The University of Texas at Austin's Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity chapter has been temporarily suspended while it is under investigation for discrimination.
According to an article first published in The Daily Texan on October 6, University of Texas senior Diwu Zhou claims that he was denied a bid from the fraternity because he is openly gay. Zhou also alleges that the fraternity chapter has been operating unofficially during a six-year cancelation following the death of one of its pledges in 2005.
According to Zhou, during the interview one of the members asked Zhou if he was offended by a derogatory term used against the gay community. "They use discrimination with the word 'brotherhood' and that really disgusts me," he said.
The national board of Lambda Phi Epsilon has suspended the UT chapter temporarily while it looks into Zhou’s claims. Zhou has also filed a report through UT’s Campus Climate Response Team. Though it is unclear whether UT is officially investigating the allegations, the Office of the Dean of Students is aware that report has been filed.
"The claims of bias are being taken seriously by the University ... It is really important to [the University of Texas] if a student organization is committing an act of bias against a student,” a representative from the Office of the Dean of Students told CultureMap.
Zhou told CultureMap that it was a question during his pledge process with the fraternity that led to his claim of discrimination. During an interview, one of the members allegedly asked Zhou if he was offended by a derogatory term used against the gay community. "At the time, I thought the question was rude, but it didn't really bother me," said Zhou.
After speaking with other members of the fraternity, Zhou believes that the brother who asked that question was not comfortable with his sexuality and used it as a reason not to allow him into Lambda Phi Epsilon. "They use discrimination with the word 'brotherhood' and that really disgusts me," said Zhou.
CultureMap reached out to a fraternity representative but has yet to receive a reply. Several comments on The Daily Texan article have outlined support for the fraternity's UT chapter. One commenter who claims to be a member of Lambda Phi Epsilon, points to former members of the fraternity who are openly gay. The commenter goes on to say the fraternity does deny bids based on personality — but not sexual orientation.
The UT chapter of Lambda Phi Epsilon's status as a "registered student organization" was canceled from 2005 until 2011. After college freshman Phanta “Jack” Phoummarath died from alcohol poisoning while in the fraternity house, the chapter was accused of hazing and punished with a six-year cancelation followed by a one year suspension and one year of probation.
Though the fraternity was reinstated in the fall of 2013, it is currently in its one-year probationary period with the university. However, Zhou also claims that though it wasn't an officially recognized organization, the fraternity has been "operating underground” during it suspension.
As for Zhou, he stands by his statement. "I know I’m going to get backlash from this, but at the end of the day I know what happened," Zhou told CultureMap. "As long as other people are aware that stuff like this occurs, I’m happy with that."