Sophomore Kevin Alvarado knew the first day he stepped on Elon University’s campus as a student that he wanted to establish a Latino-based fraternity. He knew founding an organization at Elon wasn’t going to be easy or happen automatically. But he knew giving the Latinx community more representation in Elon’s greek life mattered.
During the fall of his freshman year, he began conversations with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to bring awareness about the need for more Latino representation in Elon’s greek life.
Alvarado reached out to Lambda Upsilon Lambda — a national social fraternity with more than 80 undergraduate chapters — for support in establishing a chapter at Elon.
Jordan King, associate director of Student Involvement, said it was important to see if interest “wouldn’t just fizzle off in the next four years.”
Alvarado began drumming up excitement around campus so when he did approach the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, he could show the interest students had in a Latino-based greek organization.
“It was a long and committed process,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado held interest meetings and met with the Office of FSL numerous times, eager to turn his dream into a reality.
Freshman Martin Beckelhymer was skeptical of the new fraternity when Alvarado first approached him.
“I never saw greek life in my future,” Beckelhymer said.
But after Alvarado asked him a third time, he gave in. He started attending Alvarado’s meetings and heard how passionate he was about LUL.
“I had never heard him speak so strongly and so passionately about something that really, really mattered to him,” Beckelhymer said.
Now Beckelhymer is a founding member of LUL, along with Alvarado, freshman Joey Burns, freshman Andy Torres and sophomore José Daniel Castillo Solano. Each “hermano” is also part of Elon’s Odyssey Program — an honors program for students who have high financial need.
Burns said before Alvarado talked to him about LUL, he viewed fraternities as a negative part of Elon’s campus. He said he “only knew of the stereotypes” about fraternities in the Interfraternity Council (IFC) — partying and hazing.
“I never really thought I would fit into one,” Burns said.
Burns is not Latino — he is Italian and Irish. But he is passionate about the mission of LUL and is excited that the organization opened its doors to members of all races and ethnicities.
“They didn’t only focus on the Latino community, but they focused on anyone who had an open mind,” Burns said.
Establishing a chapter
After more than a year of numerous meetings, proposals and presentations, the Office of Student Life decided to charter LUL at Elon last week.
Manny Montes, an alumni advisor with LUL, said the process was more difficult for the Elon chapter of LUL to be established than at another university. The Office of Student Life does not yet have a council for minority organizations that are not historically African American.
Currently, the Elon chapter of LUL is established under the IFC, which Montes said is not typical of LUL chapters. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chapter of LUL is under the Greek Alliance Council — which consists of 14 minority-based fraternities and sororities. But at Elon, the two Latinx-based greek organizations are under the IFC and Panhellenic Association (PA).
Montes said the process to establish a chapter at Elon was at times discouraging for the hermanos because it took longer than they expected. But King said the university was ready to open its campus to a new fraternity and worked with students through the summer.
“We were looking to establish a fraternity pretty quickly,” King said. “This was a pretty accelerated process.”
He said the process for a greek organization to be established at Elon can be tedious, so the university wanted to make sure the Elon chapter of LUL would have the proper support.
“Our No. 1 goal is to ensure that they’re sustainable,” King said.
Forming a new community
Beckelhymer said one of the main reasons he decided to be a founding member of the Elon chapter of LUL was because of the network and support the organization provides after college.
“We speak a common language and understand a common struggle,” Montes said. The motto for LUL is “La unidad para siempre,” or “unity/unit forever.” The network between brothers of the LUL is tight, Montes said.
Beckelhymer said he currently gets his support from the Elon Odyssey program.
“We are fortunate as Odyssey Scholars that we have a support system already,” Beckelhymer said on behalf of the hermanos.
But joining LUL is a deeper network with more opportunities that Beckelhymer said he wouldn’t have being a Latino at Elon.
“This is something even more,” Beckelhymer said. “This is a whole new cohort.”
Montes said he believes LUL is critical to have at Elon so the organization can offer more support to its Latino students interested in greek life. He said most organizations in the IFC and PA “cater to a mainstream kind of student.”
According to the Office of Student Involvement, monthly dues for fraternities in the IFC can range from $150 to $400, and annual dues can reach up to $1,000. LUL requires one yearly application fee of $150.
Alvarado and Montes said keeping fees low makes LUL more accessible for most students.
“It’s reflective of the gap that exists between our communities,” Montes said about the greek life fees.
Looking at the “new line”
In spring 2020, LUL hopes to establish a “new line” of members to join. But Alvarado said the Elon chapter of LUL will be selective. Burns and Alvarado said when looking at new members, it’s about “quality over quantity.”
“We want to make sure we aren’t bringing in members who want to wear letters and all that,” Alvarado said. “We are ready to make an impact in the community.”
When approving any fraternity or sorority to come to campus, King said the university looks to see if it aligns with the university values and needs. The university found that LUL follows the mission of Elon and its social progress.
“When we look at our students’ different needs on this campus, I think this fits right in with the needs of the institution, with the way that our institution is growing and diversifying and along with our fraternity and sorority community,” King said.
King said he is excited for the perspective LUL and its members will bring to the IFC.
“It’s going to be a different kind of energy to our fraternity and sorority community,” King said.
Caitlin Rundle contributed to the reporting of this story.