SAE Members revolt, challenge National headquarters

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What started as a normal recruitment for the SAE Indiana Delta chapter ended with six invalidated bids, a cease-and-desist order and the entire chapter undergoing membership review.

“The Sigma Alpha Epsilon national headquarters has placed its chapter at DePauw University under a cease-and-desist order as a result of health-and-safety violations, which means the chapter must suspend all activity until further notice,” wrote Brandon E. Weghorst, the Associate Executive Director of Communications of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity in an email on Thursday. “In addition, staff and local alumni volunteers will complete a membership review, which evaluates the membership of each brother to ensure that our chapter men are living up to the mission, values and creed of the national fraternity.” He further stated that SAE national headquarters does not care for individual chapter members, but only for the reputation of the national fraternity and the revenue that having members live in the chapter house brings in to SAE Financial and Housing.

After several weeks of rumors flying around campus that SAE was getting shut down, several SAE members decided to share their story of why the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at DePauw University may not exist after this semester due to harsh and unjust treatment from SAE's Supreme Council.

At noon on Sunday, Feb. 7, the chapter advisor, along with five SAE alumni commission members, held a meeting at DePauw’s SAE chapter. At the meeting, the commission separated the six new members from the actives and told the new members that they should seek to join another chapter. If they wished to stay, they would go through a member review.

The commission then informed active members that they are no longer allowed to continue with any chapter activities and they will be under membership review until further notice. All this was news for the 30 active members of SAE.

“There is far more at play here than what is being said in the national statement,” said junior Colin Bradshaw, vice president of the SAE chapter at DePauw. “They do not care about us as individuals. They care about public relations and wallets. That is what SAE is looking for out of its members.”

SAE President, sophomore Teague Hampton, said the members later found out that this membership review has been in the works since last November, but SAE Nationals didn’t want to inform the active members then because they would be “too stressed with finals.” Instead, the Alumni Commission, led by Chapter Advisor Mike Murphy of Greencastle, let the chapter go through recruitment, accept six new members, just to then revoke the bids and inform the chapter of the membership review and eminent drug tests. Since SAE Nationals has taken over the membership review from the Alumni Commission, Murphy has made no effort to advise or help the actives at SAE and has taken no responsibility for the unfair treatment of the SAE Actives.

“To us, that translates to, they wanted us to pay dues for a new semester,” Bradshaw said.

To make matters worse, during this heated meeting between actives and the alumni commission, the members also found out that the only grounds that SAE National’s had for a membership review this year were reports of a few fire alarms going off at the house. At one point, alumni commission member Paul Paris threatened to break a senior active's hands if he continued to motion Paris to speak on. In the opinion of Bradshaw, Hampton and Mote, the membership review should have happened two and a half years ago when the alumni commission was started.

In fact, the Indiana Delta chapter had been making strides toward a better chapter; they doubled the number of their active members during recruitment last year and moved up three slots in the Inter-fraternity Council GPA rankings. But this progress wasn’t good enough for SAE Nationals.

No communication between active SAE executive council members and Nationals boded any meaningful discussion that could benefit the chapter. 

“They went about this in a way that was entirely uncorporative with us, inept and hostile from the beginning,” Bradshaw said. “They want to kick us out but they want to make it look like it’s our fault.” 

The Executive Director of Finance and Housing of SAE also sent out an email to the active member’s parents explaining that the reasons for their membership review were due to use of marijuana in the chapter house, intentional damage to the chapter house, and the playing of beer pong, explained Bradshaw. Greg Somers also stated that they would do anything possible to keep taking in the revenue from Indiana Delta. Even if that means continuing to employ a House Director, Judy Miller, who has had numerous allegations of racism levied against her with no formal investigation by the national fraternity.

Later, an email from the Associate Executive Director of SAE Nationals explained that the membership review is a result of “health and safety and chapter operational concerns.” No specific incidents were ever listed as evidence for this review, even after SAE members sent several requests for these documents.

“There’s no rape allegations, no battery allegations, no racial allegations, no hazing,” Hampton explained. “We’re diverse, tame. We throw one party a year. What does that tell you guys?”

“As far as SAE goes, we are one of their most docile chapters,” Bradshaw added.

For the membership review, the men will undergo an interview and a hair sample drug test. At this point, every member of the chapter has refused the drug test. As a result, they will likely all be suspended.

If the members are, in fact, suspended or expelled from SAE, they may also risk the displacement of the 27 members living in the house. The good news, according to Bradshaw, which comes from Assistant Dean of Students for Campus Living Myrna Hernandez, is that even if members are suspended or expelled, they are still entitled to their rooms inside SAE for the rest of the semester, as long as they don’t violate the Master Lease for the house.

“We do want to apologize to the freshman, the 6 freshman we had on bid night, because if we would have known this would have happened then we never would have held a third round [of recruitment],” Mote said.

Although it does not seem that SAE Nationals or the SAE alumni commission is on the side of SAE Indiana Delta, around 50 SAE DePauw alumnae support the 30 active members’ decision to fight Nationals and refuse the drug tests.

After speaking with SAE members on Thursday night, The DePauw reached out to Weghorst for further comment, but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

The membership review will take place on March 12, and until then, the future of SAE at DePauw University will remain in question.

“We’re not disappointed in this seemingly inevitable end, but we are not loyal to the letters SAE,” Bradshaw said. “We are loyal to the men of the chapter that we joined for.”

Hampton added, “If this is how we’re gong to be treated then I don’t want to be in SAE anyway.”