”

Butler said the national board contacted him about the chapter suspension and investigation. Butler said the investigation by the national board is separate from any investigations that happen within the University, but he hopes the national board will share its findings with the school. He declined to comment on whether a University investigation was in the works.