As of the time of writing – about 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon – the words Sigma Alpha Epsilon are stirring up little more than the images of well-dressed, college-aged men taking part in a racist chant.
Since the video surfaced, the University of Oklahoma gone into damage-control mode, banning the fraternity from campus, evicting members from the fraternity house and expelling two members from the university. More expulsions may follow.
The national headquarters of the fraternity has sought to distance itself from the University of Oklahoma chapter, as have others related to the fraternity.
But what exactly is SAE and what is it supposed to stand for? We will answer that and a few other questions below.
What is Sigma Alpha Epsilon?
SAE is a fraternal organisation with 219 chapters in the US and some 15,000 collegiate members and some 200,000 living alumni, according to the organisation website.
The fraternity says its mission is to “promote the highest standards of friendship, scholarship, and service for our members based upon the ideals set forth by our Founders and as specifically enunciated in our creed, “The True Gentleman.”"
What are fraternities (for readers unfamiliar with them)?
Fraternities are social organisations active on nearly all US college campuses that male students join for a number of reasons. Those reasons include making friends, networking, performing community service, fulfilling a legacy and partying, among others
The procedure for gaining membership to fraternities varies between schools and chapters, but generally students interested in joining a fraternity “rush” – aka try out – for a frat. If a frat is interested, it will extend an invitation to a student. If the invitation is accepted, students generally go through a “pledge” period in which they are required to do tasks to prove their loyalty to the fraternity.
Once a student completes the pledge period, they become a member – or brother – of the fraternity and are free to partake in social events and service opportunities. Many fraternities also offer benefits and events after members finish school.
What is the history of SAE?
The fraternity was founded on 9 March, 1856 at the University of Alabama and has spread to 219 total chapters with 15,000 collegiate members. The fraternity estimates that more than 325,000 people have been initiated since it was founded and that there are about 200,000 living alumni.
Are there any famous members of SAE?
There are quite a few famous members of the fraternity other than those made famous – or infamous – by the racist video that has been flying around online.
Among the famous members are former US President William McKinley (Mount Union College), golfer Bobby Jones (Georgia Tech), Super Bowl-winning NFL coach Pete Carroll (University of the Pacific), Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Troy Aikman (UCLA), and author William Faulkner (University of Mississippi). The list goes on.
Has SAE been in trouble before?
Finding a fraternity that has not been in trouble is difficult, but the answer is yes. Rolling Stone named two chapters of SAE in its list of 10-most out of control fraternities in the US.
ABC News reported that the SAE chapter at the University of Southern California was closed in October for allegedly violating members’ health and safety. Iowa State University’s chapter was in the news in January over an alleged sexual assault that happened at an SAE party. The Yale chapter of the frat has also faced bans this year.
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