AU colony of Sigma Alpha Epsilon seeks to avoid other chapters’ errors
Amid controversy at Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapters around the country, the new SAE chapter at AU that colonized this semester plans to set itself apart by proactively countering sexual assault.
To do this, members of SAE plan to create some of the strictest and most comprehensive sexual assault bylaws on campus, as it is an issue close to many members, according to Wilson N. McDermott, president of SAE and freshman in the Kogod School of Business.
“The main goals with the bylaws is to really change the way AU thinks about sexual assault and how it can be prevented, instead of simply telling people it’s wrong,” McDermott said. “Because yes, everyone knows that it’s wrong, but shaking your finger at somebody isn’t necessarily going to change the conversation about it.”
McDermott explained that most organizations do not have protocol for punishing those accused of sexual assault within their fraternity and effectively making amends with the victims. The SAE bylaws, which are in the process of being written, will have hardline procedures for dealing with sexual assault.
“Right now, should a sexual assault occur at an organization they don’t necessarily have protocol that they enact in a way that typically SAE does enact,” McDermott said. “I mean a good friend of mine was sexually assaulted last semester, and the fraternity at which it happened didn’t have protocol about how to go about it. So yeah, the brothers reached out to her and said they were sorry but does that change anything? How is that stopping anything from happening next weekend?”
The decision to bring SAE to campus was made three years ago as part of a plan to steadily increase the number of fraternities at AU, Thomas Brigman, the SAE national coordinator of expansion, said in an email. The University and Interfraternity Council decided to open expansion in response to an increased interest in Greek life, he also said.
Brigman, along with other representatives from SAE’s national organization, tabled and held information sessions on AU’s campus during fall 2014, recruiting students of all grade levels who would then become SAE’s founding fathers, according to Jalen Chichester, SAE member and freshman in the School of International Service and College of Arts and Sciences.
“We would like to reset the standard for Greek organizations on campus, because what we feel is that a lot of Greek organizations on this campus are either safe or fun and there aren’t very many that are both, and we want to be that fraternity,” Chichester said.
Recent events involving racism at the University of Oklahoma, hazing and sexual assault at other SAE chapters around the country have brought media attention to the fraternity and prompted the AU chapter to create a new diversity plan.
These incidents have also prompted some to question the decision to bring SAE to AU, with initial social media complaints about SAE colonizing at AU going uncommented on by the brothers, according to McDermott.
“These issues are localized,” Brigman said in the email.
SAE has over 15,000 undergraduate members, according to Brigman. With any large organization of people that is spread out geographically, there are bound to be some who cause issues and violate SAE policy and codes of conduct, Brigman said.
“Our priority now remains squarely focused on making sure we continue to proactively address this issue in a way that reflects our zero-tolerance for any kind of discrimination and upholds the values of our Fraternity,” Brigman said.
Brigman said he believes the events at the University of Oklahoma reflect a larger, ongoing conversation about race, inclusion and human respect unrelated to SAE. As the AU community gets to know the SAE brothers, he said they will realize they are nothing like former members from the University of Oklahoma.
“I think that if anything the incident at [the University of Oklahoma] helps to solidify that the SAE colony here is nothing but true gentlemen, and amongst controversy people have really stepped up to say ‘Yes, [the AU members] are good guys, they’re not these bad people that the media is making them out to be,’” McDermott said.
Chichester agrees that these other chapters are far from the new colony at AU.
“The thing is, SAE isn’t the only fraternity to come under scrutiny [for] any of [these] thing[s],” Chichester said. “I think that the thing at [the University of Oklahoma] was very blindsiding for many brothers across the country because it’s so totally opposite of our experience.”
The SAE colony at AU will become a full chapter in about a year, as long as it meets the requirements posed by SAE’s national organization, McDermott said. The requirements include an 80 percent turnover in its executive board and 40 to 50 members.
Currently, the AU SAE colony has 16 members. They can give out bids at any time during their ongoing recruitment process, except during the two AU bid weeks in the fall and spring, during which they can only give out bids on the traditional last bid day.
“The big thing that we look for in our guys is quality, rather than the aesthetic appeal or how much money their families might have, but the fact that they truly uphold the standard of ‘The True Gentlemen,’” McDermott said.
“The True Gentlemen” is SAE’s creed which promotes honesty, sincerity, humility, propriety and self-control, among other things.
Through their AU colony, SAE will also help raise money for their national philanthropy, the Children’s Miracle Network, as well as aid local charities, such as the Capital Area Food Bank where they will be volunteering later this semester, according to Chichester.
“SAEs are very true to our creed, they are ‘True Gentlemen’ and we strive to do it not just in general, but everyday, and we [SAEs] foster the community and are pushing each other to meet those standards,” Chichester said.