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Asian fraternity looks to gain national recognition

These guys just don't quit.

When Duke's newest Asian male organization, Duke Interest Group, goes up for a bid from the national headquarters for the third time since its inception to become the fraternity Lambda Phi Epsilon, they'll be hoping for the best. But if their bid, which they will propose again during reading period, is passed over, they're determined to persevere until they succeed.

"Each time we're told [by nationals] that we're going to need to go [up for a bid again,] I feel dejected - I've tapped my resources and I don't know if I can get the guys to go up," said junior Hai Tran, president of DIG. "But there's always a group that shows interest."

Freshman Ben Zou, DIG's webmaster, is committed to seeing the fraternity established. "There's a niche to fill here.... Since [a large proportion] of the campus is greek, and the percent of Asians in that [is] very small, we're trying to provide an outlet in the Asian community for bonding and give them a voice," he said. "When you hear about race relations, people think black and white. What we're trying to do is make people aware of Asians on campus."

Although the fraternity would be centered around Asian issues, members would not have to be Asian.

"Membership means being interested in things pertaining to Asians," Zou said.

In fact, when the members visited LPhiE chapters at other schools, they saw several racially mixed groups - for example, Baylor University had more non-Asian than Asian brothers, Tran said.

The group took road trips to Texas and California this semester, after nationals told them that their second bid loss was in part due to their lack of interaction with chapters outside the Southeast.

"We visited mainly schools in our region - The Johns Hopkins University, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania - so most schools outside our region didn't know us, so they stayed neutral [when voting on us]," Tran said. "We had enough neutral votes to beat the majority [and lose the bid]."

In addition to traveling, which is also intended to increase the bonds between group members, the bid process includes community service and social events, including a party this weekend with an Asian-American fraternity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pi Alpha Phi.

Although these events are important to DIG members, Tran feels that internal group activities are crucial to the strength of the organization.

"The events amongst ourselves are important so that you can know other members and work well together, because if we do get pledged, we want to make sure we can survive as a group," he said.

The interest group began last spring when now-seniors Justin Lee and Mike Wang conceived the idea of having an Asian fraternity. Since the initial group was comprised mostly of upperclassmen, membership changed drastically when they lost their bid for the first time in May 2002.

DIG currently has 14 members - 12 of whom are freshmen. Tran is the only original member.

For these individuals, however, the vision of what Lambda Phi Epsilon will be on campus for them and for the Duke community is the driving force behind their perseverance in the extended bid process.

"By bringing our group into the greek circle, we're trying to have coalition building. Even though we're sort of segregating ourselves, we can still integrate and change perception about what greek life is," Tran said. "The true essence of a fraternity is brotherhood and it's being part of a family - here [at Duke] there is community, but not as strong as it can be. We want to help make it stronger."


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