UA fraternity suspended for attacking members of Jewish frat

(JTA) — A fraternity at the University of Arizona was put on interim suspension after 15 of its members allegedly attacked members of a Jewish fraternity.

Members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity are accused of assault and discrimination in the incident at the apartment of an Alpha Epsilon Pi member the evening of Nov. 14.

The SAE group forced its way into the apartment shouting “discriminatory comments” at the AEPi students and physically assaulted them, according to the Dean of Students Office.

The president of the University of Arizona AEPi chapter said it was not the first time they have been victims of an attack, KVOA News reported.

At a national AEPi conference, Gideon Rafal, president of the UA chapter, described an incident in March in which he sustained serious injuries. Rafal said that incident began when he asked someone he didn’t know to leave his fraternity. The man raised his hand in a Hitler salute before returning with a dozen or more people who tried to enter the house.That attack is being investigated by campus police, Jeff Jacobson, a local attorney who is on the national AEPi board, told the AJP.

After the incident last week, members of SAE have been prohibited from having any contact with members of AEPi.

The Tucson Police Department is investigating last week’s incident, said Jacobson, who added that there’s no indication there is a problem between the two fraternities on campus.

“This appears to be an isolated incident,” he said.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday, UA Hillel Executive Director Michelle Blumenberg and Board Chair Steve Caine said, “We commend President [Ann Weaver] Hart and the UA administration for its just and appropriate action in placing Sigma Alpha Epsilon on interim suspension and for opening its own investigation into this anti-Jewish assault against AEPi.

“This is a sad occurrence and one that is very uncommon at the University of Arizona. We have had, and will continue to have, a strong and active Jewish community on campus. Hillel is here to foster a safe environment for Jewish students in order to create a positive campus climate for all students.”

None of the four AEPi members involved required medical treatment, Blumenberg confirmed.

The Tucson SAE chapter has been in trouble repeatedly in recent years for drunkenness, hazing, student endangerment and other misconduct, according to the UA’s online disciplinary records.

Brandon Weghorst, a spokesman for the Illinois-based headquarters of SAE, said in a statement that after last week’s incident, “chapter leadership has suspended four brothers for conduct that is inconsistent with our values and expectations for members, and we support their decision.” The SAE headquarters has launched an investigation into the AEPi incident, Weghorst said.

“Our members represent a diverse range of backgrounds, national origins and religious beliefs. In fact, the Fraternity’s national president, Bradley Cohen, is Jewish and is a graduate of the University of Arizona chapter. The organization also maintains a non-discrimination policy,” Weghorst’s statement said.

AJP Executive Editor Phyllis Braun contributed to this report.