May 3, 2012

SAE Tradition Survives Despite Expulsion

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This September, after joining the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, the former pledges of Sigma Alpha Epsilon wanted to host a traditional SAE event called the “White Party” in their new home. But University administrators interfered and effectively prevented TKE from hosting the event, according to a University memo obtained by The Sun in January.

Several months later, after TKE was kicked off campus for the alcohol-related hospitalization of a freshman, students formerly affiliated with SAE again wanted to host the White Party. This time, however, the event fell beyond the jurisdiction of the Greek system, and the party occurred in Collegetown Saturday night.

Although it has been more than a year since SAE was kicked off campus, vestiges of the fraternity and its brotherhood maintain a visible presence on campus.

The Interfraternity Council executive board discussed Saturday’s White Party on Tuesday, according to IFC President Chris Sanders ’13. It concluded that since the students are not in the Greek system, the IFC “can’t really do anything about it,” he said.

Ken Babcock ’13, vice president for judicial affairs for the IFC, added that holding the White Party was not necessarily a violation of IFC or University policy.

“From what I’ve been told it’s just guys who were once affiliated having a party at their annex — or their apartment — which they’re entirely entitled to do,” Babcock said, adding that the IFC is not “tasked with governing them any longer.”

Still, the activity could pose a danger to student safety, said Travis Apgar, associate dean of fraternity and sorority affairs, who emphasized that he had no personal knowledge of the White Party’s occurrence.

“It’s a threat to people’s safety if they’re taking these parties elsewhere,” Apgar said. “Our expectation is that the students would understand the decision that was made, [though] they may not like it or agree with it.”

Although stressing again that he did not know if the White Party took place, Apgar said its recurrence would revive administrators’ fears of the high-risk drinking culture that he said was identified in TKE.

“TKE’s recognition was revoked because of their repeated high-risk behaviors around the use of alcohol. If members of that organization were a part of sponsoring or hosting a party like the White Party in Collegetown, I think it would speak to our concerns for their consistent high-risk behaviors around alcohol,” Apgar said.

When a student was hospitalized after a TKE recruitment dinner on Nov. 11, administrators faulted TKE for reportedly failing to ensure the safety of a highly intoxicated individual — the same oversight that officials say led to the death of George Desdunes ’13, who was in SAE, last spring.

Apgar added that maintaining these traditions could delay the fraternities’ return to campus. SAE had its recognition withdrawn for at least five years and TKE had its withdrawn for at least three.

“I would find it unfortunate that they would not value the membership they had in those organizations and jeopardize those organizations’ ability to come back in a timely manner,” Apgar said. “The decision to revoke recognition was absolutely warranted because these folks no longer deserved to reap the benefits of recognition.”

Babcock noted that the former members of the fraternities are not allowed to break certain rules — although the enforcement mechanism for these provisions is not clear.

“If we remove a chapter from campus, one of the stipulations is that they can’t function as a fraternity, they can’t wear their letters on campus, can’t really do anything that promotes the fraternity on campus,” he said.

Former members of the fraternities — who did not respond to requests for comment — appear to disagree, however.

Sanders said that the brothers have worn bracelets reading “free TKE’ since before they got kicked off-campus.

Administrators first became concerned with the persistence of SAE’s tradition and legacy when they learned that the fraternity’s former pledges decided to join TKE, according to the memo, which was sent from Apgar to Susan Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services.

They were reportedly “assured these new members had no interest in continuing the SAE culture,” the report states. That belief was first disabused, however, when the University discovered TKE planned to have SAE’s White Party in the fall, according to the memo.

The memo notes that, in a meeting with administrators, fraternity leadership agreed to cancel the event, terminate plans they had to “induct ‘little sisters’” and work with the TKE national organization toward building TKE “traditions that the community could support, as opposed to adopting SAE traditions.”

Despite these promises, “it became clear in that meeting that SAE’s former members, those who were fully initiated and have no affiliation with TKE, have significant influence on TKE as an organization,” the report states.

Rebecca Harris contributed reporting to this article.

Original Author: Jeff Stein