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Sole Ohio State gay fraternity looks for diversity in members

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Sigma Phi Beta’s OSU colony executive board. Michael Salisbury (left), Aaron Schwarz, Erik Krause, Jay Lafontaine and Jake Witter. Credit: Courtesy of Maxi Henn

Sigma Phi Beta’s OSU colony executive board. Michael Salisbury (left), Aaron Schwarz, Erik Krause, Jay Lafontaine and Jake Witter.
Credit: Courtesy of Maxi Henn

The only gay fraternity at Ohio State is looking to add diversity to its membership.

Sigma Phi Beta Fraternity Inc., a gay and allied fraternity, has nine active brothers at OSU, pending orientation of its next pledge class.

President Maxi Henn — a fourth-year in psychology and member of the first pledge class — has been involved with the organization from the start.

Henn serves on the executive board of OSU LGBT Athletes, and said it was during one of the group’s meetings two years ago that the idea for a gay fraternity was introduced.

David Achille, an OSU alumnus who Henn said has remained close with Sigma Phi Beta brothers after leaving OSU, said he originally brought up the idea, and Henn said it was then that the group found Sigma Phi Beta.

“When (Achille) pitched that idea, we got very excited about it. We did some research … and we stumbled upon Sigma Phi Beta,” Henn said.

Sigma Phi Beta has two active chapters at Arizona State and Indiana universities, as well as a colony at Middle Tennessee State University.

Henn said trying to recruit individuals for a group with such a narrow cross section of interests continues to be challenging.

“Currently, our membership is all gay men. Our focus nationally may be a little bit more towards the LGBT community, as far as events and service we do,” Henn said. “For a lot of straight guys, that may not be what they’re interested in. Having some more diversity is something that we push for and we would love some allied brothers.”

Alexander Sanchez, a third-year in theatre and a member of Sigma Phi Beta’s Gamma pledge class, said the process of finding a fraternity that was right for him was fortunately easy.

Sanchez said he began his collegiate career at OSU-Lima and had always wanted to end up in Columbus. When the time was right and that opportunity presented itself, he went looking to see if he could find a group to get involved with to make the change a little more manageable.

“With me and some of our other brothers, we are transfer students. So a lot of our friends, we left at our old schools. I came here to the city of Columbus all by myself. (I was) searching that group of people I could call my brothers and my family,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez represents Sigma Phi Beta formally as a delegate on the Multicultural Greek Council. Patricia Castillo, president of MCGC, said Sanchez and the men of Sigma Phi Beta have been a welcome addition to the council.

“They give a great, wonderful image for the gay and allied community on campus,” Castillo said. “They’ve always been very professional, very motivated, dedicated but also very fun. They’re a great bunch of people to be around in our community.”

Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said the fraternity has “been warmly welcomed by the rest of the Greek community.”

“They are a strong, functional colony in compliance with our standards of excellence. They’re doing a really good job of recruiting men who are living the values of their organization,” Isaacs said.

Isaacs added that Student Life is “very pleased with their efforts and very pleased that they offer another opportunity for our already diverse community to become even more diverse.”

Henn said he would like for Sigma Phi Beta to participate in the Columbus Pride Festival and Parade in June.

“One of my fondest memories of being in the fraternity was when we marched in Columbus Pride last summer,” Henn said. “I hope we go forward and organize that again in the future because that was a great experience and a great way to advertise ourselves.”

Henn said, ultimately, part of Sigma Phi Beta’s mission is “to provide a uniquely diverse safe space for people like us. And I that think we’ve accomplished that by building a new community at Ohio State within Greek life.”

 

Correction: Feb. 3, 2014

A previous version of this article misidentified David Achille as a former graduate student at OSU, when in fact, he is an OSU alumnus but not a former graduate student.

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