AEPi must not be recognized
On Sunday morning, the last Sunday of the year in the Jewish calendar, Jews around the world and at MIT began an intense period of repentance by praying for Slichot, or forgiveness, for their sins of the previous year. At this time we recognize that as human beings, we act treasonously, aggressively, brazenly, and disdainfully among other things. It is important for us to contemplate the ways in which we personally have committed these transgressions so that we can work for forgiveness from God and from others, and so that we can strive to improve ourselves in the coming year. It is ironic, then, that at approximately the same time that many Jews were asking for Slichot, the newly reorganized Mu Tau chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi held a pledging ceremony.
Unless they were living in a paper bag last year, returning students will remember how the AEPi national expelled the previous members of the Mu Tau chapter from its house and organization. This action was a slap in the face to the MIT community for a number of reasons. It was outrageous that an outside organization would act against MIT students in a manner that would so drastically affect their lives. It was even more outrageous that this action was so severe, most likely because the Mu Tau chapter had over time ceased to be Jewish. In addition, the loss of the AEPi house is partially to blame for the Institute's current housing crisis.
Members of the Jewish community brought these and other concerns to the national organization last year. We expressed our feelings that their actions were improper for a number of reasons. We said it was wrong for the national to have taken punitive action against MIT students without including the Institute in their review and decision. We said it was wrong not to consider the effects of their actions on Institute housing. We said it was wrong to undertake an action with such dark discriminatory undertones.
Most importantly, we said it was unreasonably insulting to the expelled brothers to reorganize the chapter so quickly. The entire affair, we explained, was an insult to the MIT community as a whole, and an embarrassment to the Jewish community in particular. The response to these concerns was shocking. The actions taken by the national organization, they explained, were entirely in accordance with their legal rights. They were under no obligation to include, consult, or even inform the Institute of anything. MIT's housing problem was not their concern.
We objected that the national's legal justification did not mitigate the immorality of the action or the injured feelings. Simply having the power to do something wrong does not excuse wrongful behavior. How, we asked, did AEPi justify the pain which they inflicted on our community? The national representative smiled and said that AEPi has had similar conflicts at several other universities. Eventually, he explained, the people forgot. They would forget here, too. And so it was. The national and its newfound disciples remained unapologetic and eventually the new founding fathers were activated, secure in the knowledge that the people "would forget here, too."
In a surprising move, the new chapter appeared to take steps during the summer to ease tensions between the fraternity and the Institute. There were several meetings with Associate Dean for Student Affairs James R. Tewhey to discuss ways in which AEPi could assuage its problems with the community. As a direct result of these meetings, AEPi was allowed to include their literature in the ASA packet that was sent to incoming students. In return for this and other considerations, AEPi agreed to try not to step on any more toes. Among other things, they promised not to begin rushing freshmen until the activities midway.
The Mu Tau chapter failed to keep its word. Freshmen were indeed rushed and given bids before the activities midway. In addition, the fraternity employed unscrupulous and disrespectful tactics. First, the brothers of AEPi went through the Freshman Picturebook and singled out any male name that sounded Jewish and any face that looked Jewish. They approached these unsuspecting freshmen under the guise of friendship, taking them one at a time on tours of the city, buying them meals and trying to instill in them a sense of obligation. At first they declined to discuss the fraternity at all, saying, "let's just become friends." Later however, they switched to high pressure tactics -- and freshmen who did not jump on the AEPi bandwagon were made to feel increasingly uncomfortable.
If nothing else, the actions of the new chapter prove that they continue to hold the interests of the MIT community with nothing but contempt. The brothers have gone back on their word and remorselessly persist in their selfish actions. Their philosophy seems to be: Do what you can get away with, because eventually the people will forget.
Well, we should not forget. Just as every new brother of AEPi must learn the history of the fraternity and the chapter, the MIT community must remember their selfishness and contempt. We must remember the anger, hurt and offense their organization brought to our community. The founding fathers should not be allowed to taste the fruits of their labor. The Interfraternity Council must withhold recognition of the Mu Tau chapter of AEPi until all of the founding fathers have left the MIT community and the fraternity. This seems to be the only way to make AEPi realize that what it did was wrong. Perhaps then they will seek Slichot.
Ron Scharf is a junior in the Department of Political Science.