SAE ends pledging process due to hazing problems
A fraternity is looking to make hazing in its brotherhood a thing of the past by eliminating the pledge process.
After continued problems in its chapters nationwide, the national organization for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity announced that it eliminated pledging starting this past Sunday. New members, formerly referred to as “pledges,” will now be admitted immediately and hold the same rank as senior members of the fraternity upon accepting a bid.
The new program, called “The True Gentleman Experience,” is meant to return the fraternity to its original values, established in 1856. The program charter points out that pledging is a 20th century development and one that creates “second-class citizenship” for pledges.
In a news release on its website, SAE cited instances of misconduct during pledging as part of the reason behind the change.
Kyle Schoch (right), a pre-business sophomore and active member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, walks out of the fraternity with other UA students on Monday. Sigma Alpha Epsilon announced Sunday that it will no longer have pledging process.
“We have experienced a number of incidents and deaths, events with consequences that have never been consistent with our membership experience,” the organization said. “Furthermore, we have endured a painful number of chapter closings as a result of hazing.”
UA policy prohibits hazing. The complete definition can be found on the UA policies website, but hazing is generally defined as actions taken or situations created to emotionally or physically harm individuals in order for those individuals to gain membership to an organization.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg.com, there have been at least 10 hazing or alcohol and drug-related deaths at SAE events in the last eight years. Actor Johnny Knoxville alleged he was drugged with ecstasy while attending an SAE party at UA in September 2013. Though the UA could find no evidence supporting this claim, sanctions were imposed on the chapter in January.
No members of the UA chapter of SAE could be reached for comment.
Some people are unsure that this change in policies will eliminate hazing. Sgt. Filbert Barrera, public information officer for the University of Arizona Police Department, said that any fraternity or sorority trying to eliminate hazing is a good thing, but added that there has to be more involved action than just a change in policies.
“How are you going to govern that?” Barrera said. “Are they reporting to somebody?”
Johanne Ives, assistant dean of students and director for Fraternity and Sorority Programs, shares similar concerns.
Ives said that the UA fraternity Pi Kappa Phi lost its recognition in the spring of 2013 because of hazing. She said she thinks that the absence of an official pledging program is a step in the right direction, but that a change in policy alone will not eliminate hazing. Some people see hazing as a positive thing, she added.
“Catastrophe bonds people quickly,” Ives said, “but that doesn’t mean it’s good.”
Ives cited the many benefits of membership in fraternities and sororities. She said that UA students in Greek Life graduate in four years at a much higher rate than non-greek students. She also said that the grades of Greek Life students are usually higher as well.
“[Fraternities and sororities] do a lot of good things for their members, too, in terms of commitment to their community and academics,” she said.
Kevin Johnson, a finance junior and president of the UA chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, said that his fraternity eliminated the pledging process years ago.
Johnson said the national headquarters for SigEp did studies on hazing in the 1990s that found that the process of pledging created separation between the pledge classes, and that the separation led to hazing. He also said they found that hazing did seem to escalate.
“The impact that it’s had on our chapter is that we have a much more rigorous recruitment process in that we find the right guys, the guys we want to be in the chapter before we extend the bid to them,” Johnson said. “Overall, it’s been a great success for our chapter.”