In a continuing effort to expand Greek-letter life on campus, the University and the Interfraternity Council welcomed Alpha Epsilon Pi back to campus last week after the nationally Jewish fraternity left two years ago.
Alpha Epsilon Pi is the second newly-recognized fraternity on campus this year.
Pi Kappa Alpha, which was accepted last semester, began colonizing this spring, bringing the total number of recognized fraternities to 12.
Michael Gargano, associate vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said he hopes the University “eventually” will become 22 percent to 23 percent Greek-letter-affiliated. About 12 percent of undergraduates are currently in fraternities and sororities.
“(One of GW’s objectives) is to solidify the existing … foundation and infrastructure among the fraternities and sororities,” he said.
With the completion of Townhouse Row, which will provide University housing to three fraternities and five sororities, slated for next fall, Gargano said GW is considering building a second Townhouse Row. However, he added, “it will be at least three or four years before it becomes a concept” because of a lack of space.
Some officials raised doubts last semester about bringing two fraternities on campus at the same time, citing strain on the student-run IFC and low recruitment numbers for existing fraternities.
However, administrators decided the benefits of expansion outweighed the downfalls.
“Students in fraternities tend to have higher GPAs, tend to be happier and remain connected to the University as alumni,” said Laura Taddeucci Downs, director of the Student Activities Center.
Alpha Epsilon Pi rejoined the GW community on April 21 after losing recognition in early 2001 because of hazing incidents. After the two-year suspension, Alpha Epsilon Pi could seek recognition from the University as of January 2003. All members of the new Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity are unaffiliated with the former group
Some of the original Alpha Epsilon Pi pledges formed the unrecognized off-campus fraternity, “Apes,” and the new Alpha Epsilon Pi had to identify itself as a distinct and separate fraternity before rejoining the University Greek-letter community.
“The administration raised concerns for us to indicate that we had pulled that group’s recognition as a member of ours to make sure that group wasn’t recognized using our name and that we took absence of the Apes,” said Marc Himmelstein, Alpha Epsilon Pi national supreme governor.
The fraternity brought together a group of men in mid-fall and approached the administration for review. Usually, a fraternity seeks approval from the IFC before the administration, but since Alpha Epsilon Pi was returning to campus, Downs said the process was normal.
After reviewing the group’s activities, officials determined the members met University criteria, “so the administration was confident that they could come back,” Downs said.
“When (Alpha Epsilon Pi) left, they made it clear to the University that they would return with a group of guys that they would be proud to have start a new group,” said junior Ben Block, out-going president of Alpha Epsilon Pi.
Gargano said recognition as a student organization is important because it makes the group eligible for Student Association funding, space in the Marvin Center and participation in events coordinated by the Student Activities Center, including Colonial Inauguration.
The national chapter brought together Alpha Epsilon Pi’s founding fathers to begin recruiting to form a colony in October. Although the IFC does not favor colonization before recognition, it is not prohibited.
“There was a misunderstanding between (Alpha Epsilon Pi) and the national,” said IFC President Norman Pentelovitch, a junior. “There is a certain expansion process we’d like a chapter to go through that they did not follow …It was as much a misunderstanding of the guys here as it was of the national. There was no malicious intent.”
National Alpha Epsilon Pi officials said they understood GW restrictions to mean that they could recruit in the fall, Himmelstein said.
The IFC will recognize Alpha Epsilon Pi as a colony until it receives a charter from its national organization, after it meets certain criteria, including having at least two successful recruitment periods. The fraternity currently has 41 members.
“Students looking for a traditional Jewish fraternity will be able to choose AEPi, while those who are looking for something else will choose another fraternity,” Downs said.
But the addition of two new fraternities could cause other chapters to recruit smaller pledge classes.
“Smaller chapters need to see what makes more people rush. It’s more up to those chapters to work with (the Student Activities Center),” Downs said. “We can help them to improve their rush schedules and things like that to help get more members.”
Pentelovitch said he thinks Townhouse Row and the administration’s push for Greek-letter expansion will encourage more participation next year.
Pi Kappa Alpha, the other fraternity to gain recognition this year, went through the usual recognition procedures and is now colonizing on campus.
The fraternity has 63 members and hopes to get another 10 by the end of the year, said president Dan Moss, a junior. He said he hopes to recruit another 15 by the end of next spring.
Competition for members among fraternities is not an issue, Moss said.
“There are nothing but positives for the GW campus. With competition, it will increase the level of the guys who are members.”