Almost three years ago, Ruben Barajas-Ruiz ’18, Richy Tovar ’19, and four other students formed an interest group that called for an on-campus organization that would cater to Latinx students. Given their lack of numbers, they did not have enough support for such an organization and were therefore shut down by Erica Urban [Patterson Court Council (PCC) Advisor] and administrative officers. Despite the various obstacles they faced, as Barajas-Ruiz commented, they “never let this die down.”
For many students, such an organization felt necessary. As Andrea Gartner ’20 remarked, “There was [Organization of Latinx American Students] OLAS, but it does not share as many cultural backgrounds as you wish you could share…and is just more generalized.” In fact, Tovar claimed that “this is not just another number added to PCC. It’s a different entity that will consider the cultures and values of Latinx students.”
After great efforts by both Latino and Latina student interest groups, in November, the Patterson Court Council (PCC) voted in favor of a Latino fraternity and Latina sorority to be represented on campus. Since then, the Expansion Committee has read and discussed the applications of the two Latino fraternities—Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. and Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity, Inc.— and the two Latina sororities—Lambda Pi Upsilon Sorority, Inc. and Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. The Expansion Committee consists of the PCC President, National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) Ambassador, Eating House Ambassador, three staff or faculty members, and the Director of the Union.
To allow students to familiarize themselves with the four organizations and for the organizations to see how they fit into the Davidson College community, the Expansion Committee asked each organization to hold a presentation open to the student-body. Each session was attended by the two interest groups, at least one representative from each Patterson Court organization, the PCC Executive Board, and any interested students.
Going into the presentations, it was understood that given the different organizations and the context of Davidson, only broad ideas and plans could be provided. However, the main differences between the organizations, as many students expected and observed, would pertain to national philanthropy efforts, alumni networks, and systems of enforcement.
On Friday, April 13, representatives of the Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc.—Edward Gonzalez (Regional Academics & Affairs Officer and President of the Charlotte Chapter), Nick Owens, and Areli Garcia Jaimes—presented their fraternity. Founded at Kean University in 1975, the organization’s motto is “Chivalry Above Self.” It was the first Latino fraternity founded in the United States and acknowledged by the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC). Lambda Theta Phi focuses its philanthropic attention on the R2L NextGen Program.
On Wednesday, April 18, Lambda Pi Upsilon Sorority, Inc.’s representative, Lenis Perez (the sorority’s Vice President of Finance), introduced her organization, which was founded at the State University of New York College at Geneseo in 1992. It prides itself in being one of the youngest, all-inclusive Latina sorority in the United States. Calling for “Love, Dignity & Pride,” Lambda Pi Upsilon’s national philanthropy is Asthma Awareness.
The next day, on Thursday, April 19, Cristina Bañuelos (National President), Elaine Townsend Utin, and Alzebeth Roman of Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. presented their sorority. Founded at Cornell University in 1988, it was the first Latina sorority to be founded at an Ivy League school. Its motto rings, “Women of Strength, Women of Character.” Lambda Pi Chi’s philanthropic involvement includes Latinas Educating on AIDS Awareness and Prevention (L.E.A.A.P.) and Proyecto H.A.C.E.R., which focuses on supporting minority and/or low-income women.
Finally, on Monday, April 23, Freddy Rambay (National President) and four of Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity, Inc.’s neophytes, or new members, represented their fraternity. Founded at Rutgers University in 1979, its motto is “Latinos Always United.” The fraternity’s primary philanthropy involves H.I.V./A.I.D.S. research and awareness.
All attendees of each session were asked to fill out a questionnaire to help inform the Expansion Committee’s final decision. Each presentation was also followed by a dinner exclusive to the respective organization and the relevant Latino or Latina student interest group.
In general, reception of the four presentations was positive. For Claudia Hernandez ’20, it was “super cool to see [Bañuelos, a neuroscientist] and someone from the Latinx culture succeeding so high in that field… Not everyone needs that sort of role model, but for some of us it’s inspiring.”
Barajas-Ruiz also commented on the necessity of not only such role models but the alumni network that these organizations can provide Latinx students during and after their time at Davidson, especially since so many are first-generation students.
Gartner brought up concerns about the logistical challenges of a lack of houses and therefore space for the Latinx organizations to call home. Hernandez acknowledged the issue of “the idea of cultural appropriation of some other traditions,” like strolls and stepping.
Moving forward, the selection process will consist of discussion amongst leaders of both the Latino and Latina interest groups and discussion with and/or amongst the Expansion Committee. This will lead to a voting process, in which a representative from each PCC organization, each interest group, and from the Expansion Committee will get a vote. Students can expect a decision to be made by the end of the spring 2018 semester.
Emily Yates ’18, former PCC President, stated, “It’s just an exciting time to be in PCC and watch our community expand for the first time in almost a decade.”
To this phenomenon, Hernandez credits the NPHC organizations with “[paving] the way for minority organizations” and making their “path a lot easier than what it was for the NPHC organizations to actually be established on campus.” Alex Dawes ’19, President of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. affirmed: “We look to support them, just as we know our history and the struggle we had to get on campus.”
Whichever two organizations are selected, more information will be necessary before the official establishment of these groups on campus. Marcos Balsera ‘19, recently-elected President of PCC, explained, “Certain conditions need to be in place for any organization to flourish.”
Speaking to these conditions, Yates added, “As our student body continues to diversify, we need to make sure that spaces for those students exist and that we’re not just asking them to squeeze themselves into boxes that were created when this was a school for upper-class white men.”
Similarly, Bri’ana Odom ’19, President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., asserted that “the PCC Community and Davidson still have much to address regarding the minority experience at Davidson.”