I’ve had dozens of alumni and friends of AEPi ask me recently about the issues happening with fraternities at Penn State and Florida State (and now at the University of Michigan and Ohio State). I thought this might be a good opportunity for me to put my thoughts down on these matters.
Let me start by saying that I believe in the fraternity system. For more than 40 years, I have seen firsthand the positive effects that the Greek system can play on young men and women: the leadership opportunities, the business connections, the real-world experience, the commitment to philanthropy and community service. These are all reasons that young men should consider joining a fraternity when they get to college.
And, for AEPi men, this experience also includes developing a commitment to our shared Jewish values and culture, advocating for Israel and Jewish philanthropy programs and communities. Our mission – to develop leadership for the Jewish community – is being accomplished on 190 college campuses around the world.
But, the culture of excess seems to have hit the fraternity system, as well. The reprehensible activities which occurred at the Beta Theta Pi house at Penn State have made all of us stop and take pause. In Tallahassee, Ann Arbor and Columbus, college administrations have thrown up their hands and said that the dangerous activities must stop before we can get back to all of the positive things that fraternities do.
While I may not agree with the unilateral manner in which these decisions have often been made (without even communicating with the executive office or the undergraduate chapters), I understand the sentiment behind it.
I have to tell you: I agree. No fraternity brother – and certainly no AEPi brother as long as I am involved in our fraternity – should put their brother in harm’s way. This includes hazing, drug use and excessive, forced or illegal drinking. There is no place for that in AEPi and we have to stop.
We’re risking the future of AEPi, the fraternity system and our own lives. We are better than that. Our IHQ staff is working with our chapters to understand our health and safety regulations and to ensure that every chapter and every brother of AEPi is compliant with them. We need to focus on what makes AEPi great – our brotherhood, our mission, our shared sense of purpose and our commitment to our Jewish communities.
AEPi is too important to the development of our members and the future of our Jewish communities to risk it for one night of careless, dangerous and, possibly, illegal activities.
In Parashat Bereshit, God asks Cain where his brother is and Cain tauntingly replies, “Hashomer achi anochi? Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The answer is, of course, yes. We are all our brothers’ keepers, and we must do a better job of committing to that most important concept first.