Students Should Demand That the Administration Treat Them Like Adults

The decision by the Harvard University administration to treat its students like baseless infants by placing undue pressures on them to not be members of single-sex organizations illustrates the administration’s belief that Harvard’s students are unfit or unable to make choices on their own. As Harvard students, you should demand better from your administration.

For well more than 200 years, fraternal organizations have provided learning and leadership opportunities to college students in a positive environment which produces results and builds better citizens and leaders. In the 2014-15 academic year, for example, the more than 380,000 undergraduate fraternity men raised more than $20 million for philanthropic purposes and performed nearly four million hours of community service. Similar fraternal organizations at Harvard have met with analogous results.

Alpha Epsilon Pi came to Harvard in 2001 to provide a unique fraternal experience to Harvard undergraduates. As a fraternity with a distinctly Jewish mission—to develop the future leaders of the Jewish community―we believed strongly that Harvard undergraduate students would help us fulfill that mission. We’re immensely proud of our Harvard chapter alumni who have gone on to accomplish many great things in the Jewish community as well as in their professional fields of technology, business, law, and medicine.

AEPi operates on nearly 190 campuses in the United States, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom, Austria, and Australia. Nearly 10,000 undergraduates are currently members of our fraternity along with more than 90,000 living alumni.

AEPi―like the other members of the North-American Interfraternity Conference―is a single-sex organization. But, contrary to the Harvard administration’s belief, that doesn’t mean that our organization or our members cannot provide positive experiences for Harvard students. When the administration changed course last month and agreed to allow all-female organizations but not all-male groups, the true issues became even more apparent.

Harvard administrators have created a policy that assumes that male groups are, by their nature, dangerous. That’s an incredibly disturbing point of view and one which every student and alum should sharply criticize. This policy has never been about fairness or inclusiveness. This is simply about “shaming” members of all-male organizations. Perhaps the University is reacting to concerns about behavioral issues or bending to politically correct pressures to vilify all-male student groups. As students of Harvard University, you should be outraged at the infantile manner in which you are being treated.

AEPi has, by the way, very strict policies against sexual assault, harassment, and intimidation. We work with our brothers in as many ways as we possibly can to reinforce these policies. As a fraternity dedicated to developing leadership for Jewish communities and based in Jewish values, we take seriously our obligation to “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” AEPi is based on inclusion and respect of people of all genders, races, religions, orientation, or beliefs.

Unfortunately, the current undergraduate members of AEPi could not stand strong to the pressures proposed by the administration and decided to make the individual choice to no longer be a member of the AEPi chapter at Harvard. That’s certainly their right, but their capitulation to this discriminatory policy―and the assumption that men cannot operate in a group without doing something wrong―is beyond offensive.

I’m sorry that our current members opted to drop their membership in AEPi. They would have continued to reap the benefits of our leadership opportunities (here are just a few of them) and a brotherhood that has had a positive impact on tens of thousands. The campus community and the world’s Jewish community should be allowed to continue to benefit from an active and positive AEPi chapter at Harvard. We hope to soon find more members who are both looking to benefit from AEPi’s opportunities and willing to stand up to the University administration’s cynical policies.

Just as importantly, though, is the concern that I and others have who work daily with University students: that administrators can, with no repercussions, make assumptions about groups of people and deny them their constitutional right of assembly. The long term impacts of that are chilling.

Andrew Borans is the executive director of Alpha Epsilon Pi International Fraternity.

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