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Gay Fraternity Initiates New Members in New State

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Nov 11, 2010
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A gay fraternity based in Tempe, Arizona has launched efforts at outreach and expansion, initiating its first new members in another state.

Sigma Phi Beta, founded at Arizona State University, is poised to expand to Indiana University, where the fraternity’s first new members at another college will be inducted over the weekend. Indiana University "is home of the oldest and largest college fraternity
system," notes a Sigma Phi Beta press release from Nov. 10.

"Fifteen students at IU, which is home of the oldest and largest college fraternity system, will cross over into the Brotherhood of Sigma Phi Beta Fraternity Saturday if they successfully complete the organization’s initiation
ceremony," the release says.

"I look forward to welcoming the new members from the Indiana University
colony into our Brotherhood," Sigma Phi Beta national president Nathan Arrowsmith said. Arrowsmith will be present on the IU campus for the initiation of the new members on Nov. 13.

"The initiation of members at its first colony outside of Arizona is an important milestone for the fraternity, which prioritizes the core values of diversity, service, scholarship, leadership, and brotherhood," the release adds.

"Sigma Phi Beta Fraternity is organized for and by gay, straight, bisexual, and transgender men in college," text at the fraternity’s web site says. "We create a unique social and educational environment for our members within the traditional Greek fraternity system, while providing all open-minded men in college with career and character building opportunities." Adds the site’s text, "We embrace tradition while promoting positive change that moves us forward."

"The students at Indiana University have worked hard to bring Sigma Phi Beta to their campus, opening up more opportunities for gay men and their allies to experience brotherhood within the traditional Greek fraternity system," noted Arrowsmith. "This is our first major step towards achieving our vision of creating a uniquely diverse safe space within the traditional Greek fraternity system on college campuses nationwide."

"In September, the IU students petitioned the fraternity’s national board for recognition as a colony, 11 months after registering as an interest group," the release recounted. "After approving the colony application, the fraternity launched an inaugural pledge education program for the IU students to teach the Fraternity’s history and values while building interpersonal, leadership and chapter management skills among the group’s members.

"The next step for the new members of the IU group will be to work towards attaining chapter recognition," the release continued. "Once a colony has demonstrated an ability to successfully recruit and educate new members about the mission, values and purpose of Sigma Phi Beta Fraternity, the national headquarters could grant an official chapter charter."

Sigma Phi Beta was established in 2003 at ASU, and became a national organization two years later, the release said. "Since forming as a
national organization, Sigma Phi Beta Fraternity has been nationally
recognized for raising the level of consciousness among leaders in the
fraternity system about issues like transgender membership and
immigration.

"The founding chapter at ASU has also become a leader on
campus, receiving the university’s Chapter of the Year award two years in
a row," added the release.

Even as the new pledges at IU are being initiated into Sigma Phi Beta, national Greek organization Campus Pride will be on the campus with the third annual OUT & GREEK National Leadership Conference, according to an Oct. 19 Campus Pride release. The conference is the only one "of its kind for LGBT and ally fraternity and sorority leaders to share, network, and learn strategies to create safer, more LGBT inclusive fraternity and sorority communities," the release states.

The conference, which is scheduled to run from Nov. 12-14, is scheduled to include keynote speeches and panels, including a "Tell Your Story" panel and a "Transgender 101" roundtable. Other sessions will focus on community and safety.

"There is no other conference nationwide that offers the resources, information and networking LFGBT & ally fraternity and sorority leaders need to create change," the national conference chair, Natalie Shaak, said. "Each participant will return from the conference with an action plan for change and leadership, ready to tackle challenges in their fraternities and sororities, on campus and in their communities."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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