Prior to getting to know St Andrews’ own fraternity, for me, fraternities were epitomised by beer kegs, beer pong, tank tops and Greek letters, based on my only experience of American college life from films like Bad Neighbours. However, there seems to be so much more to a frat than just wild parties — the St Andrews branch of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) does more than just party, bringing a good layer of American and Jewish culture to our little university bubble. I want to use this space to touch on some of the really unique and great things about having a fraternity here at St Andrews, because AEPi is really a lot more than a group of college guys getting drunk together.
There is only one fraternity chapter in St Andrews. AEPi is a Jewish fraternity that has over 90,000 living alumni, including Mark Zuckerberg and both members of Simon and Garfunkel. In order to become a member, you have to be a guy and have some kind of Jewish heritage or connection, but you don’t have to be a practising Jew. Whilst there is definitely an appreciation for Jewish traditions such as Hanukkah or Shabbat on a Friday night for those who want it, it’s definitely more of a social group — the brothers organise different events, pub crawls and much more for their members. Whilst the majority of the 50+ members are American, there are people from all over the world, making for a diverse community joined together by their heritage and faith.
Whilst many of the events run by the frat are done just for the brothers, they also, as in the American college films, have parties that are open to friends of the brothers on an invitation-only basis in an attempt to keep it tame. All parties are held across the two floors of one of the frat houses (an undisclosed location for the purpose of this article), usually with a guest DJ. There’s usually beer pong, plenty of people and a good time. “We want to provide events that allow our brothers to socialise with each other and their friends simultaneously at a university where nightlife is not a priority,” said party committee member Abe LeGrant, who joined the frat this year as a second year. Whilst throwing a party is a pretty regular occurrence for a lot of people at university, AEPi’s approach is a little different.
What I hadn’t realised the first time I went to a frat party was that AEPi’s party committee, formed of 13 brothers, actually takes a huge amount of care to ensure their guests have a great time. We all know that house parties have the tendency to get out of hand, but the frat is very concerned with ensuring that everyone is safe and happy. There are always ‘sober monitors’ to help if there’s a problem, usually identified on the Facebook group beforehand. Doormen guard the door to check if you’re on the guest list, stopping gatecrashers and preventing numbers inside the party from getting too high– and everyone has to take off their shoes to save the carpet. Each brother has a number of invites per party, so every single person who is invited has a personal connection with the frat. It’s a really fab way of mixing together different groups and meeting new people in St Andrews without needing to step foot in the Union. All of the party committee chip in to clean up after the parties the next day to make sure those who live there aren’t stuck with all the mess.
In the past year, some of the standout parties have been those with a philanthropic dimension. Whilst some frat parties in the States charge entry fees to earn money for their frat, St Andrews’ AEPi asks for donations to raise money for charities. Back in November, AEPi teamed up with Women For Women for a ‘stereotypical frat guy’ themed party and recommended donations of £2 at the door for Women For Women. Last Friday, AEPi’s 2020 Semester Two pledges sold hot dogs for JewishCare at their Friday Night Fever-themed party, raising £230. Although the parties are aimed at everyone having a great time, I think it’s admirable that the frat is looking beyond its own university existence to help others outside of St Andrews. It’s so easy, especially in the bubble, to forget that there is an outside world and that we can help.
One of the other great aspects of the frat parties is the DJs. Instead of the totally subpar music we are subjected to at the union every Friday night, AEPi has guest DJs every party who play a mixture of different crowd-pleasers in different genres so all music tastes are catered for. Greer Ross-McLennan, head of STAR music, is one of the regular DJs and always manages to match the music to the atmosphere perfectly, something I think seems to evade the union every single time I’m there.
So, amazing music teamed with a super caring committee of people who prioritise everybody having a great time makes for the best night out. Take note, Union!