Zeta Beta Tau, a national Jewish fraternity that was suspended from campus in 1993, has returned to Foggy Bottom after a lengthy hiatus. Having received University recognition earlier this year, Zeta Beta Tau initiated a class of 16 pledges Sunday night.
“Whatever the history is in the past isn’t connected with us or reflective of our values,” said Chris Murray, one of the founding fathers. “We’re here to create something new and start something positive for the University.”
“Our goal is to offer a second outlet to Jewish students who want to enter a fraternity,” added sophomore Andrew Klein, another founding father.
The University slapped ZBT with a five-year suspension in 1993. In 2001, a group of students tried to bring the chapter back to campus and initiated 18 members of the then-suspended Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Aided by former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, himself a member of ZBT at Columbia University, and Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak, ZBT appeared to be on a path towards recolonization. In November of that year, they were disowned by the national chapter and denied a charter from the University over accusations of hazing.
Officials from the national organization said the members illegally instituted a pledge system, or “a two-tier membership system” in which full members had authority over newly initiated members, according to a letter from ZBT national President Ron Taylor, The Hatchet reported on November 8, 2001.
The disowned members of ZBT then formed the unrecognized fraternity known as APES. Group members stressed that their chapter has no affiliation with APES.
“Our group isn’t associated with APES, AEPi or the 2001 ZBT members,” Klein said. “We’re a brand-new group.”
ZBT’s national organization certified the chapter after it was recognized by the University. Klein said that the national chapter insisted on University recognition before reinstating the chapter.
Both Klein and Murray said Trachtenberg pushed along the recognition.
“SJT was a ZBT,” Murray said. “We have a good legacy within the organization.”
Trachtenberg was unavailable for comment at press time, as his son was married Saturday in Minneapolis.
Adam Hausner, a senior and president of Alpha Epsilon Pi, expressed support for the new ZBT chapter.
“We’re just excited that (ZBT) is coming back and giving Jewish men another option,” he said. Hausner added that negative perceptions of the past ZBT chapters do not affect his opinion of the new chapter.
“This is a completely different group of guys,” he said. “We’re happy to have them back on campus.”
Klein and Murray said their chapter has plans to establish the necessary components of a working fraternity, including holding several training meetings, writing a constitution and a budget and planning events.
“Right now it’s just getting everything started,” Murray said. “Within two weeks we should have a pretty good game plan for how we want to move forward.”