AEPi Was Right to Go Gender Neutral

The Harvard chapter’s decision to drop its gender affiliation is a wise, socially conscious decision that we hope improves the diversity of its members.

Amidst ongoing, contentious debate over the introduction of sanctions on unrecognized single-gender social organizations at Harvard, Alpha Epsilon Pi, formerly an all-male fraternity, has become the first Greek organization to announce a transition to become a gender neutral social group. We applaud their decision and subsequent statement for its nuanced, thoughtful approach to what has become a deeply divisive new policy. This is no small decision; Harvard's Eta Psi chapter of AEPi will be forced to disaffiliate from its national organizing body once it begins accepting non-male members. We commend the Eta Psi chapter’s demonstrated willingness to work with the sanctions, as well as their efforts to reflect on what makes their community a valuable addition to campus.

The statement issued by the Eta Psi chapter reflects a careful thought process on the transition to gender neutrality, and their realization that remaining all-male is an unnecessary requirement of remaining a “supportive and welcoming community”. We hope that other single-gender social clubs, especially the remaining Greek organizations, think carefully about Eta Psi’s statement and discuss whether remaining all-male or all-female is a defining and integral part of their collective identity. While we do not believe that there is an easy answer to this question, we do believe that Eta Psi’s example proves that it is possible for a social organization to open its doors to other genders without losing its essential values—in fact, such a decision may enhance important values of respect, diversity, and community.

However, we also acknowledge that a surface-level transition to a gender neutral rush or punch process does not inherently make a single-gender space inclusive. While AEPi’s statement indicates a desire to be truly committed to becoming gender neutral, other social clubs may be less enthusiastic about the change. In order to become a gender neutral, accepting social space, actions must speak louder than words.

We call upon the members of Eta Psi and other groups adapting to the College’s new sanction policy to ensure that their selection process produces a membership that is representative of the College along axes not limited to gender, like class and ethnicity. In particular, we urge final clubs going co-ed to commit to their decision on a cultural level, putting careful thought into how new members can feel welcomed, respected, and valued, rather than tokens mandated by College policy.

The sanctions take effect once the Class of 2021 arrives on campus next fall, and we also ask Harvard to trust its student organizations to follow through on public statements of gender neutrality. Were organizations to be asked to publish group demographics, it would be a paternalistic requirement that is unnecessarily invasive.

Furthermore, we urge the College to allow Eta Psi and its members, as a traditionally Jewish fraternity, to continue to identify with a particular religious background, allowing that identity to inform their mission and role on campus. While we believe that social organizations should reflect the overall diversity of campus, we also acknowledge their important role in building community among adherents of the same religion, or members of the same ethnic minority. This role should be protected as long as such groups adhere to anti-discriminatory policies and allow other interested students admittance. The publication of demographic reports may hinder the ability of these clubs to foster particular cultural identities, and we thus urge the College to carefully consider how it will implement these reports.

Eta Psi’s statement reflects a mature and thoughtful approach to navigating the difficult position social groups have been placed in by the sanctions. Now, it is up to the current brothers of Eta Psi to follow through as they begin welcoming new members into their ranks. We hope that they will set a positive example for other social organizations, and that they are able to retain the values that have always defined their group while discarding those which have become extraneous or outdated.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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