Op-Ed: It’s time for the University to stand up to EI
In 2001, the Epsilon Iota chapter of Alpha Tau Omega lost its charter and became unrecognized on AU's campus. The group members subsequently formed an unrecognized, underground “fraternity” known as Epsilon Iota or EI. Thirteen years later, in the spring of 2014, a 70-page document consisting of email threads and texts between EI members was leaked to the AU community. Not only did the document expose the group’s use of virulently homophobic, racist, ableist, sexist, and misogynist language, the emails also revealed that members of EI had committed acts of sexual violence against women who attended their parties.
These emails made – and continue to make – many AU students feel unsafe on campus.
The EI leak has shown that AU is not immune to the rape culture ingrained in our society. Following a media firestorm around what some dubbed “Fratergate,” the AU administration claimed they would take steps to fight this rape culture on our campus. With conviction, the administration repeatedly stated that no EI activity will be tolerated on campus. And yet, the administration continues to show that even though they may talk the talk, they certainly cannot walk the walk.
On Feb. 9 and again on Feb. 11, students reported seeing large groups of EI members congregated in TDR wearing shirts displaying the phrases “RUSH EI” and “SUCK MY WONK.” We’ve heard from many students eating there that said they were triggered and felt terrified to be in a room with EI members, individuals who are proud to be a part of an organization that disrespects and violates the safety and security of all students.
It is our belief that allowing EI continued access to university space has in turn encouraged AU students to rush the organization. This year, EI has taken yet another pledge class, despite the collective knowledge of the danger these students pose to AU’s community. EI’s attitudes and actions will not simply disappear after some of its members graduate; instead, EI will live on through each upcoming class.
We have a right to feel safe where we live and learn. That right that is guaranteed to us under Title IX, which states that, “if a school knows or reasonably should know about discrimination, harassment or violence that is creating a ‘hostile environment’ for any student, it must act to eliminate it, remedy the harm caused and prevent its recurrence.” Under Title IX, the AU administration has the ability to do much more than simply condemn EI and the actions of its members. By refusing to take any action whatsoever, AU protects an organization that threatens the values that it claims to uphold. If AU wants to continue preaching diversity, safety and tolerance to its students – and to the world – it can no longer allow EI members to have free reign on its campus. For AU to truly become a safe environment for all students, it must prohibit any and all EI activities.
As the administration continues to turn a blind eye to this dangerous organization, we continue to fight against the rape culture EI perpetuates. The time for whispering about EI is over. Now, we must actively work against them in whatever way we can. This starts by spreading awareness of who they are by refusing to attend their parties and by discouraging our friends from rushing and associating with the individuals involved.
But the work cannot stop there. It is time for the AU administration to finally live up to its creed and make this campus a truly safe environment for all people. As students, it is time we demand better from our university and make AU the safe space it claims to be.
Naomi Zeigler is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. Aaron Marks is a junior in the School of Public Affairs. Faith Ferber is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.