New information provided by university administrators sheds light on why Chapman’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapter was suspended from campus almost five years ago.
At a celebratory event in the spring 2014, some members of SAE had words and “things” drawn on their faces with marker, had alcohol poured down their throats to “guzzle” and may have been taped to chairs, said DeAnn Yocum Gaffney, associate dean of students.
“I think this is something that they all signed up for, as a ‘Let’s celebrate the end of our time as SAEs by going through this,’” Yocum Gaffney said.
At the time, the chapter was already on probation due to a cumulative drop of nearly one point in the fall 2013 new member class’ GPA.
“People fluctuate and can have different challenges, but to see that collective drop presented a concern,” Yocum Gaffney said.
The event that sparked the investigation took place during the Paddy Murphy celebration in spring 2014 – an SAE tradition commemorating the actions of member Paddy Murphy – who, as the fraternity’s legend details, saved a fraternity brother from death at the hands of gangster Al Capone.
The tale varies in detail, but according to an account of the legend posted on Kansas State University SAE chapter website, the celebration of Murphy is acknowledged by “every SΑΕ chapter.”
Yocum Gaffney described the events that transpired during Chapman’s Paddy Murphy celebration in 2014 as hazing.
“The fact that this happened during probation, looked like hazing behavior and is a ritual for graduating is very concerning,” she said.
In an email to The Panther, Dean of Students Jerry Price wrote that the university is drafting a document that will lay out how Chapman will respond to fraternities and sororities that fail to meet the expectations set by the university and the Greek national offices. The guidelines, Price wrote, will enforce various sanctions when organizations are involved in violations, ranging from “corrective measures” to immediate suspension.
“The same expectations will apply to SAE as any other chapter,” Price wrote. “Since this is a new group of men unaffiliated with the suspended chapter, we don’t think it appropriate for them to be expected to meet expectations beyond that of other chapters.”
In an interview with The Panther, Brad Cohen, a Chapman donor and former SAE national president, said that Price and President Daniele Struppa put their necks “on the line” for SAE.
“(They) basically said, ‘We’re not going to put SAE through this whole Interfraternity Council (IFC) protocol,” he said.
But in an email to The Panther, Struppa stressed that SAE did not circumvent the IFC process. SAE’s Chapman chapter isn’t new – it’s a reinstated chapter, which carries a different protocol, he wrote, adding that he looks forward to SAE proving that administrators did “the right thing” by bringing the chapter back.
“I know Dean Price, and I don’t think he cares very much where his neck is placed … it is often placed next to mine, but that comes with the job,” Struppa wrote. “Dean Price reached his decision based only on the fact that SAE was a valued member of our institution in the past, made some mistakes and paid the price for that.”
An email provided to The Panther Feb. 26 sent from IFC to its members addresses concerns about the chapter’s return and IFC’s hopes for an “honest and open” discussion about SAE’s return.
“While we understand and sympathize with frustrations surrounding this decision, as an executive council and Greek community, we must work to support all chapters on our campus,” the email said.
Cohen criticized IFC in an interview with The Panther, saying it’s “not a strong national organization.”
“The IFC needs to get over themselves, with all due respect, and say ‘SAE is here, let’s work together. They’re not going away,’” he said.
An Instagram appearing to belong to Chapman’s old SAE chapter showed half-naked women with the fraternity’s letters drawn on their bodies until an article by The Panther in February, at which point the account was made private.
Cohen, whose son Devon Cohen is a sophomore at Chapman and hopes to join the fraternity, called the unidentified individuals who run the Instagram account “jackasses.”
“I turned to the guys that Devon had spoken to about joining SAE and said, ‘If you guys have anything to do with anyone from the old group, we’re not even going to go and ask if we can come back,’” said Cohen, who was under the impression the account had been deleted.
Cohen said he had been assured that the Instagram account had been shut down, but learned from The Panther that the account was still active.
“I can’t control some idiot as to what they do, but I did make it very clear that I would get our legal council involved if they continue to use the SAE name,” he said.