Latino Greek Organizations

Walking up and down the UCLA campus, it is almost impossible not to point out students wearing their Greek letters. As the Latino population continues to grow at UCLA, more and more have looked to join these organizations.

Their presence on campus is being felt now that the Latino Greek Council has grown to include six organizations: Gamma Zeta Alpha, Lambda Theta Alpha, Lambda Theta Nu, Nu Alpha Kappa, Phi Lambda Rho, Sigma Lambda Gamma, and one colony (a probationary organization), Sigma Lambda Beta.

Each organization has made it known that they do not want to be seen as the stereotypical sorority and fraternity depicted in movies.

These young Latinos look to these organizations as a backbone to help them throughout their college and professional careers, and as a home away from home that can be used as a vehicle for change.

Many of the students have a wide array of issues that they want to address, and they look to their organizations to do that.

Edwin Orozco-Sanchez, a second-year sociology student and member of Nu Alpha Kappa, makes it clear that the stereotype of party animals is something that his fraternity fights on a regular basis. These stereotypes made him not want to join any fraternity.

“Before arriving to UCLA I told myself that I didn’t want to get caught up with the Greek life and that I had more important things to concern myself with,” said Orozco-Sanchez.

He later stated that what actually changed his mind was talking to a fraternity member. He could relate to the organization’s goals of academics, brotherhood, and culture.

His story is not very different from other Latinos on campus who want something other than the traditional activities of Greek life.

Samantha Castillo, a fourth-year psychology student and member of Sigma Lambda Gamma, preferred the Latino based sorority over others.

“It was more of a close-knit group of girls because of the smaller numbers in members,” said Castillo.

Ruby Arias, a fourth-year sociology student and member of Lambda Theta Nu, was excited to talk about her organization’s philanthropies.

“The girls work very hard to make sure that our conference happens. We bring girls from all over the city to show that they too can come to a four-year university and succeed.  We try to plant the seed to help them mature into intelligent, beautiful young ladies,” said Arias.

Throughout the year, these organizations put together on-and-off-campus events.

“This year we have a lot of community service events we are trying to accomplish. A big and new one this year is a dodgeball tournament to raise money for a scholarship that will be awarded to an AB540 student, bringing awareness to that issue on campus,” said Henry Rivera, a fourth-year Chicana/o studies student and member of Gamma Zeta Alpha.

Latino greek organizations strive to promote a better way of life for themselves and for everyone who comes into contact with them.

Race: The R-word: Cultural sensitivity and dialogue; their absence in UC campuses

After suffering what she considered a great social injustice, Alexandra Wallace got on YouTube and ranted about how Asians were too loud in the library. Within hours, the video went viral and it was immortalized on the Internet.

Should I or anyone else, be surprised, seeing as the persistent trend of racialized incidents in UC schools?

Numerous racist attacks such as the “Compton Cookout”, thrown by a fraternity at UCSD, or the noose found hanging at a UCSD library, and the swastikas carved into dorm doors at UC Davis indicate that UC campuses have a long way to go in fostering environments of tolerance and cultural sensitivity.

Instances of racial and ethnic intolerance have initiated response from many student groups, but their impact on campuses still resonate deeply.

Here at UCLA, Wallace’s comments sparked numerous emotional responses.

At first glance, Julie Pham thought that the Wallace video might be a joke but realizing it was not, she became enraged.

“I think that Wallace’s comments [proved] her to be very ignorant,” Pham said, “Asians are not the only ones that are loud. These are stereotypes that perpetuate hateful thinking that do nothing for social change and understanding.”

Victor Chan, a fourth-year biology student, is of Asian descent and identifies as Latino. His grandfather emigrated from China to Columbia, Chan’s birthplace and home.

When Chan first saw the video, he was in disbelief.

“The first thing I did after watching the video was to make sure that Wallace in fact was a UCLA student. When I found out she was a student, it really upset me,” said Chan, “being an individual that has dealt with being part of more than one culture, I have always hoped that people would be more understanding [of] one another, and learn about one another’s cultures.”

Recently, Chan and members of his Latino fraternity, Nu Alpha Kappa, held a taco sale fundraiser on Cinco de Mayo. They overheard students nearby demean the holiday by calling it “Drink-o de Mayo” as well as saying, “Oh I love Cinco de Mayo, that’s when all the tacos come out.”

Disappointed by their attitude, Chan said, “They don’t respect the day, nor do they even try to learn about it.” All of the different people and organizations on our campus share a responsibility to begin addressing these issues, especially among our diverse student groups.

While this incident was only lived by a few members of the UCLA population, it is still a strong example of interpersonal aggressions that that promote ethnocentrism.

Changing what we know about diverse groups is essential to changing how we talk about them. UCLA students expressed their support for a more ethnically inclusive learning experience in the recent USAC election, as 62.9 percent voters approved the Communicating Unity through Education initiative, which seeks to reform general education curriculum to include a diversity requirement.  Although this change to the curriculum has yet to go into effect, UCLA is making institutional moves towards creating a critical ethnic discourse.

“If we were to start to have open dialogue about the many different cultures that exist at UCLA, then we would be able to avoid such intolerance on our campus,” said Pham.

Whether it be the swastikas carved into doors, indecent party themes, or a video that demeans an ethnic group, it is abundantly clear to me that there needs to be open dialogue to help heal the social rift of these transgressions.

Out on a Mission: NAK volunteers at a center for the homeless

Driving eastward on Interstate 10 at 5 a.m., the most obvious thing I can see is the lack of traffic, but as I look closer, I see the change from the affluent Westside neighborhood around UCLA to the economically-ravaged downtown area known as Skid Row.

With fellow members of Nu Alpha Kappa (NAK), we’ve made our way to the Midnight Mission center, located in one of the city’s poorest areas. Even at this hour, people are starting to line up outside the center to receive breakfast.

Twelve of us come to help serve food and clean the center. As we make our way into the center, everyone is quiet and sleepy.

“It’s hard for a lot of us to get up at this time, but we know that it’s for a good cause so it makes it a lot easier,” said Adan Calzada, a fourth-year sociology student and NAK fraternity member.

To most NAK members, it is nothing new to volunteer at the center.  But some do not know what to expect for their first time in this part of town.

“A lot of [members] are not familiar with these parts of Los Angeles. As for me, I grew up in South Central Los Angeles,” said Jose Moran, a fourth-year sociology student and member of the fraternity.

As we first walk in, I notice young kids, the youngest looking like he is three years old. At first, the children stay close to their parents, but after a while, they start playing around with fraternity members, and their smiles light up the fraternity members’ faces.

“The hardest part of coming here is always seeing how many kids live in these conditions… we try to interact with the kids because they are the future of this country. When people think of homeless individuals, they never realize that there are many children that are homeless as well,” said Moran.

The homeless thank the members as they serve food.

“There is no greater feeling than when people thank you and how you can really see it in their faces how much this really means to them,” said Victor Chan, a fourth-year biology student and first-time volunteer at the center.

After the food is served, it is time to clean. The members are now livelier than they were when they first arrived. They talk and make jokes not just with each other, but with the leaders at the center as they sweep, mop and wash the center, making sure that it will be clean for lunch.

But a difficult issue for NAK members is that they are not able to do more for the people on Skid Row. Many times they feel that they have to turn their backs on the individuals in need.

“It’s great how we come out and give three to four hours of our time, but the most important thing we can do is not forget when we go back to UCLA,” said Moran.