AEPi resurrected after disbandment
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 23:10
Conversation and controversy about Greek life at Brandeis has been virtually unavoidable since the late 1980s, when a group of students led by Matthew Brooks ’87 started the University’s first fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, according to a Jan. 1986 Justice article. In 1988, the University’s Board of Trustees responded with a resolution to prohibit fraternities and sororities, according to the Justice archives.
Since then, the issue has cooled down considerably, but fraternities and sororities still exist in a state of limbo at Brandeis. The Justice reported in a Jan. 30 article that nine percent of the student body is involved in Greek life, which remains unrecognized by the University. This semester, AEPi has yet again made waves as 29 undergraduates resurrected the fraternity after the chapter here was disbanded by its national parent organization last fall.
A new fraternity on campus
The founders of the new chapter anticipate that relationships with the student body and University administration will be crucial. “We don’t want Greek life to have to be the way that it is at Brandeis,” said Luky Guigui ’15, one of the founders, adding that they are willing to change any negative perception of Greek life. “Whatever it takes,” he said.
Some may wonder about hazing and the other negative stereotypes that are associated with Greek life. “Let’s put it this way: Even if we wanted to haze, we couldn’t haze,” said Guigui, reasoning that the Brandeis chapter of AEPi is under close scrutiny from nationals during its initial founding process and must be on its best behavior as it petitions to be chartered.
When asked, Guigui also emphasized that this group (or “colony”), which is under consideration to become a chapter, is already very different from the old AEPi.
For one, members now plan to work much more closely with the national board, he said. “We don’t really want to be associated with the old AEPi. We’d much rather start anew,” said Guigui.
He said it was within reason that they would resurrect the values and traditions of the AEPi that Brandeis saw 10 or 15 years ago, although he didn’t specify what those may be. In any case, he asserted, “We don’t want to be seen in the same light as the AEPi that was here last year, or two years ago.”
While the new members seek to distance themselves from the previous generation, the reason why AEPi was stripped of its charter last fall officially remains a mystery.
On this topic, current colony president Danny Reisner ’14 only wrote in his email to the Justice that “they didn’t do the things that they were expected to as a chapter of AEPi, and so they were shut down.”
Former AEPi president Martin Singer ’12 did not respond to the Justice’s request for comments on the start of the new chapter and the closure of the old by press time.
According to Reisner, he, Dean Kaplan ’15, Jake Altholz ’15 and Guigui were the four who were initially interested in restarting the chapter. Kaplan has since been removed from the organization by the international office, due to unspecified conflicts with higher-ups in the AEPi organization, Reisner told the Justice.
The four started the discussion about bringing back the Jewish fraternity on campus, but the final selection of the “founding fathers” came from representatives of the national organization after they interviewed prospective members.
Several Brandeis undergraduates received messages on Facebook from AEPi officials at the beginning of the fall semester, informing them of a “special opportunity” to learn more about and possibly join the fraternity. “Because multiple men have contacted our office about starting an AEPi at Brandeis University, we are starting a group there this semester,” the message read.
It made only vague mention of how they found these people or on what basis the recommendations to contact them were made.
The recruiters from the national group initially came to campus to hold information sessions in early September, according to Reisner. The sessions were open to all, but the recruiters targeted a certain group through networking, said Guigui.
They held the meetings in Rosenthal South residence hall, which poses a potential conflict to the Brandeis Board of Trustees’ 1988 resolution. The resolution states that “social fraternities and sororities, in particular, are neither recognized nor permitted to hold activities on campus or use University facilities.”
The induction of three first-years, 14 sophomores, 11 juniors and one senior finally took place on Sept. 12 in Guigui’s suite in Rosenthal East, according to Guigui and Reisner.
The Jewish fraternity at “Jew U”
As for the membership of the next few years, Guigui, who will serve as recruitment chair during AEPi’s first pledge period in the spring, didn’t try to downplay the importance of their Jewish affiliation.
The main idea, said Guigui in an interview with the Justice, is that the prospective brothers “join the fraternity because they want to be in a Jewish fraternity, not in spite of it.”
“I mean, it is a Jewish fraternity,” he continued, “so if you’re joining for only the fraternity aspect and not the Jewish aspect, there’s a problem. You should want both.” He mentioned that he did expect to have non-Jewish members soon, but those potential members are “few and far between,” partly because of the demographics of the Brandeis student body.
According to the Alpha Epsilon Pi website, the fraternity was founded in 1913 and aims to “play a vital role in helping reverse the growing trend among our young people to abandon Judaism” during their undergraduate years, and “to help each student to develop character, to learn responsibility, and to develop a proper set of values through living together in brotherhood.”
Ultimately, AEPi is “non-discriminatory” and “not specifically religious, but rather social and cultural in nature,” according to the fraternity’s mission statement.
Each year, approximately 2,500 undergraduate men join the fraternity nationwide, the international AEPi website states.
In the first one or two pledge classes, Guigui admitted that they weren’t planning on accepting large numbers of men, regardless of religious affiliation. After the large founding class of 29 members, he said he expects AEPi to have some growing pains in the coming years, as they work to learn the ropes of managing the fraternity and try to grow their membership— all without a permanent, off-campus home for the group.
While all the members have campus housing this year, they will continue to hold events in various brothers’ rooms and suites, not unlike the other Greek organizations operating on campus—even those whose members live together in houses off-campus.
Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer and Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel did not respond to requests for comment regarding University policy on Greek life and its effect on student life by press time.
—Allyson Cartter contributed reporting