When I started as a student at American University a decade ago, freshman women were warned to stay away from parties hosted by an unofficial fraternity called Epsilon Iota, or EI. And we largely did—apparently to the dismay of EI members.
An email dated March 20 and allegedly culled from an EI listerv reads, “I just think that more intimate pre-games where the girls would feel more relaxed and safe would be such a good idea to get the bitches into the right state of intoxication so that plows will be raining all over the place.”
That's just one example of the chilling remarks contained in 70 pages of emails and texts that were posted online last week, said to be collected from the EI Google group. Some of the others were far worse:
“She’s the type of girl you need to fuck hard and rape in the woods.”
“Dumb bitches learning their place.”
“Someone needs to stuff a dick in that girl’s mouth.”
Most of the messages are an incoherent stew of rape “jokes” and references to “bitches,” but some include allusions to EI brothers assaulting a woman and to women being raped by EI members.
A Change.org petition calling for the expulsion of the EI members in question has already gathered about 800 signatures, and AU president Neil Kerwin has since said in a statement that the emails require “immediate attention” from the university because “the allegations include high risk and harmful behaviors that ... may represent breaches of our student conduct code and of the law.”
Throughout the firestorm, EI has been referred to as an “underground fraternity,” but that term inappropriately lends it the cachet of a Skull & Bones-type elite society.
In reality, EI is an unrecognized collective that formed from the wreckage of American’s former Alpha Tau Omega chapter, which was shuttered in 2001 after a series of hazing and alcohol abuse incidents, according to this AU guide to greek life.
As another AU frat put in a recent Facebook post, EI is more like a "freelance club of douchebags pretending to be a fraternity.”
Still, the group continued to recruit on campus, and some members reported experiencing a tighter bond with fellow members because of the club’s clandestine operation. An EI house was responsible for 15 neighborhood complaints in a single year, with locals complaining of “loud parties, public urination, and trash.”
In 2006, the university threatened to disband EI, saying it posed threats to the campus community because “it does not follow any sort of bylaws and engages in questionable behavior such as hazing and excessive drinking.” (EI responded by saying that it does have bylaws.)
Over time, the group’s name became synonymous on campus with sexual assault, more as a heuristic than a known correlation.
"Let's get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [fraternity] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy's room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?” wrote Alex Knepper, a columnist for the university’s paper, The Eagle, in a controversial op-ed in 2010. Knepper was castigated for seeming to justify date rape, but it was no accident that he named EI in his example.