UChicago dealing with aftermath of AEPi’s racist emails

The University of Chicago AEPi building, left, and a neighboring vacant lot referred to as “Palestine” in emails between members obtained by BuzzFeed News. | Image via Google Street View

Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi rocked the University of Chicago’s campus last month when BuzzFeed News obtained emails that referred to Muslim student activists as “terrorists” and mocked Martin Luther King Day, calling it “Marathon Luther King Day” and saying to celebrate by eating fried chicken.

AEPi International spokesperson AEPi Jonathan Pierce told New Voices that the AEPi national organization is working with the University of Chicago to ensure that this does not continue.

We have been working closely with University administrators to develop a plan of action which will address these issues with the administration as well as with others in the campus community,” said Pierce in an email interview.

“This will include holding forums with some groups and individuals as well as hosting on-campus events in the future to promote tolerance and understanding.”

Many students were angry and even afraid after the emails became public.

“The main effect the AEPi email leak had on the Organization of Black Students was that it made lots [of] black students feel uncomfortable and unwelcome on campus,” OBS president Stephanie Greene told New Voices via email. “We are still in talks with administration about ways to fix this problem.”

Many students feel this isn’t the first time racism at UChicago has been allowed to run rampant. In November, Palestine Legal staff attorney Rahul Saksena wrote a letter to the president of UChicago on behalf of two students and Students for Justice in Palestine that documented a “pattern of suppression to silence Palestinian human rights advocacy” on campus.

Among the incidents documented were posters with the university logo hung in October 2015 that read “SJP: Stabbing Jews for Peace,” and the creation of a fake account in November that impersonated a Palestinian SJP member and left violent and anti-Semitic comments on SJP’s Facebook page.

A statement condemning UChicago’s response to the AEPi emails, written by the Muslim Students Association, OBS, and SJP was endorsed by the city of Chicago’s SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace along with UChicago’s JVP, Phoenix Survivors Alliance and Queers United in Power.

“So far, UChicago has issued a public apology to Palestinian students for leaving them out of the initial University statement regarding the emails, and this week, effected (sic) communities will meet with AEPi for apologies,” Greene said.

Now, students are focusing on what the University can do from here.

“The school can clarify its relationships with fraternities and sororities,” Greene said. “It can also set guidelines that details what is acceptable group behavior of fraternities and sororities on campus.

“The difficulty we are running into right now is that it is unclear how AEPi interacts with the university. So, in the future, U Chicago needs to play a more hands on role in figuring out its relationship with these sorts of student groups.”

As an international organization, AEPi says it stands with those affected by U Chicago’s AEPi chapter.

“As a Jewish fraternity, we know as well as anyone the pain of being belittled and marginalized,” said AEPi Executive Director Andrew Borans in a statement posted on AEPi’s website. “We don’t stand for it when it happens to us and we won’t tolerate it when it is being done to others.”

Students from U Chicago’s AEPi, MSA, and OBS declined New Voices’ requests for comment.


Nicole Zelniker is a student at Guilford College.

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