Animal house fraternity bans pledging after 1o deaths. Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the nation’s oldest fraternities, has announced Friday that it will ban pledging. This historical announcement comes after years of notoriety and the deaths of 10 pledges in just the last seven years. The deaths have been directly attributed to practice of hazing and the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Critics and college officials have praised Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s efforts to end the practice of hazing and hopes that it will influence other fraternities to examine their pledging process. Others claim that the practice of hazing pledges will never end. It will just go underground and possibly become more dangerous. Fraternity brothers across the nation, questioned the decision to ban pledging, saying it honors long-established traditions that secure lifelong bonds within the fraternity.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded in 1856 and currently has over 14,000 fraternity brothers in 240 chapters nationwide. There are also over 190,000 living alumni. Famous alumni include William Faulkner, T. Boone Pickens and President William McKinley. Times have been better for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, who has had over 100 chapters suspended for animal house like antics, that have resulted in the deaths of 10 undergrads since 2006. Many other chapters have been placed on probation. According to the North American Inter-Fraternity Conference, there has been more than 60 fraternity deaths nationwide since 2005.
In 2012, a freshman Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge at Arizona State University was found dead in a nearby lake. Later that year the university banned the fraternity from campus. In another hazing incident in 2012, a University of Idaho freshmen pledge was found dead under a bridge.
Faced with being described as an animal house fraternity, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has banned pledging and has now adopted new measures to recruit potential fraternity brothers. Like an exclusive Country Club, the fraternity will now extend bids or invitations to join the fraternity. Upon acceptance of the invitation to join, the new member will be offered immediate acceptance into the fraternity. The new member must complete a safety training program within 96 hours of acceptance. This safety training program is named after Carson Starkey, a freshman who died of alcohol poisoning at a Sigma Alpha Epsilon event at California Polytechnic State University. Starkey’s parents praised these moves saying that lives will be saved. “We are almost speechless,” his mother, Julia, said recently. “It’s a much safer environment. The students won’t have to go through harmful traditions.”
The bigger problem at fraternity houses is alcohol, according to attorney Douglas Fierberg. Mr. Fierberg represents the family of George Desdunes. George Desdunes was a Cornell undergrad, who died when he was tied up and blind-folded and forced to drink alcohol in another Sigma Alpha Epsilon hazing incident. Mr. Fierberg recognized that recent changes in pledging were a start, but not an end to the problems with fraternities. He said it’s a move in the right direction.
Now that the animal house fraternity bans pledging, will it now honor its commitment to changing a time-honored tradition of fraternity hazing, or will it succumb to the critics charge that it will it will only drive the long-established practice into a more covert, and more dangerous form of indoctrination. Will the term animal house fraternity be a thing of the past.
By John J. Poltonowicz