Op-eds

Owens ’17: Why we disaffiliated from AEPi

By
Op-Ed Contributor
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dear fellow Brunonians,

We are proud to announce that Nov. 3, 2015, we made the decision to disaffiliate from the Alpha Epsilon Pi National Fraternity and reestablish ourselves as the independent Greek organization, Beta Rho Pi. We, as brothers of Beta Rho, wish to be a positive force in the Brown community, and by moving forward from our association with AEPi National we feel more prepared than ever to be one.

The first and perhaps most important reason for our decision to disaffiliate is AEPi’s rhetoric and actions concerning sexual assault. We were appalled that a portion of our dues went directly to lobbying for AEPi’s and the North American Interfraternity Conference’s interests in Congress. A number of these interests directly contradicted the values we hold as a brotherhood. This included a particularly troubling piece of legislation that addressed how colleges should handle cases of sexual assault on campus. We are not satisfied with the way AEPi National, as an individual organization, appears to understand the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.

For example, at national conventions, it seemed to us that representatives of the national organization characterized sexual assault as an issue of “risk management” rather than one of education and prevention. At a 2013 convention, one representative stated, while speaking to every attendee, that the majority of reported sexual assaults are false accusations. In another instance, a different representative seemed to compare real acts of sexual assault with the harmlessness of a handshake when he warned us that merely shaking hands with a woman could get us in trouble. Tongue-in-cheek or not, that comment disturbed us.

We know that such claims are egregiously incorrect and believe that they perpetuate rape culture. Our brotherhood believes that we must make every effort possible to prevent sexual assault, and as an organization we have taken measures to ensure we provide a safer space to Brown’s community. This includes ensuring every single one of our brothers receives training in bystander intervention via Sexual Assault Peer Education training every year, not simply the requisite 80 percent for each Greek organization. We will also be further incorporating discussions of sexual assault into our pledge program. In the end, part of our decision was made because we could not, in good conscience, continue to support an organization that takes stances so contrary to our values.

Another issue we faced was the demeaning way that some representatives of AEPi National treated our non-Jewish brothers. A national representative told one of our presidents that a non-Jewish person could never be his brother. In addition to the attitude such a comment seems to underpin, we took issue with their singular focus on the number of Jewish brothers in our chapter. In one particular instance, our National sent us an email with stereotypically Jewish last names to search for during the rush process. It was clear to us that we were being asked (via an offensive cultural stereotype) to discriminate against non-Jewish rushes. While we pride ourselves on being a Jewish house and intend to retain our Jewish identity, Beta Rho Pi will continue to be an inclusive organization, unimpeded by AEPi National. This is a house that will be shaped by Jewish values and traditions but will never discriminate on the basis of religion.

Additionally, by removing the burden of National dues from every present and future brother, we are strengthening our efforts to ensure that financial issues will never bar someone from becoming a member of our community.

Moving forward, we hope to positively contribute to the Brown community by continuing to foster a safe social environment. We look forward to supporting discussions about sexual assault, improving our philanthropic efforts and working to better Brown’s Greek system as a whole.

Sincerely,

The Brothers of Beta Rho Pi

Ben Owens ’17 is the president of the Brown chapter of Beta Rho Pi. He can be reached at benjamin_owens@brown.edu.

Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

Topics:

25 Comments

  1. “Disaffiliated” is not a word. I suppose you are in the Fed of Boston too?

  2. fer real?

  3. Michael Dehaas says:

    I can’t speak for the experience of these brothers but I can speak for myself when I say I have never had such an experience with any member of AEPi. I believe this is a self serving attempt on the part of the chapter’s leadership to distinguish themselves as the politically correct chapter and no doubt beef up their resumes when the time comes to apply to law school. My chapter has always treated the issue of rape with the seriousness it deserves. The comment highlighted in this article which suggests an AEPi member thinks shaking hands could get you into trouble is an extreme distortion of the truth. AEPi’s sexual assault prevention education simply emphasises that “an act which may seem as innocent as a handshake in your own mind may be percieved as threatening”. The way it is stated in this article is incredibly dishonest. In regards to the treatment of non Jews, I can say with confidence that Beta Rho Pi’s claims are not indiciative of the fraternity in general. I can only be considered culturally Jewish and my brother’s have welcomed me with open arms and allowed me into their group without question. As former Web Chair for the Guelph chapter for many years I have worked closely with many members of AEPi and have never felt an ounce of discomfort. The brothers of Beta Rho Pi are misguided opportunists disguising themselves as champions of the downtrodden.

    • Dude, culturally Jewish is still Jewish. Try being a different minority and see how it feels when a national rep tells you he doesn’t consider you his brother.

    • upper echelon for no reason says:

      Haven’t even heard from you

      How can you live with yourself

      Ungrateful, ungrateful

      Your momma be ashamed of you

      I haven’t even heard from you, not a single word from you

      Ungrateful

    • unless you are arguing there are better ways for them to be ‘opportunists’, you should probably eliminate ‘misguided’. Otherwise it sounds like you want to attack their stance on two fronts that are basically opposites

  4. talmid chochem says:

    they pride themselves on being a jewish house, just not like “those” jews. self-hatred, ya think?

