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Sigma Alpha Epsilon shuts down Ole Miss chapter for behavior, health and safety concerns

Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national fraternity headquarters has indefinitely suspended the University of Mississippi’s SAE chapter due to “health-and-safety concerns and an inability to adhere to the national organization’s standards and expectations.”

In a statement issued by SAE’s headquarters, “all current initiated undergraduate members have been suspended from the fraternity indefinitely, and members who have been recruited this fall have been released from the organization.”

According to the statement, leaders in the Ole Miss chapter were given a cease-and-desist operations order but continued chapter activity despite an ongoing investigation. The investigation “provided important and concerning details, and the Supreme Council took swift action to intervene.”

The SAE headquarters’ investigation corresponds to an investigation launched by Ole Miss in October 2017. Sigma Alpha Epsilon was one of four organizations being investigated for hazing.

“Following an investigation of reported hazing allegations, the University of Mississippi’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct uncovered serious and concerning conduct within the Mississippi Gamma Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Those findings and concerns were shared with representatives from the national organization,” Ole Miss said in a statement.

“The actions that led to this decision are deeply disappointing and troubling. Hazing will not be tolerated and we support the actions of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity to close the chapter,” the university said.

In a letter issued to the Mississippi Gamma Chapter by the SAE headquarters, the suspension will last a minimum of three years or until all current undergraduate members have graduated.

SAE, founded at the University of Alabama in 1856, is the first Southern-founded fraternity. The Mississippi Gamma Chapter of SAE was founded at Ole Miss in 1866, a decade after the Alpha chapter was founded at the University of Alabama. It is one of the largest national social fraternities in the country.

SAE was named one of the “deadliest” fraternities in the country in December 2013 by Bloomberg News after several student deaths were linked to hazing, alcohol consumption and drug use at chapter events. This prompted the fraternity to end pledging and initiation throughout all of its chapters, instead adopting a system called “The True Gentleman Experience,” in which chapters could offer bids to students who would be immediately initiated upon acceptance rather than going through the traditional pledgeship process.

More than 100 SAE chapters have been disciplined over the past decade. Earlier this year, several members of the University of Southern Mississippi’s SAE chapter were dismissed and placed on probation following several violations that occurred at a homecoming party in 2016. Montana State University’s SAE chapter was recently suspended after a student was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning at a chapter event. Penn State’s chapter was placed on interim suspension this week after reported violations.

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

Ole Miss’ notable SAE alumni include Haley Barbour, Richard Scruggs, William Faulkner and U.S. Supreme Court Justice L.Q.C. Lamar.

The SAE headquarters statement closes with the following: “Although we regret the closure of any chapter, there are situations in which it becomes necessary and warranted. We remain optimistic that we can re-establish Mississippi Gamma in the future and members who exemplify our Ritual and beliefs and who serve as leading role models on campus and the greater Oxford community.”

Anna Gibbs and Donica Phifer contributed to this report. 

Read the full statement from SAE’s headquarters:

“Sigma Alpha Epsilon regrets to inform the Realm about the closure of one of our chapters. The charter for the Mississippi Gamma at the University of Mississippi has been suspended, the chapter closed and the undergraduate group disbanded. This action is the result of health-and-safety concerns and an inability to adhere to the national organization’s standards and expectations.

Fraternity leadership received information of continued activity following the initiation of a cease-and-desist operations order. The investigation that followed provided important and concerning details, and the Supreme Council took swift action to intervene.

All current initiated undergraduate members have been suspended from the fraternity indefinitely, and members who have been recruited this fall have been released from the organization.

The loss of this long-standing chapter is unfortunate, but it serves as a crucial reminder to our collegiate members, chapter officers and alumni that violations to Minerva’s Shield and failure to follow our membership-education program known as the True Gentleman Experience will not be tolerated and may result in closure. Those types of violations jeopardize other chapters and colonies and devalue the positive membership opportunity we should enjoy as a brotherhood.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon has zero tolerance for any actions or behaviors that are not consistent with our mission or our creed, “The True Gentleman.” We are committed to the safety and well-being of our members and others with whom they interact. Furthermore, our leadership will not hesitate to impose sanctions when guidelines are not being followed.

Although we regret the closure of any chapter, there are situations in which it becomes necessary and warranted. We remain optimistic that we can re-establish Mississippi Gamma in the future and members who exemplify our Ritual and beliefs and who serve as leading role models on campus and the greater Oxford community.”

The full statement from Ole Miss:

“Following an investigation of reported hazing allegations, the University of Mississippi’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct uncovered serious and concerning conduct within the Mississippi Gamma Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Those findings and concerns were shared with representatives from the national organization. Late last week, the national board decided to suspend the charter, close the chapter and disband the undergraduate group for several years.

The actions that led to this decision are deeply disappointing and troubling. Hazing will not be tolerated and we support the actions of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity to close the chapter.”