Friday, September 28, 2007

Associative rights

AEPi – Alpha Epsilon Pi – is a fraternity. A federal appeals court ruled that because AEPi does not accept women, The College of Staten Island did not have to recognize it.

Federal anti-discrimination statutes specifically exempt fraternities; Alpha Epsilon Pi claims protection of associative rights under the First Amendment.

In math, addition is associative for integers: when you add three numbers together, you get the same result whether you add the first to the sum of the second and third or you add the sum of the first and second to the third. Here’s an example: when adding three plus five plus seven, eight (three plus five) plus seven is the same as three plus twelve (five plus seven): fifteen. You could say that math protects the associative rights for integers under addition. Addition is also associative for the set of real numbers and imaginary numbers, as is multiplication.

In life, associativity is one of those self-contradictory words. On one hand, it means the process of tying together people, events, and/or ideas. But it could also be used to describe a grouping of people who share some characteristic – such as being male, which by definition means excluding others, such as females.

If the court ruling holds up, not all male students will be unhappy: at The College of Staten Island: they will likely have new options, such as being able to join – and associate with – the sororities there.

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