SAE and Texas Rho reach settlement agreement

Lisa Nhan

The national chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Texas Rho have reached a settlement agreement, resulting in a “complete disaffiliation” of the two parties and bringing an end to lawsuits filed by both groups.

Former UT SAE members formed Texas Rho after UT SAE was suspended by their national chapter and the University for a number of hazing offenses, as previously reported by The Daily Texan. 

The settlement agreement, obtained by The Daily Texan, requires an official resignation from SAE by any currently active Texas Rho member. This includes every undergraduate member of Texas Rho who was a member of SAE and all SAE alumni serving on Texas Rho’s current board of directors and house board. 

Texas Rho is also required to discontinue any use of SAE trademarks, pay SAE an undisclosed amount for trademark violation, take down the letters from the front of the chapter house and return all SAE regalia. However, the house, located at the corner of 24th and Pearl streets, remains under Texas Rho ownership. 

Texas Rho is pleased with the terms of the settlement, Texas Rho president Trey Scardino said in a statement. 

“From this point forward, we are Texas Rho, an independent fraternity organization with all of its storied history intact,” finance junior Scardino said in the statement. “While we are not a registered student organization at the University of Texas, our members are active on campus and in the Austin community. We look forward to welcoming another outstanding new member class this fall.” 

Following the suspension from nationals, the University launched its own investigation, then suspended the chapter and revoked its registered student organization status in March 2018.

The independent fraternity hopes to become a registered student organization again, according to a letter to Texas Rho alumni and active parents on their website. 

“These board members are very hopeful that, once having re-established itself as such an exemplary fraternity, the University will be persuaded to readmit the Texas Rho Fraternity as a registered student organization at UT,” the letter said. 

The University, however, has no plans to recognize Texas Rho as a registered student organization, said Sara Kennedy, director of strategic and executive communications. 

“As a condition of the disciplinary sanctions against the closed Texas Rho Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the registered student organization status of the group was cancelled, and no version of the chapter membership will be recognized as a new registered student organization by the University,” Kennedy said in a statement. 

Last year, the University’s hazing investigation found that UT SAE members were required to drink alcohol and “ingest ‘fear factor like’ substances/concoctions.” It also revealed “the hatch,” a small underground hole on the house property, where members were confined.

John Hechinger studied SAE and fraternity culture in-depth for his book, “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.” Hechinger said fraternity chapters going independent is “the worst case scenario” for national chapters and universities. 

“The national organization has no power over the chapter, the university has no power, you have a small group of local alumni who have already indicated that they don’t think much about university discipline,” Hechinger said. “The message sent to the men is basically that they can operate any way they want.”

The University must be very clear in Texas Rho’s lack of regulation in comparison to other recognized fraternities, Hechinger said. 

“Now you have a situation where a freshman who comes to the University of Texas may not make the distinction and join an unregulated fraternity,” Hechinger said. “They won’t know that there are even fewer safeguards when they join. It makes students less safe.” 

However, former Texas Rho president Robert Perlick said the fraternity has implemented reforms to stop hazing, such as a new Behavioral and Financial Responsibility Agreement and a ban on serving hard liquor.

“Though the Texas Rho Fraternity will not qualify as a registered student organization at the University of Texas following its Separation from SAE, the House and Chapter Corporation boards are determined to do whatever is necessary to mold the Texas Rho Fraternity into a model that other fraternities at UT will seek to emulate,” the Texas Rho letter said.