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Our Opinion: Going Bananas Over APES

By The Editorial Board Posted: 01/24/2008
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There are several dirty four-letter words students shouldn’t say within earshot of an Emory administrator. Now you can add another to the list: APES.

Emory has revised its Undergraduate Code of Conduct to prohibit participation in banned student organizations — most notably unrecognized fraternities like APES or the former Emory chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha. Not only is it a conduct violation to participate in these organizations, it is against the rules to affiliate yourself with them in any way.

The revisions, which went into effect on Jan. 1, state that “joining, administering, representing, paying dues to, residing in housing affiliated with or claiming membership in a banned student organization” violates the conduct code.

These changes come as a result of safety concerns expressed by parents, students and members of the surrounding community. Residents on High Haven Court, the street off North Druid Hills Road where several APES members live, have complained about all manner of illegal activities, including drunk driving, possession of drug paraphernalia, public urination and fighting that has spilled out into the streets.

Behavior like this doesn’t make APES members the most sympathetic victims. What the group’s members did is inexcusable — no neighbor deserves such a string of incidents. Which is precisely why we urge the University to look into punishing the individuals for the specific violations, rather than outlawing the entire group.

Emory seems to think that the root of the problem lies with the name “APES.” We may not be experts, but we’re guessing that the problems are with the people who join the group, not with a four-letter word for a primate. To ban T-shirts with those four letters on them or to prevent them for signing their name to an intramural sport team (they simply signed up as “gorillas” and “primates” instead) is practically Orwellian. The removal of APES from the plaque displaying the names of champion intramural teams is likewise childish and largely ineffective.

Emory, as a private institution, does have the authority to restrict members of its community in such a way. But for a progressive, open-minded institution like the University to remove the freedom of association in such a manner seems to run counter to its ideology. The conduct code revisions brush dangerously close to a system of collective punishment that abridges students’ free speech.

In the case of APES, Pi Kappa Alpha and other such groups, mere affiliation should not be a punishable offense. If members of these groups commit acts which are in violation of the conduct code or the law, then it should be those individuals who are punished according to the conduct code or the law.

The responsibility for these actions lies with the individuals, not with the unrecognized frats as organizations. It is the people who are threatening the safety of the surrounding community, not the name APES. And people should be punished for their crimes, not their relationships with the criminals.

The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board.

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