Staff Editorial: The ambiguous role of unrecognized fraternities

Members of GW’s unrecognized Alpha Pi Epsilon (APES) fraternity not only participated in the annual Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Walkathon last Saturday but also raised the second-highest amount of money at the entire event. This fraternity, and other unrecognized chapters at GW, gets their fair share of negative attention on campus but such positive occurrences raise questions about current state of unrecognized fraternities on campus.

Alpha Pi Epsilon (or “APES”), Sigma Alpha Mu (or “SAMMY”) and Sigma Alpha Epsilon (“SAE”) are unrecognized at GW due to prior infractions involving hazing and other issues. Perhaps some of the stigma associated with these unofficial fraternities has been deserved through previous violations, but it is hardly a secret that the officially recognized fraternities engage in activities that could be considered less than appropriate.

GW has a very stringent hazing policy, stating that “hazing is defined as any action taken or situation produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.” Examples of hazing in the Code of Student Conduct go so far as to include “scavenger hunts” and “road trips.” In the past, GW has exerted considerable efforts to police the indiscretions of these unofficial fraternities. Two years ago officials went so far as to search for members of APES and SAE on Facebook and send letters to their members “demanding that they take action to stop alleged violations by the group or face punishment,” The Hatchet reported. While there is no mistake that true instances of hazing must not be tolerated in whatever forum it may occur, the University should not focus a disproportionate amount of its energies on the unrecognized fraternities.

While these unrecognized fraternities are not functioning as a fraternity within the term that GW has set forth, they are providing a specific social role for their members and the community. In the Help the Homeless Walkathon, APES’ participation exceeded that of all of the officially recognized GW fraternities, despite the fact that APES is not technically under an obligation to do any sort of community service to qualify themselves as an organization.

Clearly, the University had legitimate reasons to refuse recognition to these fraternities in the first place, and it could very well be true that reinstating them would not be the best option for everyone concerned. Still, even if GW does not condone these organizations, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the current policy of completely condemning them.

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