by Jess Hoogendoorn
Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) ceased to exist on Lawrenceville’s campus in early December, making it the third fraternity in two years to lose its charter. Fraternities Phi Kappa Tau and Zeta Beta Tau were disbanded in July 2007 and November 2007, respectively.
However, this time it was not the university that made the decision to shut down a fraternity; it was the national organization that asserted Rider’s Beta Psi chapter was not up to par.
“The national fraternity chose to close the Beta Psi chapter due to a long list of risk management violations; there had been over 100 write-ups by the university,” said Andrew Neiberg, the director of chapter development, southern region, for AEPi. “Employees of the university and national fraternity were disrespected by brothers of the chapter. Lastly, membership dues checks continually bounced.”
Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley said she knew of at least one check that did not clear.
“There were some issues with their finances,” she said.
Rider’s chapter was notorious for paying dues at the last minute but always had the money, according to junior Sal Brucculeri, the former president of the fraternity.
“We don’t think they bounced,” he said. “Our money, as far as we know, was fine.”
Brucculeri said that the one bad check Badgley may be aware of was a check that a brother handed in but asked a national representative not to cash until after a certain date. If any check bounced it must have been that one, said Brucculeri.
Badgley said the closing came as a surprise, but she had been aware that the relationship between the Rider chapter and the national organization had “been a little bit strained.” There were some instances of risk-management and personality issues cited by the national fraternity, she said.
The closing of the fraternity came as a shock to most of the members as well. The brothers were sent an e-mail the morning of the last day of finals last semester informing them that there would be a meeting with the national fraternity. There were only three brothers left on campus, according to Brucculeri.
“We had no warning; we didn’t know,” said senior Jason Sullivan. “It just hit us like a ton of bricks.”
Brucculeri said he had already moved out and was at work when he received a call at 11 a.m. from Badgley telling him there was a meeting with the national organization that afternoon.
“Dean [of Students Anthony] Campbell and Ada told us that it would interfere with our academics if we were told [about the closing] prior to [the last day of finals],” Brucculeri said. “However, we are adults, we can multi-task. They basically said that if they [told us] then our minds would not be on our academics as much as they would be on our fraternity.”
Campbell said the university did not know about the closing until 4 p.m. the Friday before winter break. Campbell said he did not want to disrupt the students’ exams, but tried to make contact with the president and a lot of the student leaders on Tuesday. Four members of the chapter were able to attend the Tuesday afternoon meeting.
“We had hoped more of the brothers would be able to attend, but the timing of the notice to the university and the exam calendar prevented an earlier meeting,” Campbell wrote in a letter addressed to Beta Psi members.
According to Sullivan, the residence directors said another reason no one was told about the closing earlier was that it was feared the brothers would throw a party and damage the house.
“They decided to wait to tell us until we’re all home and split up because if we’re banded together we can somehow think of something,” Sullivan said. “They took it away from us while we were all home. We were put in a situation where we couldn’t win.”
Brucculeri and Sullivan believe that some of the personality issues between the chapter and national fraternity had to do with the religion of the Beta Psi members.
The national fraternity was founded as a Jewish fraternity intended to promote leadership opportunities for Jewish students.
The Beta Psi chapter, which was founded in 1993 and is currently listed as inactive on the national fraternity’s Web site, only had three Jewish brothers. However, the chapter did some of its community service with a local synagogue, according to Brucculeri and Sullivan.
Although rumors have been circulating that religion may have been a cause for some of the tension, Campbell does not believe the accusations are true.
However, some of the brothers said they felt that the national organization has been looking for an excuse to cancel their charter.
At one point, a national adviser told the brothers that they needed to recruit a certain number of Jewish students each semester, said Brucculeri.
“We were told by our fraternity adviser that we were supposed to have a quota of Jewish males, and we just never followed that quota,” he said. “He advised us to get at least 10 Jewish brothers [each] semester.”
Brucculeri said that the Beta Psi chapter did not look to recruit students based on whether they were Jewish or not, but if they were a good fit for the fraternity.
Brucculeri explained that when he pledged it was not because of the national mission.
“We pledged because we saw a brotherhood that we wanted to be a part of,” he said.
A national fraternity representative reportedly said that when he visited Rider’s chapter he felt disrespected.
“From his words, he felt harassed and intimidated by some of the brothers,” Badgley said.
Prior to this, a chapter adviser quit after a dispute with a former Beta Psi president. The adviser felt the house was not doing a good job promoting AEPi nationally, according to Brucculeri. The adviser said Beta Psi did not exemplify AEPi but he never said what should change, said Brucculeri.
When Badgley met with representatives of the national fraternity, she was told that the Rider chapter “was not receptive.” Campbell said according to university policy, all Greek chapters must be recognized by their national organization in order to exist on campus.
The 26 brothers of AEPi who were living in University House were relocated to other residence halls on campus.
“We worked with Residence Life to find rooms around campus and placed every student who wanted to remain on campus before the start of the spring semester,” Badgley said. “We were able to honor their requests to stay with roommates as well.”
In a letter Campbell wrote to the brothers, he explained that the members who already moved out would have to make an appointment to return to Rider between Jan. 7 and 10 to retrieve any personal belongings from their rooms.
After the shut-down Brucculeri was stopped in Cranberry’s by a Public Safety officer and told to cover up his AEPi jersey or take it off.
Badgley and Campbell said they do not know why this happened.
“They can wear their jerseys on campus,” Campbell said. “What they’re not able to do is reserve rooms, gather as an official group or be part of the university’s Greek Life.”