In 2003, UTSA made national headlines when it recognized its first gay fraternity—Alpha Lambda Tau—the third ALT chapter in the U.S. after the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Arizona State University.
For some people the ALT chapter was considered one of Texas’ most controversial moments in “university” history.
The New York Times printed an article titled “Gay fraternity seeks recognition.” And in an October 2003 episode, Saturday Night Live weighed in on the media frenzy with a skit that spoofed the fraternity.
Actress Tina Fey played a news anchor who gave the following report: “Four members of Alpha Lambda Tau are seeking to make theirs the first gay fraternity at the University of Texas at San Antonio. They say their fraternity will be like every other fraternity with slightly more gay sex.”
Despite the notoriety, in three years the fraternity was gone, which leaves many people wondering what happened to Alpha Lambda Tau.
While former ALT president Chris Forbrich claimed UTSA created barriers and hindered the fraternity’s ability to flourish within the Greek community, members of other fraternities stated that ALT was responsible for its own demise.
Like most universities, UTSA believes that Greek communities provide their members with leadership skills, social prosperity and an opportunity to give back to the community.
Forbrich recognizes that some students have a harder time fitting into the larger frame of social acceptance.
“GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender] students often have trouble integrating into college student life,” Forbrich said. “The Lambda alliance was meant to function as a social group to bring the GLBT students together for social purposes.”
ALT members found themselves struggling to keep up with meetings, paperwork and fines imposed on them by the InterFraternity Council (IFC), a representative government for UTSA Greek communities.
“The current model for managing fraternities and sororities at UTSA is punitive rather than motivational,” Forbrich said, “the process is over bearing, difficult to understand and lacks concise communications, expectations and goals.”
While every organization needs structure, Forbrich felt that IFC’s rules, regulations and bylaws were counter-productive and unmanageable for smaller groups such as ALT to satisfy.
Despite the fraternity’s challenges, Forbrich found a majority of the students at UTSA supportive of ALT.
“The student leaders on the InterFraternity Council at the time were very encouraging and accepting. While ALT experienced its share of negativity from individuals in the community, as a whole the campus embraced the group,” Forbrich said.
ALT dedicated itself to HIV/AIDS community projects and contributed to the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, the Human Rights Campaign and other projects that centered on bringing awareness to the community.
By 2007, Forbrich notified the university ALT would not be refilling as a chapter.
“Ultimately, we were unable to find students willing to interact with the University’s Student Activities Office and maintain the amount of paperwork or the University’s schedule requirements. I transmitted a letter to the University letting them know that we would not be returning and thanked them for the years we did spend on campus,” Forbrich said.
One student, who asked that his name or fraternity not be used, remembered ALT vividly.
He said the fraternity didn’t survive because they were so poorly organized. But, he added, the demands IFC places on Greek members are exhausting and nearly impossible to sustain—even for larger fraternities.
Program advisor Gary Handy believes that fraternities are responsible for their own success.
“The IFC Constitution and Bylaws are re-examined at a minimum of an annual basis; all changes are discussed and voted upon by member organizations of the InterFraternity Council,” Handy said. “All organizations belonging to IFC have an equal stake in policy decisions regardless of chapter size.”
While Forbrich never doubted the spirit of the student body and the support he received from other members, he felt the university created barriers and hindered ALT’s ability to flourish within the Greek Community.
“Current students should solicit campus leaders to advocate for a change in the system to assist the students in going farther, rather than becoming disengaged and avoiding leadership roles due to the staff’s approach to development,” Forbrich said.
Several attempts were made to contact the current IFC Student President Darian Padua. He never responded.
“It’s the organizations themselves that establish the policies for the IFC, and then the IFC leadership and members hold one another accountable,” Handy said. “That is not necessarily punitive. Rather, it speaks to the integrity required to be part of a Greek Community.”
After graduating, Forbrich joined the Human Rights Campaign’s Steering Committee and lobbied congress for fair and equal rights. He ran unsuccessfully for City Council District 1 in 2008.
“It is my hope that the University, and its respective regents, work in the years to come to place real goals on the staff and set expectations that will encourage results and discontinue the excuses and punishments,” Forbrich said.