NICK JEBSEN, NEWS EDITOR | MONDAY, MARCH 6, 2017
In a move that has sparked controversy, fear, anger, and intrigue, freshman Edwar Aviles-Mercedes and five of his close friends have started a club resembling a fraternity called Alpha Theta Kappa. As of February 17th it is an officially sanctioned club, recognized and funded by Bard’s fiscal committee.
In a statement released via email that day, the fiscal committee explained their reasoning for sanctioning and funding the club. Among the factors cited was the fact that Alpha Theta Kappa would not be permitted, based on Bard College rules, to discriminate based on gender.
Polite and affable in an interview with Bard Watch, Aviles-Mercedes talked about where this idea came from, explaining the “mission” of Alpha Theta Kappa and his personal reasons for founding the fraternity.
“Alpha Theta Kappa is a multicultural greek letter organization, hear to unite young men on campus. We do that through A.C.T; we are accountable, we are committed, we are trustworthy. We want to destigmatize fraternities and greek life in general.”
Aviles-Mercedes talked about his attitudes toward party culture, explaining that while Alpha Theta Kappa “would be open to parties, just like any other club… civic engagement and leadership building” would be the main focus of the organization.
In accordance with Bard College rules, Alpha Theta Kappa has to admit members of any gender. However, Aviles-Mercedes clearly intended for this organization to be men only.
When asked whether his fraternity would be co-ed, he responded, “No.”
He then explained that he felt that excluding women would assist him in his stated goal of “destigmatizing fraternities.”
I explained to Aviles-Mercedes that many students at Bard are worried that an all male organization could attract misogynists.
“I see that perspective.”Aviles-Mercedes said. “But there are single sex organizations on campus that have done great things.”
Aviles-Mercedes’ statement confused me, so I asked him what his perspective was on the controversy surrounding greek life, hazing and sexual assault.
“Hazing is illegal,”Aviles-Mercedes replied. “As is sexual assault. So there you go. It’s not going to be tolerated.”
President Botstein gave Alpha Theta Kappa his blessing, provided that it remains a service organization, and not a social fraternity. In response to an email sent out by the fiscal committee, Alpha Theta Kappa issued the following statement: “ATK is a multicultural collegiate Greek oriented fraternity which aims to create a space for students to establish a bond and build a brotherhood. We welcome anyone who is interested in our mission and helping execute it regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or creed.”
This has not stopped students from voicing their concerns at community meetings and on the Facebook page Bard: No BOYS Allowed, a group started for Bard girls to discuss women’s issues. For now, Alpha Theta Kappa is here to stay; the controversy surrounding this new organization remains as well.
Photo courtesy of Edwar Mercedes.
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