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Columbia Spectator Staff

Columbia University is unique in that it is in one of the most amazing and diverse cities in the world. As such, the University is in a prime location for multicultural learning and awareness. Lambda Phi Epsilon, along and with 12 other organizations, has applied for the brownstones. As students in an Asian interest fraternity, we believe that having a designated space would further promote Asian-American and multicultural awareness in the Columbia community. The greater visibility afforded by a house on 114th Street will improve our ability to foster a community where every student's culture and background can be celebrated. Lambda Phi Epsilon is an Asian interest fraternal organization founded to advocate for Asian and Asian-American issues, to devote our members to philanthropic causes, and to promote leadership and brotherhood. We have applied our mission and values throughout our time here at Columbia. This past year, we were named Chapter of the Year and Academic Chapter of the Year by our national organization and awarded five out of five stars on Columbia's ALPHA Standards of Excellence. Ending the last academic year with 48 members, we have devoted over 1,500 hours to community service and raised over $8,000 for organizations such as UNICEF and the National Kidney Foundation. Our brothers excel both academically and in extracurricular activities—our chapter has consistently had an excellent average GPA. They are also heavily invested in the Columbia community, taking part in organizations that range from community development groups like COÖP, the URC, and Residential Programs to musical performance groups like Sharp, Clefhangers, and String Theory. Thirty-two of us hold board positions in such groups. While Lambda Phi Epsilon is an Asian interest fraternity, we have brothers of various ethnic backgrounds. We see ourselves as a microcosm of the diverse Columbia community, and one of our main goals is to foster an integrated community by welcoming everyone. Although our mission is to promote Asian and Asian-American awareness, we have never been exclusive to Asians. The strength and closeness of our brotherhood stem from the belief that only by coming together and sharing our experiences are we able to understand each other. For this reason, we strive to work with multicultural and non-multicultural groups alike. We believe that it is important to share our experiences and that only through coming together will we be able to understand each other. We have hosted several events such as Pushups for Pennies with Sigma Phi Epsilon and Delta Gamma and First Friday: Lights Out with Columbia Queer Alliance and APAHM, as well as our annual Dim Sum Night. We will use the size and location of a brownstone to reach out to organizations beyond the multicultural community and strive to integrate all of Columbia's diverse communities. As a fraternity, we try to offer space in our East Campus suite to various student groups such as the Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, Club Zamana, Chinese Students Club, and many more through a formal reservation process—although there are many Asian-American cultural and political groups on campus, there are currently no collective spaces for these organizations to gather. But the space is heavily constrained and not conducive to larger events. With a brownstone, we would continue to keep our space open to outside organizations and strive to host even more events that would welcome members of all communities. A bigger area would not only help alleviate some space constraint issues for collaborative events, but also allow us to bring together the Asian and Asian-American community on campus. Looking beyond the Asian-American community, Lambda Phi Epsilon is the only organization from the Multicultural Greek Council to apply for a brownstone. Currently, none of the eight Greek organizations from MGC have a brownstone while eight fraternities from the Interfraternity Council and three sororities from the Panhellenic Council have brownstones. Obtaining a brownstone would not only be a symbol for the Asian and Asian-American community on campus, but also for the greater multicultural community at Columbia. A brownstone for Lambda Phi Epsilon would be a space well-used for students of all backgrounds, a domain shared with multicultural organizations and the greater Columbia community, and a haven to foster a greater understanding for Asian and Asian-American issues. Our fraternity would be honored to receive a brownstone to aid in our endeavors. The author is a School of Engineering and Applied Science senior majoring in engineering management systems. He is the president of Columbia University Lambda Phi Epsilon and president of the Engineering Student Council. This op-ed was written on behalf of Lambda Phi Epsilon.