More than a month after the University revoked its recognition of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity , 16 former SAE pledge members are joining the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity instead, according to students involved.
The 16 students were not initiated into SAE before the fraternity closed, so they remain eligible to become members of another fraternity. University rules do not prohibit them from participating in the Greek system, despite the removal of recognition from their former fraternity.
“Unless you were formally initiated, you’re welcome to join a different fraternity,” Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, said. The University’s deadline for initiating new members has passed for this semester, so the students who want to join TKE will have to wait until the fall to be officially initiated, Apgar said.
SAE lost University recognition and its members had to vacate the fraternity house after a member of SAE, George Desdunes ’13, died on Feb. 25 . Additionally, six students who had been pledging at the fraternity left campus . The University and the students declined to say whether the students faced disciplinary action or left campus voluntarily.
All 16 of the students who had been pledging SAE and remain on campus are now joining TKE, according to Ryan Yeh ’13, incoming TKE president.
Although some dissent remains, representatives of both TKE and the former SAE pledges expressed satisfaction with the plan to add the new members.
“The brothers at TKE, and our recent pledging class, are all really excited about the opportunity to welcome this class into the house,” Yeh said via email. “And given what I’ve observed over the past few weeks, the two groups are meshing extremely well.”
Yeh said it was unclear whether SAE members first approached TKE brothers about joining the fraternity, or the other way around.
“Like all great ideas, it’s hard to say who came up with it first,” he said. “The two fraternities had quite a few brothers that were mutual friends outside of the house.”
However, at least one member of TKE said he was dissatisfied with allowing the former SAE pledges into TKE.
“This will end TKE tradition because the SAE guys at rush will outnumber TKE, won’t care about what TKE was before and will pick SAE-like rushes,” a member of TKE, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the debate, said via email. He said the plan to incorporate the former SAE pledges was “destroying our values and traditions.”
The student also expressed concern with the motivations of the TKE and SAE members.
“There is a divide between those who see this as a complete compromise of TKE and those who just want to climb the social ladder,” the TKE member said, referring to the perception among some Cornell students that former SAE members hold a higher social standing than TKE members. “The goal for TKE is to get more members so we don’t go bankrupt, and get attractive and social guys into our house to increase our social standing on campus.”
This TKE member said the former SAE pledges approached TKE with the idea of joining the fraternity “and have been pushing it since then so they can take over a Greek organization.”
However, Avery Hairston ’14, who was president of the pledge class while at SAE and remains president of the group since they began pledging TKE, echoed Yeh, saying that it was unclear which group of students brought up the idea of pledging TKE.
“It’s hard to say where the idea first came about, but a bunch of guys in SAE and TKE know each other, so it just seemed logical,” he said.
Hairston added that the new members were spending time getting to know the older TKE brothers.
“As a brotherhood, we have been playing football in the backyard and eating dinner at the house every night, just trying to get to know each other better,” he said.
SAE lost University recognition in March and the SAE national organization suspended the Cornell chapter after Desdunes, a brother in the fraternity, was found unresponsive in the fraternity’s house on Feb. 25 and later died.
The University said that Desdunes was provided alcohol “while in the care of certain members and associate members” of SAE and became incapacitated, according to a statement released by Vice President of Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy ’73 on March 18.
“Even though the members and associate members recognized the condition Desdunes was in, they failed to call for medical care. He subsequently died,” she said.
Since March, no new information about the police investigation into Desdunes’ death or University disciplinary action has been released.
“Once the details are released, I’m hoping that people on campus will be able to learn a great deal from the events of that night,” Apgar, the associate dean of students, said last week.