SAE fraternity to eliminate pledging

The national organization replaced the pledge program with an expedited joining process.

Anne Millerbernd

Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity that’s drawn scrutiny in the national greek community, eliminated its pledging process earlier this month.

The decision stems from a number of behavioral issues on a national scale, including hazing, alcohol, drugs and multiple member deaths.

The organization replaced the eight-week pledge program with the “True Gentleman Experience,” which includes an add/drop process allowing a potential new member 96 hours after accepting his bid to complete the requirements for new membership.

The University’s SAE chapter president, Bradley Otto, said the aim of the change is not only to curb bad press and some future behavioral issues, but to better educate members during their time in the fraternity.

“One death of any member is too many, and that’s just something that we can’t have anymore,” he said. “The new system … really takes a holistic approach to educating the entire fraternity.”

Instead of just educating new members about the history and traditions of SAE during pledging, those stages of education will be spread out over each year spent as a member, Otto said.

At least 10 member deaths since 2006 have been linked to hazing, alcohol or drugs at the fraternity’s events nationally, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

SAE sanctioned its chapters more than 100 times between 2007 and 2012 for violating university or national policies, according to a list of risk-management issues published on the national organization’s website.

The University’s chapter has mostly stayed out of the trend of behavioral sanctions. Since 2007, it has had only one sanction: consumption of alcohol by minors in September 2012. The chapter has been in normal status since May 2013.

Pledging is a deep-rooted tradition for many fraternities, University Interfraternity Council President Cameron Schilling said, but the change in the pledging process may not mean fewer new members for SAE.

“There sometimes are those negative stereotypes with the term ‘pledging’ based on how it was in the ’80s and ’90s,” he said. “Maybe parents or kids will be drawn to something like [this].”

The pledge program, or probationary period, served as a way for members and pledges to get to know each other before initiation, Otto said. Eliminating the pledge program won’t be detrimental to the fraternity, he said, but will require some adjustments.

“There’s going to have to be … some more considerations before that bid is given out to potential new members,” he said. “But overall, it’s nothing too drastic.”

Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life Director Matt Levine said the University’s chapter members have been receptive to the move so far.

“I think our organization’s really embracing the change,” he said. “The members seem to be responding well, and they want to serve as leaders on this initiative.”

Though the pledge program will be missed, Otto said, the decision is positive for the fraternity nationally.