When I was in high school, the word “fraternity” had only one meaning. It meant getting drunk every weekend on watered-down beer. It meant dance floor makeouts in dirty basements at the frat house. It meant Frank the Tank streaking in “Old School.” Then I came to Yale and found out that most of this is true.
On any given weekend, you can generally find a keg of Natty Light in the basement of some house to drink from, multiple couples drunkenly making out in the corner of the room, and usually at least one half-naked person. I’ll be the first to admit that experience can sometimes be fun. But what nobody ever told me when I came to Yale is that fraternities can be more than that, too.
I joined AEPi in the spring of my freshman year. Soon afterwards, I discovered that “Animal House” isn’t all there is to fraternity life on this campus.
AEPi is a community of students intent on having fun, building friendships that will last a lifetime and growing as people. Through the fraternity, I have made friends with guys involved in activities from debate to a cappella. Past seniors have given me advice on everything from choosing my classes to job hunting to where to live in a new city. I can rely on my brothers if I want someone to talk to about anything from the Celtics/Lakers game to the loss of a family member. They are friends I will have for life.
As Yale’s only Jewish fraternity, AEPi has also been a venue for brothers to explore Judaism culturally, spiritually and socially in a unique way. Want to knock back a few beers while studying the Old Testament? Torah on Tap is there. Curious about Slifka’s Friday night dinners, but you don’t have anyone to go with? There’s an AEPi table there every week. AEPi’s non-Jewish members have also loved the social culture of the religion and a chance to join a community they otherwise never would have seen.
Unlike most extracurriculars on campus, AEPi is not grounded in a “common interest.” We do not all sing or perform sketch comedy. Because of this, we are free to explore everything the campus and its surroundings have to offer. When a group of brothers wanted to check out a haunted house, we drove out to an epic haunted trail on Halloween. Every week I hear from brothers taking advantage of different opportunities around campus, from entrepreneurial competitions to community service projects.
More than anything else, though, AEPi has been built upon the integrity of its brothers, and their respect for each other and the Yale community. We trust each other fully with personal stories, and have a weekly meeting to share what’s going on in our lives with close friends. Unlike some fraternities, AEPi does not haze.
Most organizations that we join on campus are about activities we have a curiosity or a passion for. They are enjoyable, but they are also an obligation. Fraternities are not an obligation. They are a way to balance the rest of our lives and to help us make the best of our time at Yale. AEPi does not add to my responsibilities, but rather helps me deal with them. There is no better way to deal with the stress of an upcoming exam than to relax with a tight-knit group of friends and have a good time.
Joining a fraternity has shaped my — and many others’ — experiences at Yale. Sure, many of us still like to party like there’s not a midterm on Monday, or drink outrageously cheap alcohol, but we also enjoy having a group of friends to go to that Glee Club performance with, talk to about our newest girlfriend, or just chill with and watch the football game. So next time you see those fliers to rush a fraternity, it could be worth it to show up to an event. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Zach Kagin is a senior in Silliman College and a staff cartoonist for the News.