By McKenna Luzynski and Courtney Such
Staff Writer and News Editor
Furman phones buzzed with an e-mail notification Tues., Feb. 3 at 4:25 p.m., flashing a subject line that Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s time at this university is put on hold.
Students, staff, faculty, and campus affiliates received an email from Vice President of Student Life Connie Carson stating that the number of fraternities on campus would be decreasing from six to five. The South Carolina Phi chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon would be entering into a “period of closure” following a “prolonged period of probationary actions spanning several years,” according to Carson’s email.
“The True Gentlemen” of Furman University were purportedly in violation of the health-and-safety policies concerning alcohol consumption. The allegations against the chapter include hazing through forced alcohol consumption on bid-night.
“The decision to suspend Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s SC Phi chapter was made by the Supreme Council of the National Fraternity and supported by Furman administration. Specifically, the underage new members were encouraged to drink alcohol on bid day, some having consumed to excess and even sickness,” Cameron Smith, associate director for student activities, said.
When asked about the specifics of the offenses, the fraternity submitted an official statement to The Paladin.
“The brothers of South Carolina Phi chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon were deeply disappointed with the national office’s decision to suspend the chapter on February 3. While some brothers may have acted unilaterally to hold a social function in which alcohol was present, in violation of the probation set down by the university, we fully reject the charge of alcohol hazing presented in the official release from the national office. At no point during the university’s investigation, which the national office was not involved with in any way, was the chapter accused or charged with alcohol hazing in any form. Additionally, no evidence presented to the brothers during the investigation would support or substantiate such a claim. We would encourage the university to take a stand on the charges levied at us and provide concrete evidence to back up such claims. Finally, the brotherhood accepts the suspension as a result o”f our violation of social probation but rigorously reject the charge of alcohol hazing.”
This scandal is not the first to plague Furman’s chapter. SAE was on probation before its suspension. According to the national SAE website, in 2014, Furman’s chapter was placed on “University Social Probation for alcohol policy violations during April 2014.” Moreover, the probation was set to extend through May 31, 2015, and “no social events [would] be allowed at the house for the 2014/2015 academic year.”
“SAE has been on probation this past year, the National Fraternity completed a membership review last semester, and the men knew that any more violations of policy would result in a suspension,” Smith said.
According to the press release, “The men were given multiple opportunities to resolve their infractions on several occasions, but we regret they failed to work through these issues after repeated attempts to assist them.”
“There are certain aspects of SAE’s situation and their violations over the past school year that I am not at liberty to discuss as they are discretionary,” Joe Kennedy, Vice President of Recruitment for the Interfraternity Council said when asked what specifically happened.
However, a quick Google search for “Sigma Alpha Epsilon” suggests the hazing charges filed against Furman’s SAE chapter are not unique. A March 14, 2014 Washington Post article titled “What Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Pledging Ban Won’t Fix” by Caitlin Flanagan claims that while SAE has the reputation of being one of the oldest fraternities, it is also one of the deadliest.
“Nine young people have died in SAE-related incidents since 2006,” Flanagan wrote.
While no one died in the Jan. 31 Furman bid-night activities that sparked the investigation into the South Carolina Phi chapter’s pledge activities, the University has suspended the chapter on campus until 2017, what would have been the chapter’s 150th year on campus. In addition, current members of SAE, including members graduating in 2018 will remain under suspension through their graduations from Furman.