    • So any time one Jew criticizes another Jew for their speach or actions, it’s internalized anti-semitism? If that’s how anti-semitism works, every great rabbi in history would be an anti-semite. The Jewish tradition of thoughtful criticisms and arguments over intellectual, moral, and spiritual matters is a vital part of our culture.

      Seriously, let’s elevate the discussion a little.

    • A self-hating Jew? Dear god stop the presses.

  5. Aaron Bernstein says:

    I have witnessed, at multiple Conclaves, extremely harmful and sexist rhetoric by those who were brought to “instruct” us. That Nationals went to the length of not only condoning such language, but actually espousing and teaching it is unforgivable. Something must change. It is unacceptable that future generations of my brotherhood will be instructed in this regard.

    I also witnessed first hand the pressure to have only Jewish rushes. What are we to do, interrogate their family history? Ask extensively about their mothers upbringing? This sort of mentality is a huge disservice to the organization. Diversity makes us strong, and this exclusive mentality is extremely infectious and harmful. Somethings gotta give, if AEPI hopes to join the rest of the world in the 21sr century. Thank you for sharing your voice!

  6. Metro Boomin' says:

    For me to move on and succeed…

  7. Definitely a good move to omit the fact that the house committed to moving forward as a unanimous entity regardless of the outcome of the vote on November 1st which failed to carry enough votes to disaffiliate. One member quit, several others threatened to, and magically on November 3rd the vote carried!

    • wait, without a majority!? Surely it had to be over 50% and deferring to the minority??

      • You’re right It is a minority that didn’t want to disaffiliate, but it was a large enough minority on Nov 1st to not go through with it. After one person quit and several others threatened to if disaffiliation didn’t happen, some people changed their votes and they got enough on the 3rd.

        • Oh so it’s just an arbitrary internal structure thing! Good thing these boys refused to let this continue going on.

  8. Brown AEPi alum here. I couldn’t be more thrilled at the current brothers’ decision to disaffiliate, given AEPi national’s proven intransigence on a wide variety of issues (sexual assault and non-Jewish membership included, as described in this piece). I feel way, way more connected to the brothers and values of the newly formed Beta Rho Pi than I ever did to AEPi’s national fraternity.

  9. I am shocked, shocked that a fraternity might be involved in sexist comments or recruiting like minded members.

  10. I am an AEPi alumnus of the Yale chapter, and count many Brown AEPi brothers as cherished friends going on two decades.

    We have attended the Olympics together, reunited in China, Hong Kong and the U.K., served in non-profit leadership roles alongside one another, attended one another’s weddings, and now these mensches serve as fatherhood role models for me.

    The active BRPi undergrads, among countless other losses, are depriving themselves of the rich relationships that International association offers. Theirs was a naive decision made out of misguided self-righteousness. This is not only their loss, but also a loss for would-be AEPi men in the years to come until AEPi re-establishes stronger than ever on the Brown campus.

    Sincerely,
    Andy Morris, Yale ’99

  11. It appears the culture the BRPi brothers have exposed is not just a “few members” situation here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tasneemnashrulla/leaked-racist-emails-reveal-toxic-culture-at-university-of-c#.ng0zaKzWM

  12. Your complaints are valid and ring true with other fraternity chapters. Don’t let national and its alumni bully you. They and their attorneys are in the business to protect fraternity assets from liability by saying the majority of reported sexual assaults are false accusations. They know the majority of victims don’t come forward to report what happened. They also know that when a few do come forward, almost all of them are telling the truth. If a victim files a complaint against a fraternity, the fraternity’s attorney will say and do whatever it takes to discredit the victim.

    We read where the University of Chicago AEPi fraternity is also in the news. AEPi national and its alumni publicly apologized but then went on to blame the scandalous behavior on “peer pressure”, “parroting” others, victimization, and just “asinine” behavior. They should realize their excuses reinforce and validate your complaints.

    There is another fraternity that has been involved in not only scandalous but even criminal behavior. For over a decade the fraternity has continued to violate university policies and state and federal laws. Its national leaders and alumni protect it and help to cover up the violations. Here are just a few things the fraternity has done. The fraternity posted online an activity calendar about “roasting Jewish girls alive”, photographed pledges wearing turtle necks with the caption “UNCIRCUMSIZED” in reference to a non-Jewish pledge, posted meeting minutes that included its weed policy about members not selling to non-Jewish students, posted an email about wanting to cut a pledge (non-Jewish) into three pieces but that would be too messy, blindfolded and drove pledges across Stateline to haze and commit scandalous acts against some pledges, hired strippers (with their armed bodyguard/pimp) to humiliate some pledges, photographed and posted pictures online of abusing passed out pledges and a drugged pledge. The university has refused to take any action. We are sure you can figure out why and it doesn’t involve student safety.

  13. Boston Tea Pot Party says:

    I find this to be BS. AEPi at Oregon partnered with anti rape groups and initiatives on campus, we had non-jews who were both leadership and welcomed as brothers with open arms.

    Nationals helps you with insurance, lawyers for when a brother does get in trouble, and help with training in addition to being part of the international cadre of brothers.

    Why couldnt you ignore the idiotic comments and make a decision for yourself to be more aware about raping women???

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*