Monday, January 02, 2006

Houston lawmaker asks for special treatment for Asian frat.

Nation: Yes, this is asking for special treatment for a fraternity that broke rules it knows are in place.

AUSTIN - A Houston lawmaker is urging University of Texas officials to reconsider last week's decision to ban an Asian American-interest fraternity whose members were involved in hazing the night freshman member Phanta "Jack" Phoummarath drank himself to death. Rep. Hubert Vo wrote UT President Larry Faulkner last week that the university should consider alternative punishments such as probation, community service or alcohol abuse training for the members of Lambda Phi Epsilon, rather than canceling the registration of the entire group. Group punishment, Vo said, is unfair and could send the wrong message to the Asian community by destroying an important social and support network for Asian students, many of whom are children of immigrants and first-generation college students. Vo said Tuesday his concern has nothing to do with race and that he doesn't expect Asians to get special treatment at UT. "This is not about Asians or black or brown or white," he said. "This is about education and cutting off these resources from all the students. It's a big blow for all the students who might have to look for some alternative ways to complete their college degrees." "The University has stopped short of saying that hazing caused young Mr. Phoummarath's sad death," Vo wrote in the Dec. 22 letter. "Surely there is a solution to this tragic circumstance that also stops short of canceling the fraternity's status while paying tribute to Phanta Jack Phoummarath's yearning for a better future." ....Last week, UT's dean of students, Teresa Graham Brett, announced the fraternity's registration had been canceled for six years after a university investigation of Phoummarath's death found evidence of hazing that violated university rules. Brett has said members of Lambda Phi Epsilon, which was not affiliated with UT's Greek community, told university investigators that new members were expected to drink large amounts of liquor and were required to shave their heads when they were installed as active members. New members also received paddle swats, were subject to individual interrogations, were told to wear specific kinds of clothing, and had to clean the laundry and rooms of active members, Brett said. ....For many Asian students, Vo said, fraternities provide moral support, educational guidance and career advice that parents may not be able to give. He said they also offer vital networking opportunities for minority groups who need a leg up in today's competitive job market. Lily Truong, board director of the Asian Alumni Association at the University of Houston, agreed that UT should try to find a way to keep the Asian fraternity intact. "They look forward to these fraternities. I know the fraternities are helping them," Truong said of students. "If they don't have the fraternity, they could get lost and I don't think they would know what they're going to do next."
How about you and others who have been affected by the banning start up a new group, not a frat that will continue to offer support, networking opportunities, guidance and career advice. This can't be the only Asian college group on campus, there has to be others that can take on additional responsibilities. Even informal groups can start up and help if it is that needed. As for the frat, they broke the rules, indirectly caused the death of a student. There is a price to pay.

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