Counter Stories: Brotherhood in a Latinx Fraternity

As Krogstad (2016) reports, the “Latino population has reached fifty-seven million in the United States, with California having more than fifteen million Latinos, and New Mexico having the largest Latinx population of any state at forty-eight percent” (p. 1). Despite these large numbers, Latinx are no longer the fastest ethnic growing population in the United States. This demographic distinction now represents the Asian growth pattern. Even though Latinx are no longer the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, Latinx are still considered to have a powerful force in the United States due to their sheer numbers. According to Lopez (2014), “In 2014 Latinos… surpass[ed] whites as the largest racial ethnic group in California” (p. 1). Additionally, the U.S. Latinx population is much younger than other groups in this country. According to Saenz (2010), “there are five times as many children under 15 years old than persons 65 and older among Latinx. In contrast, there are about an equal share of children and elderly in the white population” (p. 1). According to these demographics, the Latinx population will nearly triple from an estimated 49.7 million in 2010 to 132.8 million in 2050 and about two-thirds of the U.S. population growth during this 40-year period will be due to the growth in the Latinx population. By 2050, Latinx could represent three of every ten persons in the United States.

As should be expected, as the overall Latinx population continues to grow, so does the number of Latinx attending and graduating from college. With the college student demographics becoming more diverse, it is crucial that educators examine both the college graduation and attrition rates of Latinx students. From research that does just this task, researchers (Brown, 2011; Guardia & Evans, 2008; Mina et al., 2004) have found that Latinx who join organizations in college are likely to increase their college completion rates by gaining access to social networks and many other resources.

To learn more about social network groups and their effects on Latinx college students, I conducted a qualitative research study on Gamma Zeta Alpha Fraternity—a Latinx-interest academic fraternity—that maintains a 90% graduation rate. Specifically, since Gamma Zeta Alpha is an academic fraternity, I sought to examine how the push for literacy within the fraternity has led to a high graduation success rate. Gamma Zeta Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated is a Latinx-interest organization founded December 7, 1987, at California State University, Chico (CSUC), with the purpose “of uniting and directing all persons interested in the promotion of the Latinx culture and ethnic origins via community interaction and the educational system” (“Gamma Zeta Alpha web page”). An organization such as this was desperately needed at California State University, Chico because the few Latinx men (about 2 percent) enrolled at the university at that time had minimal academic and peer support. Although there were some professional offices, such as the Educational Opportunity Program and the Student Learning Center, which offered support to Latinx students, there was no organization on campus that provided Latinx opportunities to interact with peers of their same ethnic group. With the goal of providing peer support to Latinx students, Gamma Zeta Alpha Fraternity was founded by fifteen students, one of who was White European American (WEA) who will forever be remembered at CSU, Chico for starting one of the first Latinx-interest fraternities in the western United States.

The purpose of this article is to critically challenge the stock stories commonly produced within ‘mainstream’ culture by demonstrating how Latinx are reaching academic success. As such, this article provides a counter story to the stock story that constructs poor Latinx students as ill prepared for college and thus destined to fail academically in college. This article contradicts these deficit-oriented stock stories by showing that academic success can be reached by Latinx students as long as they are provided the support system that so many desperately need. This article has great significance to the Open words (OW) audience because its focus is on class and race, while also intersecting the education experiences of “nonmainstream’ students, which fits the primary interest of their intended audience.

Following is a short explanation on how this data was collected, as well as a compacted literature review. The article then focuses on two case studies (Quetzalo and Mayo), while providing specifics about their academic success. Lastly, the article provides a critical discussion about the data, while focusing on their counter stories.

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About the author

Dr. Octavio Pimentel joined the Masters in Rhetoric and Composition Program in The Department of English at Texas State University in 2005. Since then Dr. Pimentel has published 2 books: Historias de Éxito within Mexican Communities: Silenced Voices and Communicating Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in Technical Communication. Dr. Pimentel is also in the final stages of completing 2 more books that will be published by Fall 2018: Racial Shorthand: Coded Discrimination Contested in Social Media, and Cuentos & Testimonies: Diversity & Inclusion at Texas State University. Lastly, Dr. Pimentel has published over 20 articles, and presented in over 30 international/national conferences.

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