Despite changes, SAE says numbers will remain strong

Sigma Alpha Epsilon members are hoping the fraternity’s new initiation process brings in higher-caliber recruits.

Sarah Connor

This fall’s newest recruits of the University of Minnesota’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter will sidestep a lengthy pledge process to gain membership in less than a week.

The fraternity abandoned the pledge process last spring, leaving some alumni wondering whether the change would affect membership numbers. But some say the new process won’t decrease bid numbers and will instead draw in higher-quality recruits.

The new “True Gentleman Experience” focuses on lifelong membership and education about the fraternity while emphasizing the importance of being a gentleman and an upstanding citizen, said Brandon Weghorst, associate executive director of communications for SAE’s national headquarters.

The recruitment process changes came after continuous scrutiny about hazing, alcohol overdose and several deaths at SAE chapters across the nation during the pledge process.

Weghorst said the new process is “an important part of addressing those issues and making people understand that this is not what SAE is about.”

With the “True Gentleman Experience,” the chapter initiates members within 96 hours of offering them a bid, which aims to eliminate issues that may have come with the former eight-week pledge process.

Timmy Carr, the University’s SAE chapter president, said the change has been a “selling point” for his chapter. So far, its recruitment numbers for this fall are similar to last year’s.

“In the past, obviously, fraternities have always had bad raps for a variety of things, and pledging is definitely one of those things,” Carr said. “And this will definitely be something that is helpful and progressive for the future.”

Similarly, SAE chapters nationwide aren’t expecting any drop in new members, Weghorst said.

Some alumni were initially concerned with the changes, thinking they may hurt membership numbers, he said. But now, most are on board with the new process, Weghorst said, as the fraternity focuses on recruiting high-quality members.

The fraternity is striving to attract leaders and scholars with the new program, he said.

“If there is somebody who wants to join a fraternity because he wants to be hazed or because he wants to be put through an ordeal … then SAE is not a good fit,” Weghorst said.

Though the change came at the heels of increased scrutiny, Weghorst said the decision to eliminate the pledge process was not due to any incident in particular. Instead, he said the fraternity’s national board of directors created it in order to reach its own set of goals and visions for the organization.

In addition to highlighting the importance of having good character, the new program aims to improve members’ experience by utilizing a “holistic approach” to member education in which they learn about the fraternity throughout their undergraduate career, he said.

University Interfraternity Council President Cameron Schilling said the University’s SAE chapter has been doing a “great job” with handling the new adjustments.