UPDATED: Fraternity faces scrutiny for possibly denying gay pledges
When Derek Mora became a candidate for an SF State fraternity, he had no idea falling in love with another candidate might affect his chances of being accepted into the fraternity.
“The fraternity seemed great. They seemed like they were about education, community service and giving back to the community and those were some of the reasons why I decided to try to become part of this organization,” Mora said.
Mora was a candidate for Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity in 2012 and over the next year and a half he completed a long list of tasks, such as event organizing, the fraternity assigns to all of its candidates before they are admitted.
While acting as the lead organizer for a group of candidates he met David Worden, who was secretary of the same group. They both coordinated several successful fundraising and social events for the organization to prove themselves to the fraternity’s leaders.
Mora and Worden eventually entered into a relationship, but decided to keep it private from the organization. Mora and Worden later disclosed their relationship to the members after a short time.
“If we came out to them as a couple we thought it would compromise the way they would view us,” Mora said. “It could be because of our orientation, but more so because of our personal life.”
When it was time for the fraternity to make their decision in November 2013, neither Mora nor Worden received an offer. Fraternity leaders alleged that they denied their admittance due to a lack of connection with the rest of the members despite his involvement in the organization, Mora said.
However, Mora and Worden claim their romantic relationship within the organization led to their denial.
“I hope the school will take this more seriously and action will be taken because it’s not right what they’re doing. Don’t let them off with a warning. It’s discrimination — flat out discrimination,” Mora said.
Secretary of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity Shane Colombo had similar concerns about his acceptance into his fraternity because of his relationship with another member.
“(My sexuality) was a concern when I joined because fraternities are tied to things that are usually heteronormative,” Colombo said. “When it comes to obligations, meetings or anything involved with the fraternity my partner and I are brothers first. It really depends on the individual whether or not they can prove that.”
The recruitment process for fraternities varies, but most last a few weeks. Colombo described Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity’s year and a half long process as “intensive.”
“The point of joining a fraternity is to grow as a person within it and if half the time you just work to prove yourself then it just defeats the purpose,” Colombo said.
Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity President Alejandro Mendoza denied the allegations, but would not disclose the circumstances regarding Mora and Worden’s denial into the organization.
“Lambda Theta Phi has a very strong non-discriminatory policy that we adhere by very closely,” Mendoza said in an emailed statement. “The organization prides itself on being inclusive of persons from all walks of life.”
After being denied entrance into the fraternity, Mora filed a complaint with Sarah Bauer, director of Student Involvement and Career Center. Bauer manages student-run organizations for the University, but Mora did not receive any information about an investigation into the incident.
Xpress made several attempts to contact Bauer who was unable to be reached for comment.
Bryan Kaufman, who investigates sexual assault, harassment and discrimination cases for the University also declined to comment and would not disclose whether an investigation was being conducted into the matter.
According the California State University Student Conduct Procedures into an allegation of discrimination, the University and Office of Student Conduct officials must conduct an investigation involving all individuals. Violation of the CSU Student Code of Conduct can result in probation, suspension and even expulsion, among other sanctions.
According to Mendoza, the University is currently investigating the issue.
“We are confident that the University’s investigation will absolve the chapter of any wrongdoing,” Mendoza said.
Executive Director of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Byron Bustos, said the organization launched a review into the incident in January and did not find any evidence of the allegations. According to him, the University did not respond to the organization’s inquiries about the allegations earlier this year.
According to Bustos, the fraternity does not have any policy on relationships between students involved in the organization.
UPDATE: Ellen Griffin, University spokeswoman, gave a statement to Xpress on the allegation.
“The University takes complaints of discrimination very seriously,” said Griffin in the statement. “Due to the nature of the complaints and the investigative process, it’s not possible for us to confirm or deny that a specific complaint has been lodged or to talk about the specifics of an investigation — and often we can not publicly share the results of an investigation. There are simply some limits on how transparent we can be with some issues. We need to ask our campus community to trust in our processes and respect the confidentiality of all who are involved in an issue like this.”