Watch out SMU, a new fraternity has joined campus. Two weeks ago Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), became the first colony in about 30 years to become a member of SMU’s Interfraternity Council.
Alpha Epsilon Pi is an international, predominately Jewish fraternity with over 150 chapters. As The Daily Campus reported in December, “the fraternity’s mission is to provide the opportunity for Jewish men to join an organization whose purpose is not specifically religious, but rather social and cultural in nature.”
The colony was co-founded by nine students in March 2014. In nine months, the chapter has moved from a colony to a recognized fraternity, working to gain members and notoriety as it matures.
AEPi President Hunter Rice believes that the fraternity’s founding members are what helped the colony progress so quickly.
“We were all driven and determined to make this happen, and each of our members has put in incredible effort since day one,” Rice said. “We’ve also surrounded ourselves with the right people who’ve provided tremendous support along the way.”
The “right people” include members of AEPi national headquarters, local alumni and members of the SMU Interfraternity Council, specifically Coordinator of Student Life and Advisor to the Interfraternity Council Kevin Saberre. According to Rice, these individuals helped make decisions to allow the Tau Chi chapter to pass.
“I’m very grateful of their open minds and praise them for their acceptance of AEPi,” Rice said.
Of the 6,661 students who reported a religious preference, only about 2 percent of the population identified themselves as Jewish. Rice hopes that the fraternity’s presence on campus will influence this community on campus and encourage Jewish students across the country to apply to SMU.
However, although AEPi is based on Jewish principles, Rice said that it is non-discriminatory and promotes inclusion.
“My priority as AEPi president is to simply provide an alternative place for students to surround themselves with those they most relate to,” he said.
This unbiased and welcoming outlook is what AEPi Vice President Lance Barnard found important when he chose to become a founding father of the fraternity. He said that as an underclassman he wanted to find a place that fit both his personality and ideals without sacrificing his ambition and independence. Barnard, a senior from the North East, wanted to find the same fellowship he had at home.
“I had always taken for granted the camaraderie to be found from sharing my Jewish identity and culture with friends even though I’m not particularly religious,” he said.
First-year Austin Marks joined AEPi because he also found it to be the best fit for himself. Marks said it is where he developed the most connection with current and incoming members.
“Although some of my friends joined other fraternities, I saw a strong future with AEPi,” Marks said.
The founding members of AEpi are excited to be part of something new and are excited to help the fraternity grow. Members of the fraternity host weekly events open to all who are interested in joining.
“We know it’s going to take time, so we have to be patient, but we are very optimistic about expansion and fraternity rush next year,” Rice said.
Barnard is looking forward to the future of the fraternity and sees its recognition by IFC as a huge milestone.
“It’s a declaration to both current and perspective students that there is a new type of fraternity on campus,” he said. “One where you feel free to genuinely be yourself.”