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The Daily Tar Heel

Sigma Alpha Epsilon lost University recognition for hazing violations

UNC no longer recognizes Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter due to hazing violations.

UNC’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon lost University recognition on July 2 as a result of hazing violations of the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance. 

The University’s chapter of SAE, the North Carolina Xi chapter, will remain unrecognized by the University until at least 2023, according to a report by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

“Hazing poses serious threats to not only students’ physical safety but also their emotional wellbeing,” said Jonathan Sauls, interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs, in a statement. “The University does not tolerate hazing under any circumstances.” 

The Instrument of Student Judicial Governance — a document that covers UNC’s honor code and its means of enforcing it — prohibits hazing that "causes or permits an individual, with or without consent, to engage in activities that subject that individual or others to risks of physical injury, mental distress or personal indignities of a highly offensive nature, in connection with recruitment, initiation or continued membership in a society, fraternity or sorority, club or similar organized group, whether or not recognized by the University." Violators of the instrument, like SAE, can face conduct sanctions, loss of group privileges and sanctions on the group’s status or charter.

As an unrecognized student organization, SAE will no longer receive support from OFSL, nor will it be eligible for funding or be able to take part in privileges extended to recognized organizations. These privileges include having intramural teams and reserving spaces, UNC Media Relations said in an email.

The DTH contacted the Xi chapter and SAE National for comment but received no response from either by the time of publication. 

In 2017, the national organization made a statement about the closure of its chapter at the University of Mississippi, regarding its stance on any actions that harm the health and safety of its members.

“Sigma Alpha Epsilon has zero tolerance for any actions or behaviors that are not consistent with our mission and our creed, ‘The True Gentleman,’” the organization said in the statement. “We are committed to the safety and well-being of our members and others with whom they interact.”

The statement also referenced violations of “Minerva’s Shield,” a booklet that details the organization’s health and safety policies. The booklet lists what behaviors are considered hazing and states that “no member should ever feel he must prove his worth to be welcomed as a brother.”

The fraternity’s national organization has made attempts in the past few years to discourage hazing among its chapters. In 2014, the national organization mandated that all chapters of SAE eliminate the pledge process, requiring that a student gain full member status within 96 hours of receiving a bid.

In its announcement of the change, the national organization said the pledge process change was in response to negative publicity from tragedies occurring at SAE events. 

This publicity has been heavily explored by several news outlets and was the main focus of John Hechinger’s book, “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities,” which explores college fraternity culture. 

In his book, Hechinger mentions multiple fraternal organizations, but focuses mostly on SAE. Hechinger said he sees SAE as being emblematic of all fraternities because of the organization's notoriety and practices. 

“Every fraternity that I've spoken to has found that hazing is a big problem, and that it's kind of at the center of the DNA of Greek organizations,” Hechinger said.

A 2008 study, “National Hazing Study: Hazing in View,” found that more than half of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experienced hazing — including alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep deprivation and sexual acts. 

In his Hazing Deaths Database, Hank Nuwer found that from 1953 to 2019, the U.S. had at least one death every year except 1958 related to hazing. 

According to CBS News, eight American college students have died in on-campus hazing incidents in the past two years.

The SAE national organization was deemed the U.S.’s “deadliest frat" by Bloomberg in 2013. 

While SAE has a particularly high number of deaths due to hazing-related activity — at least 10 between 2005 and 2013 — Hechinger said it took a much tougher stance than any other fraternity against hazing, referencing things like the 2014 mandate.

Hechinger said that the UNC chapter’s loss of recognition due to hazing, despite the national organization’s mandate to eliminate the pledge process, speaks to the relationship fraternities have with these practices.

“I think this shows just how ingrained hazing and pledging are in fraternity life," Hechinger said. "Even when a national organization takes this kind of stand, it sounds like some of its biggest chapters are continuing on this tradition."

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The Daily Tar Heel reached out to the four other fraternities with houses on Fraternity Court alongside SAE. The president of UNC's chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, Lorenzo Muranelli, said he had no information about what happened with SAE.

“Our organization sponsors a climate of diversity and inclusion to promote well-being for our members, campus and the local community,” Muranelli said in a statement. “We strive to be a model fraternity that advocates against hazing because we believe it is a detriment to all affected individuals, including the victims, brothers, their families and students on campus.”

Muranelli said that, as president, he aims to ensure that the chapter’s standards are upheld. 

“The loss of University recognition is serious,” he said in the statement. “Thus, we will continue to comply with our chapter, national and University guidelines.”

UNC emphasized in its statement that it takes hazing violations seriously. 

The University said that staff members from OFSL speak to all of the Greek organizations on campus about hazing policies and laws at the University, state and national levels. The office also sponsors events during National Hazing Prevention Week. 

“Through these ongoing initiatives and programs, we try to instill in our students an understanding that hazing is not welcome, nor will it ever be tolerated here at Carolina,” Sauls said in the statement.