The Beta Rho chapter at Brown of the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi has separated from the international organization and become an independent fraternity under the name Beta Rho Pi. The change was made official Nov. 3, 2015, but the brotherhood had been contemplating the decision for years, said Ben Owens ’17, president of Beta Rho Pi.
AEPi is a historically Jewish international fraternity that is “non-discriminatory and open to all who are willing to espouse its purpose and values,” according to the mission statement on the organization’s website.
Despite this mission, the former AEPi chapter at Brown found that some members of the international fraternity held biases against their non-Jewish brothers, according to Owens’ op-ed in today’s Herald.
Beta Rho Pi will continue to welcome all prospective brothers regardless of their religious affiliation while retaining the fraternity’s Jewish identity, Owens said.
“What it came down to was insurmountable ideological differences between us and (the international fraternity). Those differences, combined with the financial burden of being affiliated … made it clear we needed to disaffiliate,” Owens wrote in a follow-up email to The Herald.
Another reason for the brotherhood’s disaffiliation was the international organization’s handling of sexual assault. According to Owens’ op-ed, representatives of the organization prioritized risk management when discussing sexual assault instead of emphasizing education and prevention.
Some alums of the international fraternity were “in disbelief” that the fraternity disaffiliated, said Jonathan Pierce, past international president of AEPi and current AEPi spokesman.
The issues that Brown’s chapter discussed with the international organization were “not very credible,” he added.
There is no official process to disaffiliate as a fraternity, nor do chapters have the right to do so, Pierce said. Each individual member must request disaffiliation and will be subsequently expelled.
“We have a long and proud tradition at Brown. I was disappointed the guys weren’t willing to work with us,” Pierce said.
The international organization’s hope is to reinstate AEPi at Brown by working with either current Beta Rho Pi members or other interested students, he added.
“AEPi’s mission is to develop leaders of the Jewish community,” Pierce said. Benefits of being a part of the international fraternity include recognition and inclusion in major Jewish organizations, leadership-building opportunities and alumni connections, he added.
“As an undergrad, it’s hard to recognize that you’re a part of a bigger thing,” Pierce said. Being a member of AEPi is something special, and Brown’s chapter “didn’t value that,” he added.
Despite the international fraternity’s reaction to the disaffiliation, the decision was made collectively, and the brotherhood did what it thought was best for its members, Owens said.
Beta Rho Pi’s doors remain open to alums of the chapter, he added. “Every person who has been in (the chapter) is still our brother. I believe our connections will be just as strong,” Owens said. “We have an alumni chair to strengthen bonds between (the) brotherhood and (alums), and that’s not going to change.”
Beta Rho Pi will continue the philanthropic work it had been doing before the transition and will remain a part of the Greek Council, Owens said.
“At this point, we’re excited for the upcoming semester and can’t wait to open our doors for rush,” he said.