Nearly 20 months ago, Columbia revoked housing privileges for Alpha Epsilon Pi as a result of one of our brother’s actions. At the time of this brother’s arrest, we had 43 members. After the ensuing arrest, investigation, and revocation of our housing privileges, AEPi entered the 2011-2012 school year with just 23 active brothers, four of whom were initiated after the loss of housing in spring 2011.
Today, we have 30 active brothers and eight new members. All but 14 of them were initiated after the University took our brownstone, and none of those 14 were in leadership positions at the time. In other words, the group of AEPi men applying for housing today is vastly different from the group that squandered our brownstone in December 2010, and we have the record to prove it.
AEPi is a Jewish fraternity, though open to all who espouse our purpose and values. While we are proud of our Jewish identity, we also boast Christian and secular brothers hailing from seven different nations who speak a total of nine languages. We are a diverse group united by our bonds of brotherhood and Judaism, a tradition that reaches back more than 3,000 years and informs our values of Jewish leadership.
These words are more than hollow bromides for the men of AEPi. For the past year and a half, we have had a singular mission, and our commitment has been reflected in our success.
We were one of only three InterFraternity Council fraternities to be awarded a five-star rating on the ALPHA Standards of Excellence for the 2011 calendar year. To earn this rating, we met or exceeded Columbia’s standard in a number of different areas.
First, our chapter took the Jewish principle of tikkun olam—repairing the world—and put it to practice, raising $1,153 for Save a Child’s Heart, an organization that provides life-saving heart surgery and follow-up care for children in need, and performing more than 1,100 hours of community service in our campus and home communities. We also excelled in academics, as our chapter’s GPA was higher than both the average Greek GPA and the average campus-wide GPA, and campus leadership, with our brothers involved in over 20 different Columbia organizations.
In accordance with our mission, AEPi brothers are also involved at the highest levels of Jewish life at Columbia. It is no accident that the vice president of Columbia-Barnard Hillel, the student council president of List College (the undergraduate program at the Jewish Theological Seminary), and a member of the Chabad Student Board are all AEPi brothers.
Though we pride ourselves on our involvement in Jewish student life, every AEPi brother knows that our fraternity offers something that these organizations do not. AEPi, though a Jewish organization, is cultural and social in nature, not religious. For those brothers who are not religious or do not feel comfortable associating with these groups, AEPi provides a relaxed, culturally Jewish environment with brotherhood at its core in a way that Hillel or Chabad does not.
While our organization has thrived, the sense of community from having brothers living together in a house of their own has been missing. The community at large could also benefit heavily from AEPi’s return to housing. Not only has our brotherhood provided educational and philanthropic events through the house in past years, but we have also provided a safe and supervised social outlet for the student population. These events would continue in our brownstone, and would enhance the lives of undergraduates at Columbia for years to come.
There is perhaps no stronger argument in favor of AEPi’s positive impact on Columbia than our brothers themselves. More than any individual statistic or accomplishment, Columbia knows our brothers, and knows them to be upstanding, responsible leaders. Whether through Under1Roof, CU STRIVE, CU Democrats, College Republicans, the Chess Club, the Rock Climbing Club, WBAR, or just through casual friendships, our brothers have impacted countless lives and provided memorable college experiences.
AEPi’s internal operations and contributions to Columbia’s campus and the surrounding community have never been stronger than in the past year and a half, with absolutely no disciplinary violations whatsoever, and a stellar record of service and achievement. While this is undoubtedly an impressive track record, it is our sincere belief that the foregoing is just a fraction of the good that our chapter could do for Columbia and the community if we were to be awarded a house from which to operate.
The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in political science and French and Francophone studies. He is the president of Alpha Epsilon Pi. This op-ed is written on behalf of Alpha Epsilon Pi.
This op-ed is part of a series providing an opportunity to each group applying for a brownstone to explain why it deserves a space.