The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 85.0°F | Partly Cloudy

AEPi justifiably reorganized by national fraternity

As a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity here at MIT, I feel an obligation to clarify some of the information presented in previous issues in The Tech concerning the reorganization of the fraternity's Mu Tau chapter. To properly assess the validity of the national organization's actions at MIT it is necessary to take a step back and look at the long and sordid history of the chapter's relationship with the AEPi national office.

Alpha Epsilon Pi has a particular identity -- an identity distinct from other fraternities. The fraternity was founded in the early part of the century to provide a Greek organization in which Jewish students could feel comfortable. Other fraternities at the time were unwilling to grant equal opportunities to Jews. The stated purpose of AEPi is to raise the future generation of Jewish leaders. Students join AEPi in order to grow together, to work together and to support each other in their individual ways. Any student who wishes to be a part of the AEPi traditions and ideals is considered for membership without discrimination. Over 100 strong chapters exist in exactly this fashion all around the United States and Canada. The chapter at MIT, however, cast aside the veritable traditions of Alpha Epsilon Pi.

In the 1960s a vote was taken at a house meeting to hide the character of AEPi at MIT in order to attract more members. At that time, many fraternities were suffering from declining memberships. The initiation ritual was drastically changed and several ritual items were either altered or removed altogether. During Rush Week, emphasis was placed exclusively upon the house, almost to the point of denying the chapter's membership in a larger organization. The rush books contained no mention of AEPi's Jewish identity. One student last year wasn't even told about the fraternity's nature until after pledging.

Aside from the AEPi name, the house was little more than a local fraternity. Most of the students joining had no inkling of what was expected of them as members of a national fraternity. The MIT chapter did not socialize with other AEPi chapters and became isolated from them. The difference was not in the ethnic composition of the house (one of the top AEPi chapters in Missouri contains a minority of Jewish members), but in the unwillingness of the members to espouse the ideals of AEPi and to be proud of the national identity.

I became a member of the house in 1987. I knew of AEPi's identity before joining and was eager to become a part of the fraternity. Members of the chapter at MIT quickly dispelled the notion that AEPi, as such, existed here. I joined, nevertheless, hoping that this chapter would return to the ideals of AEPi, an organization of which I could be proud.

Over the next few years, several issues arose that pitted the house against the fraternity. In addition to the continued use of an altered initiation ritual (an affront to the thousands of members and alumni of AEPi), the house voted to forbid a national representatives' presence during Rush Week. The reason for this decision was the fear that the representatives would hinder the chapter's ability to control the future of the house's character. The house did not care if the incoming students were interested in becoming AEPi brothers and living by the fraternity's ideals. In February of last year, a national representative showed up at initiation. He was shocked at the desecration of ritual items and the rewording of the ceremony. In most fraternities, this would have been just cause for revocation of the chapter's charter.

In spite of all this, he gave the membership another chance to bring its goals more into line with the rest of the fraternity. Unfortunately, the chapter made some decisions that were impossible for the fraternity to overlook. The chapter's charter grants the membership a right to self government provided that they adhere to the guidelines set by the fraternity. Some of these guidelines help to protect the financial solvency of both the chapter and the AEPi's national treasury.

Most fraternities, including AEPi, have banded together to purchase liability insurance in a group known as the Fraternity Insurance Purchasing Group (FIPG). FIPG sets certain rules for the member fraternities in order to secure policies. These rules are concerned with alcohol abuse, hazing and other nonessential elements of a fraternity experience. Whenever a fraternity chapter violates the FIPG guidelines, they are not covered for any accident that might occur in conjunction with the violation. This would open up the possibility of a multimillion dollar lawsuit. The members of the MIT chapter repeatedly violated the rules, and these violations were discovered on three separate occasions. The policy of AEPi is to give a warning for the first violation, to put the chapter on probation for the second and to reorganize it on the third. Having already been put on probation, the chapter knowingly voted to continue violating the FIPG guidelines. The blatant disregard for the policy by the MIT chapter left the national with no choice but to reorganize it.

In February of this year, three AEPi representatives came to the chapter house and addressed the entire group of residents. A plan for rebuilding the chapter at MIT was outlined. Interviews were to be conducted, and those with positive attitudes and open minds would be invited to remain. The questions asked of each brother were the same set asked at every reorganization that AEPi has been obligated to preside over. None of the questions addressed religious preference; they all addressed a person's desire to be in AEPi. In the words of the interviewer, Andy Borans, "The answers are not all that important. What I am really looking for <>

is an attitude" towards AEPi. These people were advised to "forget everything you know" about the nature of AEPi, based on the MIT chapter, and to begin "with a clean blackboard." Most of the students invited to remain, unhappy with what had happened, chose to leave.

This mass exodus, coming at the same time as many other students presented uncooperative attitudes and were asked to leave, is not too surprising. The chapter at MIT was far from being an acceptable part of AEPi. It is unfortunate that many of the ex-brothers were drastically disillusioned. AEPi is not for everyone; you have to want it. These people did not want it. They continually rejected it. Now they criticize the fraternity for the chapter's mistakes and misdeeds. I ask that the administration and the InterFraternity Council reconsider the suspension of AEPi. A new group of students dedicated to the ideals of AEPi is forming. We want to be granted the opportunity to show MIT what Alpha Epsilon Pi is really all about.

Robert Rich '90->