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February 16, 2016

SG Passes Resolution Demanding Action Toward AEPi, Fraternities

Student Government (SG) passed a resolution Monday endorsing demands for University action in response to the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) e-mails leaked last week. The Multicultural Greek Council held an event of its own on Thursday addressing the emails and recent calls to ban Greek life from campus. 

At Monday’s Assembly Meeting, Student Government passed a student resolution authored by members of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), Organization of Black Students (OBS), and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in response to the e-mails. The resolution states that while the office of Campus and Student Life (CSL) condemned Islamophobic, racist, and sexist language in the e-mails, it did not specifically address attacks against Palestinian-American students. It goes on to list incidences of racism and attacks against SJP members on campus since 2010, including a racist Halloween costume in 2014 and vandalism of SJP posters. Forty-two student organizations endorsed the resolution.

The resolution demands that the University suspend its relationship with AEPi, which would entail discontinuing any funding of the fraternity and prohibiting its use of campus spaces until the members of AEPi formally apologize to the Muslim Students Association and African-American and Palestinian students. It also demands yearly sensitivity training on diversity and sexual assault for members of Greek life. 

“I think the fact that it passed as a resolution in Student Government indicates that they are a representative body for students here, so it really means a lot,” third-year Stephanie Greene, President of OBS, said. 

In a statement sent to The Maroon, the members of SG’s Executive Committee explained that “it is our stance that the University has a responsibility to clarify its relationship to its Greek life organizations…and to establish and enforce guidelines that will hold groups accountable for the racist, misogynistic, and Islamophobic actions exhibited by its members.” 

Authors of the resolution met with the administration Wednesday, and will continue to meet with Vice President for Campus Life Karen Warren Coleman, according to second-year Sara Zubi a co-author of the resolution. The administration “conceded that it is probably time to consider investing in defining the relationship between the University and Greeks, especially since Greek life involvement is increasing on campus,” according to Zubi.

Warren Coleman and Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen released a statement to The Maroon after the meeting apologizing for their initial exclusion of Palestinian students in the criticism of the AEPi e-mails. 

“We strongly believe that we all must continue to work together on ensuring our campus community is welcome to everyone,” the statement said. “CSL staff remains committed to meeting with individual students and groups about issues of concern and constructive ways to move forward.” 

This response follows the Panhellenic Council’s decision to suspend AEPi from its annual Greek Week this year. Additionally, a letter published by the Leaders of Color Initiative earlier this week called for the University to hire a more diverse faculty and to expand the Core Curriculum in light of the e-mail release.

The Multicultural Greek Council, which includes Latino, African-American, and Asian interest fraternities and sororities, held its own event on Thursday night in response to the e-mails and to calls to ban all Greek Life on campus.   

This event featured speakers from Multicultural Greek Organizations on campus, a DePaul graduate representing Delta Sigma Theta, and Loann J. Honesty King, a long-time Chicago historian and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha are both African-American interest sororities.

Panelists explained that Multicultural Greek Organizations (MGOs) were founded in response to the exclusivity of other Greek organizations. Some of the panelists argued that this history shows that Greek life can illustrate progress as well as racism and exclusion. 

“I do not believe that sororities and fraternities are an incubator for racist or sexist activities,” King said. “This is a society problem, and this comes out [in Greek life] because fraternities and sororities…provide an atmosphere…where people can share what they’re thinking without exposure.” 

Third-year Anthony Jackson, president of Alpha Phi Alpha, an African-American interest fraternity at UChicago, added, “when I see calls on social media to ban all fraternities on claims that all Greek organizations promote a certain lifestyle, it is just untrue.” 

Greene, who co-authored the SG resolution, agreed. “While MGOs…fall under the overall Greek guidelines, these AEPi problems aren’t problems of MGOs,” she said.

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