Members of Alpha Epsilon Phi, a sorority that had its University chapter closed last year due to hazing and drug incidents, are continuing to recruit members under the guise of the AEPhi name.
About 40 girls showed up at the Delta Sigma Phi house – a fraternity whose charter was revoked by its national organization in 2002 – on Monday night for a recruitment party organized by the former AEPhi sisters introducing a “secret society” they call PHI.
An estimated 80 invitations were handed out to freshmen, along with specific instructions to keep the meeting a secret. The centerpiece of the invitation, along with the banner that hung above DeltaSig’s front door, was a design featuring the lowercase Greek letter xi. AEPhi was mentioned as the invitations were handed out by recruiters, according to an anonymous source, who did not with to reveal her name because of the secrecy surrounding the recruitment.
Using the AEPhi name or letters for recruitment purposes in any way – even mentioning the sorority to recruits – “is illegal and very concerning,” said Bonnie Wunsch, the executive director of the national AEPhi organization. Wunsch said that as soon as she has the names of the organizers of Monday night’s event, her attorney will be sending them cease-and-desist letters, forbidding ex-sorority sisters from linking themselves with AEPhi in any way.
Plans are under way to allow AEPhi to reopen by fall of 2006, a decision that will be made jointly by the Panhellenic Association and the national AEPhi organization. However, the recent recruitment activities may significantly hurt the sorority’s chances for re-formation, according to Wunsch.
Monday night’s event “undermined the work that AEPhi has done to come back to the University of Michigan,” Wunsch said.
Lindsey Fediuk, spokeswoman for the Panhellenic Association, said “These recent recruitment activities will certainly be taken into consideration” when deciding the date that AEPhi can return to campus.
If it is determined that the former members of AEPhi have violated the rules against misleading recruits, causing them to believe they were being invited to join an affiliate of the AEPhi sorority, then “legal action is certainly a possibility,” Wunsch said.
“We have two concerns,” Fediuk said. “One is the illegality of their actions, and the other is the fact that they may be leading girls on.”
A freshman whose neighbor in Markley was invited to Monday night’s event and who wishes to remain anonymous described how the recruitment process worked.
“An ex-AEPhi member delivered the letter to my friends roommate, and told her, ‘this never happened, don’t mention this to anyone,'” she said. “It was definitely kept on the DL.” She added that the name AEPhi was definitely mentioned during the invitation process.
Wunsch said many parents and AEPhi alumnae have contacted her recently, concerned about rumors they were hearing of a secret society bearing the AEPhi name.
The Markley freshman said prospective sorority sisters were alerted to the existence of an underground group, PHI Society, at an official Greek rush event. They were assured that it was not at all affiliated with Greek life, and were discouraged from joining.
At Monday night’s meeting, inside a room enclosed in black curtains and surrounded by about 20 former AEPhi members dressed in black, a woman spoke to the recruits about the new group. The speaker – who introduced herself as a former AEPhi sister – made it clear that PHI is not associated with Panhel, but that women were encouraged to join in order to “carry on the tradition of AEPhi.”
Wunsch said if she had been consulted by the former AEPhi members, she would “never, ever have granted them permission to start this society.”
If the sorority does re-form on campus, the girls who were once in the chapter will not be readmitted. “The national organization will be recruiting a whole new set of girls,” Fediuk said.
Wunsch added that if any of the organizers of Monday’s event were in the group that was granted alumna status when AEPhi was shut down last year, “their status will now be in jeopardy.”