Tuesday, November 13

Fraternity under fire for denying membership to minority pledge


Monday, June 8, 1998

Fraternity under fire for denying membership to minority
pledge

RUSH: Several members resign after frat rejects non-Jewish,
African American student’s bid

By Barbara Ortutay

Daily Bruin Staff

This fall, members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity
dropped out of the UCLA chapter because they believed the
organization was discriminatory against non-Jewish pledges.

"It was what I perceived to be a racially discriminatory
organization," said Ben Turner, one of the members who left AEPi in
October.

According to a former executive board member of AEPi who spoke
on the condition of anonymity, the problems arose when the national
fraternity re-organized the UCLA chapter’s leadership because a
non-Jewish, African American pledge was offered a bid.

"The national frat came down and re-organized the executive
board," he said. He went on to say that the national fraternity
representatives did not say that the changes were based on a
"racial issue," though other fraternity members claim that this was
the case.

However, both the national fraternity and AEPi’s current members
deny this, saying that the chapter was in a state of decline, and a
new leadership was needed to keep AEPi alive.

"The rush chair was ineffective," said Sidney Dunn, the
executive vice chair of AEPi’s national chapter. "With a
significant Jewish population at UCLA, we were not attracting
enough men."

Dunn added that since the fraternity doesn’t ask pledges their
religious affiliation during rush, it is impossible for them to
discriminate against non-Jewish pledges.

According to the former executive board member, two members of
AEPi notified the national chapter when the non-Jewish pledge was
offered a bid, and in turn two representatives came down to UCLA
and removed the rush chair, Wes Brodsky, from his position. All of
the remaining members of AEPi’s executive board were also removed
from their positions.

New elections were held, but none of those removed from office
were allowed to run.

"They didn’t certify any of us, who obviously had the most
experience," said the former executive board member.

"They knew that people on the current board weren’t (aiming for
the fraternity) to be 100 percent Jewish," he added.

Another former member of the executive board also backed the
fraternity member’s claims, saying that they were approached by
Andrew Borans, AEPi’s national director of expansion before the
reorganization.

According to the executive board member, Borans threatened to
remove him from his position if a non-Jewish person was admitted to
the fraternity.

"They had come to the president and the rush chair before all
this took place," said Turner.

Borans was not available for comment. According to Dunn,
however, AEPi’s mission statement includes a non-discriminatory
policy.

"We welcome anyone who wants to be part of a Jewish fraternity,"
he said. He added that there are chapters across the country that
are predominantly non-Jewish.

At the time of the reorganization, AEPi had over 40 members, and
it was in its third year of existence since returning to UCLA in
1994.

According to members of the former executive board, about 20 to
30 of the members and most of the new pledges dropped out this fall
in response to the reorganization. However, AEPi’s current
president Michael Wellen asserts that the number of dropouts was no
more than 15.

Currently, there are 25 members listed on AEPi’s roster.

Both current members and national representatives assert that
AEPi is non-discriminatory.

"I would in no way ever be part of a discriminatory
organization," said Spencer Miller, a member of AEPi and president
of the Interfraternity Council.

"It’s a little disappointing that people are pointing fingers,"
he continued, adding that he would welcome back the members who
dropped out in the fall.

The current leadership of the chapter, as well as a national
representative, said that the reorganization stemmed from many
reasons, which ranged from internal conflict to lack of contact
with the university.

The fraternity’s chapter advisor, Elan Carr, said problems with
the chapter included an "alarming amount of internal fighting," an
ineffective leadership and member apathy.

"The fraternity had no contact with the university, and used
none of its resources," he said.

"No one was expelled or disciplined," said Dunn, "We removed
them from office."

He added that AEPi is a private association, and that they gave
the executive board members the opportunity to leave the
organization if they were not willing to live by its mission.

Part of AEPi’s mission statement, as described on the
fraternity’s web site, is "AEPi was founded to provide
opportunities for the Jewish college men seeking the best college
and fraternity experience."

"Today, Jewish students search out AEPi, because it’s a Jewish
fraternity," the mission statement continues.

Both Carr and Dunn recalled that early this fall, AEPi’s UCLA
chapter received a zero rating from Scott Carter, fraternity
advisor. The Interfraternity Council rates fraternities on
utilization of university resources, among other things.

The former executive board member countered the claims by the
national representative that AEPi was in a state of decline.

"They said we were doing bad even though our rush numbers were
the best they’ve ever been," he said. "The frat had the highest
membership it ever had; basically we were in the best position
we’ve ever been before."

A similar incident took place at MIT a few years ago, when the
national organization removed 45 of the 55 members of AEPi. At that
time, the MIT chapter was only 10 percent Jewish. When it returned
to campus, it was 100 percent Jewish, and won AEPi’s outstanding
chapter award.

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