Editorial | Proceed with caution, SAE

sigma alpha epsilon

Illustration by Gaby Fantone

Could one bad apple ruin the bunch? That’s the question we have for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity. Dubbed the nation’s “deadliest fraternity” by Bloomberg in 2013, SAE has had chapters banned or suspended from campuses for several reasons – from sexual misconduct to underaged drinking. Most recently, an 18-year-old SAE pledge at the University of California, Irvine was pronounced dead on January 12 after an off-campus SAE party.

In 2015, a video surfaced of SAE men at Oklahoma University chanting about lynching and using a racial slur. The university later said that the members had learned the chant at a national SAE leadership conference, according to The Washington Post.

Simply put, SAE doesn’t cast fraternity life in the best light.

Sometime in the fraternity’s 163-year run, it was given the nickname “Sexual Assault Expected,” an epithet that was featured in the 2015 documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which takes an in-depth look at sexual assaults and cover-ups on college campuses across the U.S.

And now, SAE is coming back to our campus. In 2014, Chapman’s chapter was suspended for four years after a “series of events” that remains ambiguous following countless rumors.

“Every frat has a problem on some campus,” Jerry Price, dean of students, told The Panther. “SAE will have to be responsible for their actions at Chapman.”

An Instagram appearing to belong to Chapman’s old SAE chapter shows partially dressed women, some with the fraternity’s letters drawn on their bare backs, a man consuming a pitcher of beer and one man wearing a sombrero with the fraternity’s letters on his neck. We know that the men featured on this Instagram (@chapmansae) don’t represent the fraternity as a whole, but it’s concerning that this is what’s publicly associated with SAE’s time at Chapman.

Greek Life at Chapman can be a mixed bag. Last semester, the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity was put on probation after its date party in October 2018, and the Phi Delta Theta fraternity was investigated in the same month after reports of spiked drinks – though no evidence was found to support the claims.

It’s worth noting that overall, Chapman’s Greek Life hasn’t had many scandals, and our fraternities and sororities have generally good reputation – and it’s been four years since SAE’s suspension, so very few, if any, of the men who were members then are still on campus. This could be fresh start for Chapman’s chapter – it’s up to the new members to embrace that opportunity.

SAE has made some positive changes, including eliminating pledging – the process through which new members are initiated – and banning hard alcohol at SAE facilities and chapter events, though the SAE pledge who died in Irvine is thought by his family to have died from alcohol poisoning.

A fraternity is only as good as the men who are in it. SAE doesn’t have an ideal track record, and even after reforming its pledging process and attitude toward alcohol, five chapters were banned from campuses across the U.S. in 2018 for various reasons. We want to believe that this fraternity’s time at Chapman won’t include dangerous drinking behavior, alleged sexual misconduct and racist chants, but only time will tell.