As Virginia Tech’s campus brims with traditional fraternities, one new organization is hoping to make strides in redefining what it means to be a fraternity.

Delta Lambda Phi (DLP) — founded by queer men to open fraternity experience to all men and nonbinary students — is focused on providing an inclusive experience at Virginia Tech.  

“Fraternities nowadays are deeply engrained in the culture of the American South,” said Shaan Smith, the president of Virginia Tech’s provisional DLP chapter. “As a big state school, we represent that traditional Greek life, and that epitomizes what we are trying to change with Greek life as a whole. I think DLP’s mission was set out to change the culture of what fraternity life is, and I certainly think that is important at Virginia Tech.”

While the fraternity is just beginning its journey in Blacksburg, the beginning of DLP’s story goes back to Washington, D.C.

In 1986, Vernon L. Strickland III, an alumnus of George Washington University, met three older gay men during a party. Their conversation lamented the limited opportunities for social engagement available to gay men, and a new venture was proposed: A progressive social fraternity based on the collegiate model. While there were a few hurdles along the way, on April 10, 1987, the first official chapter of DLP was born.

Now, over 30 years later, DLP has made its way to Blacksburg. The fraternity originally began as an interest group of five brothers in the fall of 2020. In spring of 2021, the group petitioned to make a provisional chapter. While the fraternity is currently waiting to get chartered, with 36 current members, DLP is steadily growing.

As president, Smith, a senior majoring in microbiology, acts as a communicative liaison between the chapter and the national organization of DLP.

“I was previously the philanthropy chair, and I started that position because I really care about the fraternity and the philanthropy causes we support. I just wanted to amplify and extend that by being president,” Smith said.

The vice president takes charge in overseeing the chapter’s committees. This is where Brian Jones, a senior studying urban design, takes control.

“I make sure that everything is getting done on the inside so everything looks good on the outside,” Jones said.

Jones, a transfer student from Northern Michigan University, began his college experience at Virginia Tech as a second semester sophomore living in a residence hall. Struggling to find a community of friends, he was introduced to DLP by another student in his hall.

“It has truly kept me present and enjoying college,” Jones said. “I can lean on all these people and know that they are there and supporting me. And it’s just a lot of fun. I don’t think college would be as fun if I was not in this fraternity.”

Smith said a common phrase in the fraternity is “DLP is a friend to all.” The quote is engrained in the fraternity’s mission of inclusivity, both in Blacksburg and on a national level.

When recruiting new members, Smith often posits if a potential new member needs DLP as much as DLP needs them.

“I think that is a question that is not asked a lot in other fraternal rush processes whenever people are looking for members,” he said.  “Traditional fraternal recruitment is often a status-based thing and not something that is based on community and intersectionality.”

Rohsaan Settle, the director of Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL), a part of Student Affairs, said he has noticed a change in Virginia Tech’s Greek culture since the emergence of DLP.

“Fraternity and sorority life is not a monolith,” Settle said. “I think for FSL here at Tech, all of our organizations do not have to be the same. Not only does that bring in a diverse set of options for people, but it also allows people in other organizations to get a better understanding of different identity groups.”

Brandon Duncan, a sophomore majoring in animal and poultry sciences, joined DLP this fall with the hope of finding more queer friends on campus.

“People sometimes have a negative viewpoint toward DLP since we are a group of queer men, but by being a brother, I advocate for our principles that lead us Lambda men in life,” Duncan said.  “That’s what differentiates us from everyone else.”

What makes DLP like other fraternal organizations is an emphasis on philanthropy. While traditional fraternities and sororities on campus have a particular philanthropic cause they support annually, the brothers of DLP choose a new organization to support each year.

In previous years they have worked with the Point Foundation, a national nonprofit that provides scholarships and other support to LGTBQ students, and are currently working with GLAAD, a nonprofit that works through entertainment, news, and digital media to share the LGBTQ experience.

Whether it is their philanthropic efforts or their pursuit to create social change on campus, Delta Lambda Phi’s brothers are prepared for a paradigm shift at Virginia Tech.

“This is one of the largest, if not the largest, DLP chapters in the country,” Settle said. “What that says is that there has been a need here that has been unfulfilled, and thankfully, they are fulfilling that need.”

Written by Cyna Mirzai, a senior and an intern for Virginia Tech Communications and Marketing

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