Liability issues were not solely responsible for AEPi reorganization
As a national fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi has significant reason to be concerned about liability, insurance, and other issues necessary toward maintaining their long-term existence. As the ultimate "deep-pocket" in the event of legal action, Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Inc., hereafter referred to as national, should have, and indeed has granted itself, sufficient police powers to guarantee its safety. Therefore I am not going to argue that national did not have the grounds or the authority to reorganize its MIT chapter. I argue, however, with their denial to MIT that racial or religious issues were not germane to the reorganization process and their assertion that they are non-discriminatory.
Having spent two years of my time representing the MIT chapter as its vice president and president, my exposure to national was more than that of the average brother. In addition to correspondence with the national officers, I attended the Northeastern Regional Conclaves in February 1989 and 1990, and the National Convention in August 1989. During the 1989 National Convention, there was a floor debate on the issue of non-Jews within the Fraternity. While many of the representatives from the 106 chapters across the United States and Canada felt that one's heritage did not have an effect on his being a desirable member of a fraternity, the majority expressed the belief that non-Jews did not really have a place within AEPi.
Furthermore, during the 1990 Regional Conclave, some representatives from other chapters asserted that they would never allow non-Jews into their chapters because they tainted and weakened the brotherhood. Some expressed the risk of allowing in one non-Jew, as he might then want his non-Jewish friends to join. Other MIT brothers attending the conclave overheard criticism of the "goyim" in the MIT chapter, and a Jewish brother was asked why he did not have national come and purge the chapter. While these actions are those of individuals, and not of the national organization, they do indicate moods which exist within the fraternity on a national level.
This is not to say that national does not have strong opinions on the Jewish issue. They assert that they are the only fraternity originally established for Jewish men that has not given up the cause. The National statement of purpose, entitled Alpha Epsilon Pi -- The Jewish Fraternity, states, "Our basic purpose is to provide the opportunity for a Jewish man to be able to join with other men into a Jewish organization whose purpose is not specifically religious, but rather social and cultural in nature."
"Tomorrow's Jewish leaders are in our chapters today. It is these young men who must be counted upon to support the Jewish cause both in America and in Israel. A large part of AEPi's role is to encourage the Jewish student to remain dedicated to the cause and to prepare the student to be one of tomorrow's leaders so that he may aid himself, his family, his community and his people. Those students who enter the mainstream of non-Jewish life on campus are far more likely to assimilate and to forsake their heritage. Alpha Epsilon Pi can play a vital role in helping reverse the growing trend among our young people to abandon Judaism."
At the 1989 convention, during a meeting with the head of the board of directors and with the chief executive I was told of their desire that we place a greater emphasis on rushing Jewish men. Additionally, during the 1990 conclave, national leaders suggested that chapters begin their rush process with a list of the members of Hillel, supplementing this with students with "Jewish-sounding names." They said that it was not enough that non-Jews know and accept that the fraternity is Jewish, they must want to join because the fraternity is Jewish.
Though I knew AEPi was nationally Jewish before I joined in 1986, I did not join for the letters above the door, or for the national goals. I joined for the people whom I met during rush week, and what these people stood for and believed in. Apparently, my reasons were not satisfactory to the national.
During the reorganization interview process, many of the chapter's Jewish brothers felt that they got special interviews, and that the national interviewer expected them to be thankful that he was removing those who did not support the national goals.
Like much of the MIT community, our chapter took pride in diversity. This concept is directly counter to national's mission against assimilation of the Jewish culture. Apart from liability issues, there existed an impasse between the chapter and the national organization on what our principal purpose was. The actions of the national staff prior to and during the reorganization process suggest that this was at least a major -- of not the principal -- factor for reorganization. After the fact, national is stating that they were concerned only with liability insurance issues.
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Inc. did not, I believe, break any laws in what they did. Illegal discrimination is probably not an issue. I do believe, however, that they desired to destroy a group of MIT students because we placed our belief in the virtues of diversity above their sectarian agenda.
Chris Liro '90->
Alpha Epsilon Pi->