An article in a recent edition of this newspaper brought attention to the supposed impending arrival of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity on campus. What then ensued can be described as nothing other than sheer public outcry: I half-expected shops to be looted and grandmothers mugged in the street, the total breakdown of public order.
The student body wailed and shrieked at the imminent possibility of this petite and quaint town of St Andrews being ravaged and pillaged by a savage and highly-sexed bunch of “bros”.
This wonderfully exaggerated and excessive response seemed strange to me. I, you see, am a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi – a fraternity already well-established here in St Andrews.
What was striking was that I was completely unaware that I had been socialising with said pillaging savages. Furthermore, I was completely unaware that I, myself, was part of this highly sexed posse.
My academic father first introduced me to the concept of AEΠ in my first year. In fact, it was arguably he who brought the entire concept of Greek life to the UK for the first time. The terms of their expansion were negotiated with the HQ in Indiana and, four years on, the St Andrews chapter is stronger than ever. We now have chapters in many other UK universities and a membership role in the hundreds.
The fraternity, as it happens, is far from the perceived image that the public at large believe Greek life in general to be like.
We are a 101 year old association with around 10,000 members. Here, in St Andrews, we are just like any other society. Yes, there is a social aspect to our organisation – much like any other club in the town.
What set us apart from any other club, however, are our core values.
Religious values, being that we are a Jewish organisation, and our strong emphasis on personal achievement and honour create a social environment that overflows with ambition and drive.
AEΠ consistently achieves the highest grade point average on the campuses in which we have a chapter. We also boast successful alumni including Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg and executive producer of The Simpsons, James L. Brooks.
Closer to home, our chapter has already produced School Presidents for International Relations, Economics and Art History as well as a deputy editor for this very newspaper last year.
Our chapter alumni are taking positions in some of the top institutions in the country, including JPMorgan, Fidelity and Cambridge University.
What a Greek life offers, manifested in the above examples, is another body through which students can find meaning and purpose, while finding themselves and helping those around them.
AEΠ, and many other fraternities and sororities like us, ultimately have at our core the desire to make our members the leaders of tomorrow.
Our close-nit communities and highly collaborative and friendly environment can set many on a path to success. I would go as far as saying that Greek life, contrary to conventional wisdom, works almost in tandem with this and other universities’ motives to seek only the best from their student body so that they may flourish in both their personal and professional lives.
The impeding arrival of fraternities and sororities into the UK was inevitable. Admittedly, the initial interest in bringing the idea of Greek life over the pond may have been largely based on media depictions of fraternity “gentlemen” with hubris and often disgusting debauchery.
The true picture, as expressed in this article, could not be further from that description.