One of the largest fraternities in the nation announced earlier this month that it would eliminate pledging.
As of March 9, Sigma Alpha Epsilon had implemented a new program called the True Gentlemen Experience with the goal to improve the educational and leadership experience of its members. If they choose to, local chapters and colonies may continue recruiting prospective members as they do currently, but new members must be initiated within 96 hours of receiving a membership bid.
Brandon Weghorst, associate executive director of communication at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said members of the board of directors were elected this past summer and have worked to find a solution to improve the undergraduate member experience. Weghorst said no one event or incident prompted the Supreme Council to make this decision.
A Bloomberg News investigation revealed last December that since 2006, nine people have died in events related to Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapters nationwide, the most of any Greek organization. One of those deaths occurred at UT in 2006.
That year, Tyler Cross, a pledge at the UT chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, died from a fifth-floor fall at an off-campus dormitory. According to police investigators, Cross and other pledges endured hazing that night as they were forced to consume large amounts of alcohol, were beaten with bamboo and paddles and were sleep deprived.
Members of the fraternity’s UT chapter were contacted for comment on the elimination of pledging but did not respond.
Weghorst said he would not have access to know whether the UT chapter accepts or rejects the new policy. He said he has not received any information about any chapter rejecting the new policy. According to Weghorst, stiff consequences would occur as a result of not following the new policy.
“If there are chapters that don’t want to comply or follow the policies that are set forth by the national organization, they won’t hesitate to take corrective action [such as] suspending, expelling a few members, to closing an entire chapter,” Weghorst said.
Elizabeth Medina, assistant dean of students, said the Office of the Dean of Students hopes Sigma Alpha Epsilon will meet the expectations of the national organization, but she thinks it is too soon to tell what impact the ruling may have on the UT chapter.
“The national headquarters very recently articulated these expectations, and so now it’s going to be a process of, at least for that individual chapter and that organization, meeting those expectations and walking through that process,” Medina said. “I think that is something that will take some time to play out.”