AMS revisits fraternity ban

Online student feedback form the first step in review process

The house at 116 Bagot St. was the Medical House until the 1940s.
Image by: Tiffany Lam
The house at 116 Bagot St. was the Medical House until the 1940s.

The AMS is seeking legal consultation regarding the 78-year-old ban on its members becoming part of fraternities or sororities.

The public review process began last week in response to concerns about whether the ban reflects the wishes of students and whether it’s enforceable.

“A part of [the] process is seeking a definitive legal opinion on the clause in our constitution and how it intersects with different aspects of the society,” said AMS Vice President of University Affairs, Mira Dineen.

In 1934, AMS members were banned from being a member of a fraternity or a sorority, regardless of its affiliation with Queen’s or any other university because of concerns regarding how it would affect the school community. The ban was written into the Society’s constitution, where it remains today.

The policy stipulates that “no member of the Society shall be an active member of any fraternity or sorority, that is, any organization composed of students and former students which has a secret oath, constitution or pledge or which has a sign of identification such as a pin or Greek letters, or which is affiliated with any organization outside of the University.”

An AMS member is any undergraduate, MBA or medical student who has paid their full slate of student fees.

The constitution also states that any violation of the rule will lead to prosecution by the AMS.

Two-thirds of the universities recognized by the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada don’t have a university-affiliated fraternity or sorority.

While Queen’s is one of these universities, some Queen’s students do belong to fraternities. Currently there’s at least one fraternity in the city that operates as Kingston-affiliated. This organization has active members considered a part of the AMS student body.

This discrepancy in policy has raised concerns regarding the enforceability of the ban and whether it reflects the wishes of the student population. “

The concerns have been raised at different points,” Dineen, ArtSci ’12, said. “Questions have been raised as to whether the ban is enforceable and whether it reflects the current student body’s wishes. So we are really looking forward to the opportunity to talk to students about this and find out what students think.”

The AMS is currently in a consultative phase in its review.

Although there has been legal consultation regarding the ban, Dineen said she’s unable to speak about it until a “definitive legal opinion” has been reached.

Last Thursday, the AMS executive announced they were starting a process to receive student feedback regarding the ban.

Dineen said concerns about the policy were looked into in 2010 by AMS executive team CHR, who were conducting research regarding the ban. The first step in the process is a feedback form located on the AMS’s website.

So far, 105 forms have been submitted using the form on the AMS blog. The Society has also received 50 separate emails on the issue.

The AMS plans to expand dialogue through other forums, which could include town hall meetings and more intensive surveys.

Dineen, along with other AMS staff, will take the feedback received from students, compile it into a report and present it to AMS Assembly. According to Dineen, this is unlikely to happen before next semester.

The one known active fraternity with AMS members is Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi). In 2010, the existence of AEPi was brought to the attention of the AMS executive.

The fraternity isn’t affiliated with Queen’s and accepts members who aren’t from the University.

“At the time, it was an agreement that as long as we stay off campus and essentially don’t do anything that would be considered stupid to both our international fraternity and the school, then we would be essentially left alone,” Dylan Glancy, AEPi president, said.

Since then, AEPi hasn’t had any contact with the AMS or the University administration about the status of their fraternity.

Glancy said the fraternity is more than happy to remain a Kingston group and stay unaffiliated with Queen’s or the AMS.

“We see no reason to open up the debate again.”

AEPi is a culturally Jewish fraternity but will admit non-Jewish students who agree to espouse the values of the culture.

Glancy said AEPi tries to shed the image of the typical fraternity portrayed in movies, such as 1978’s Animal House.

“We make the distinction between frat and fraternity men,” he said.

This is shown through the community work and philanthrophy that the group does, he said. Members are involved in fundraising on local, national and international levels. The fraternity bans any form of hazing.

In 1934, when the ban at Queen’s was first constituted, there were concerns that fraternities weren’t conducive to the Queen’s spirit and traditions. Although there were several fraternities affiliated with the University, Queen’s never had any sororities.

“My well-considered fear is that fraternities on the campus would tend to set up a caste system that in the long run would injure the democratic tradition of Queen’s,” wrote J. Alex Edmison, Arts ’26 in the Alumni Review at the time.

The summer after the ban was instated, a group of medical students created a chapter of Nu Sigma Nu, an international fraternity, in the hopes theirs would be overlooked.

But the AMS didn’t overlook its existence, and in October of 1934, a group of 24 students were prosecuted by the AMS Court (now known as the Judicial Committee) for going against the constitution.

A public trial took place on campus with over 800 students in attendance. The students were found guilty, meaning they were unable to participate in athletic or social events on campus. Of the 24, four were star football players who were barred from playing due to the decisions. After the football season was over, the suspension was overturned.

The house never got fully shut down, though. The medical group is still around today, albeit in quite different form. It’s no longer a fraternity, but a non-University affiliated residence on King Street for 13 medical students called Meds House.

Other than parties it throws for medical students, the house doesn’t host any public events or fundraisers.

House President, Dylan Hoare said his experience has allowed for a smoother integration into the medical school community.

“You have 12 immediate friends in medical school,” Hoare, Meds ’15, said. “It’s nice to complain together about the course load [and] you can help each other get assignments done.”

Incoming residents are still told stories from its past, Hoare said.

Outside of this history, the AMS’s recent review of the fraternity ban has garnered a mixed response.

Based on her personal experience, Sarah Robert, ArtSci ’14, is opposed to bringing fraternities and sororities to campus. She’s currently on exchange at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Plattsburgh, NY. Robert has noticed that a large part of the culture at SUNY is based on fraternities and sororities.

“I find the atmosphere is very different,” she said. “It’s not worse per se, it’s just a very different culture at the school.” Robert believes introducing fraternities and sororities at Queen’s would change the atmosphere in the Ghetto with rowdier parties.

In addition, the neighbourhood would be full of frat houses.

“I think there would be more town-gown relationship problems,” she said.

At SUNY Plattsburgh, most student extracurricular activities are centered on fraternities and sororities.

“I just think a lot of clubs would disappear because people’s time would become devoted to frats and sororities because they have less time,” she said.

For some, like Brigitte Taylor, being a part of a sorority encouraged involvement on campus.

The fourth-year student at Wilfrid Laurier Univeristy joined the Alpha Phi sorority at Laurier when she was in second year.

Currently, there are three fraternities and three sororities at Laurier.

“We’re given skills through the sororities to start our own clubs,” she said. “We’re encouraged to be leaders. Many of us have taken leadership positions at school.”

One of the sorority’s values is to encourage its members to get involved in the overall community of the school. Most members, she said, have social circles outside the sorority.

“I think every school should have the opportunity to be a part of it.”


AMS, Student life

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