‘Deadliest fraternity’ Sigma Alpha Epsilon set to return to Chapman after four-year suspension

Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), dubbed the “deadliest fraternity” by Bloomberg in 2013, is returning to campus this semester in the wake of a four-year suspension that began in 2014.

The fraternity has already taken steps to reestablish Chapman’s chapter by tabling at the university’s fraternity rush kickoff Feb. 10, according to sources familiar with the event.

SAE was eligible to return to campus in fall 2018, but wasn’t approved because Chapman “wasn’t ready” to have the chapter back, said Jerry Price, Chapman’s dean of students. News of the chapter returning began circulating in sorority chapter meetings Feb. 10.

“Just like when we suspend a student and they come back, we want them to be successful,” Price said. “Sigma Alpha Epsilon has done their time, and we want them to be successful on campus.”

Chapman’s SAE chapter was put on probation after an undisclosed ruling by Student Conduct. In an interview shortly after the decision, DeAnn Yocum-Gaffney, associate dean of students, told The Panther in 2014 that a joint investigation into SAE and Chapman’s Delta Gamma sorority was triggered by an anonymous report.

That “anonymous report” pertained to “a series of events over the course of about a week” in spring 2014, Gaffney said.

“Every frat has a problem on some campus,” Price said. “SAE will have to be responsible for their actions at Chapman. They were part of our Greek family for many years. If they come back and have problems, a third invitation on campus might not be extended to them.”

Sigma Alpha Epsilon, founded in 1856, states in its creed that the fraternity’s goal is to create “the true gentleman,” but SAE has earned the moniker “Sexual Assault Expected” and has been in the midst of controversy on multiple campuses for issues ranging from sexual misconduct and underaged drinking to hazing-related injuries and deaths. One student said that his hazing experience was comparable to that of a spy being tortured for information, according to The Atlantic.

There have been at least nine reported deaths related to SAE nationwide since 2006, according to the Bloomberg investigation, and as recently as Jan. 12, an 18-year-old SAE pledge at the University of California, Irvine was pronounced dead after an on-campus party. The chapter was suspended, and the student’s family suspects that his death was alcohol-related, according to the Los Angeles Times.

SAE was one of the subjects of the 2015 documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which took an in-depth look at sexual assaults and cover-ups on college campuses across the U.S.

The fraternity was also featured in journalist John Hechinger’s book “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities,” which uses SAE as an example of the negatives of college fraternity culture, according to its Amazon description.

Griffee Albaugh, a senior history major at Chapman who has been researching SAE as part of her thesis for a year and a half, called the fraternity’s reputation “disgusting.”

“I’d like to think that we have respectful, upstanding men on our campus, but I think the organization’s behavior and their failure to operate under the values that they claim to operate under creates this harsh discrepancy,” Albaugh said. “There is a potential for (SAE) to cast a shadow on the whole collection of fraternities that we have here.”

Multiple Chapman Greek Life representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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