Former members of Lambda Phi Epsilon work with others to start group and spread awareness

Nathalie Tadena

Members of the suspended fraternity Lambda Phi Epsilon have created a new group, Minorities Awareness Registry Organization for Marrow, to continue their philanthropic efforts.

MARO was formed this year to help minorities register with the National Marrow Donor Program, said Tom Zhou, one of the group’s coordinators.

“For leukemia patients or any patient with blood disease, when they’re searching for a bone marrow or cord blood transplant, they generally look for donors within their own ethnicity,” the Weinberg senior said.

MARO held its first registry drive last weekend at the South Asian Students Alliance show, and Zhou said the group is interested in holding additional drives at other cultural events this year.

In 2008, Caucasians had an 80 percent likelihood of finding a donor through the NMDP Registry, while minorities had only a 35 to 45 percent chance. Because very few African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians and multi-racial individuals are registered in this database, it is difficult to accommodate minority patients who need transplants, Zhou said.

Although Lambda Phi Epsilon’s national philanthropy is the registration of potential bone marrow donors, MARO is not affiliated with the fraternity. NU’s Lambda Phi Epsilon chapter is prohibited from hosting on- or off-campus activities until the 2012-2013 school year, a decision made last year after the University Hearing and Appeals system ruled the fraternity had violated four university rules.

Preliminary planning meetings were held last quarter to determine MARO’s purpose and programming activities, but the group’s name was not selected until last month, said Asian American Student Affairs Director Tedd Vanadilok, adviser for the group.

“The former members of the suspended fraternity Lambda Phi Epsilon wished to continue their commitment to the fraternity’s national philanthropy,” Vanadilok wrote in an e-mail. “To help these students ensure that they do not violate the terms of their fraternity’s suspension, I helped them institute two primary measures that would legitimize their commitment: have women as part of the group’s leadership and generally include members who weren’t part of the fraternity.”

MARO currently has 10 members, the majority of whom are not former members of Lambda Phi, Zhou said.

“We’re a very diverse group,” Zhou said. “It’s not a guy-only group that’s run only by (Lambda Phi Epsilon) brothers.”

Weinberg sophomore Deanna Mei said she decided to get involved after learning about MARO from an A/AASA listserv e-mail.

“You see groups on campus that hold blood donation drives and things with the Red Cross, which are important, but you don’t hear much about bone marrow transplants,” she said.

Mei said there is “no obligation” to donate when students register to put their names into the NMDP Database, but they may be contacted in the future if their medical profile could help a transplant patient.

MARO is also working with the Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation, which provides the group with supplies to run their own registry drives. During a recent registry drive, MARO members collected cheek swabs from students, and the NMDP used the subjects’ saliva to add them to their database.

The drives are geared primarily toward collecting information from minorities, but the group’s biggest challenge is “diversifying the leadership and general involvement beyond Asian American students,” Vanadilok wrote.

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