The University launched an unprecedented investigation last week into the Alpha Pi Epsilon fraternity, pulling students out of classes for questioning, confiscating cell phones and placing some of the group’s leaders on a 21-day suspension.
The investigation stems from credible evidence that the group would be engaging in “dangerous hazing activities” this past weekend, said Robert Chernak, the senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services. The three students were suspended for allegations of hazing and drug use.
GW officials said they contacted Metropolitan Police Department because of possible crimes, including potential violations of D.C.’s anti-gang law.
Membership in an unrecognized fraternity does not violate University policy, but its members are still required to follow the Code of Student Conduct, a University spokesperson said.
“It is unfortunate that circumstances brought us to the point where the University found it necessary to take action of this sort,” Chernak said.
Members of APES declined to be named in this article, as they said they fear further retribution by the University. Several students who spoke to The Hatchet said they thought the University Police Department and Student Judicial Services acted inappropriately during questioning and administrative searches.
This crackdown on APES, a group whose former incarnations include Alpha Epsilon Pi and Zeta Beta Tau, follows on the heels of several years of small measures against the group. In 2005, new members received letters from the University stating that the group was in violation of the Code of Student Conduct. The identity of the group’s president is kept secret.
One student whose room was searched last week has since been hospitalized, Chernak said in a statement to The Hatchet. Members of APES said the student, a sophomore, was prescribed the anti-anxiety drug Xanax – which was confiscated during the search. Subsequently, several members of APES said, the student overdosed on sleeping pills and was admitted to the intensive care unit at GW Hospital. Michelle Sherrard, a University spokesperson, said GW does not confiscate prescribed medication “by practice.”
Beginning Nov. 28, UPD officers pulled members of the group from class for questioning, often identifying them through photos. UPD questioned about 20 “pledges,” saying they were concerned for their safety, Chernak said.
When one student declined to leave his classroom, UPD threatened him with punishment. Sherrard said all students left classrooms voluntarily.
Since its inception in 2003, knowledge of the APES pledge process remains hearsay. One freshman member said much of what is said about the group is “just rumors.”
“If I could start over and do it again from day one, I would,” the freshman member said.
Although the group is without a national organization, it still does philanthropic events and has officers who oversee the group’s finances and day-to-day operations. Last month, the group raised $1,773 for D.C.’s homeless.
Several members of the group said they do not think the University’s crackdown ensures the end of APES.
One member said, “It will go more underground.”
Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report.
History of Alpha Pi Epsilon
APES was formed in 2002, but its history dates back years earlier when the GW Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity lost national and GW recognition because of hazing allegations. In November 2001, 17 former members of AEPi recolonized as Zeta Beta Tau with the help of former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. ZBT was forced to leave campus months later amid concerns about their initiation process.
A group of ZBT members then formed APES. Unlike other unrecognized fraternities currently on campus – Sigma Alpha Mu and Sigma Alpha Epsilon – it has no national counterpart. The recent crackdown represents the most significant effort by the University to dismantle the organization.