By Alex Mosher
As of March 9, prospective members, or pledges, will no longer exist in the social fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“Obviously, right now we’re titled as the ‘most dangerous fraternity’ and we’re trying to change that,” said Connor Ferris, president of the University of Nevada, Reno chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. “We did this significantly to try and change that.”
Since 2006, at least 10 deaths have been linked to alcohol, drugs or hazing at national Sigma Alpha Epsilon events, more than any other fraternity according to Bloomberg.com. Although UNR’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has never experienced death within the fraternity, nationally at least 15 chapters have been suspended or closed within the past three years.
“The bad publicity Sigma Alpha Epsilon has received is challenging and regretful because we know that some of our groups have great new-member (pledge) programs and do the right thing,” said a statement from the fraternities’ national headquarters. “At the same time, we have experienced a number of incidents and deaths, events with consequences that have never been consistent with our membership experience.
“We are making this change because it’s the right thing to do and because we firmly believe in returning to what our Founding Fathers envisioned.”
Instead of the previous semester-long pledging process, men who are offered a bid from Sigma Alpha Epsilon will be initiated as active members shortly thereafter. Ferris said he doesn’t believe eliminating the pledge process will weaken the fraternity’s brotherhood, but it will speed up the rate at which the fraternity will have to decide whether or not someone is suited for Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“Instead of being, I don’t want to say fake but somewhat like that, in the beginning, we’re going to have to be more upfront and tell them what our ideals are and what we look for in a man and what we want in our house and what our house revolves around,” Ferris said. “If they fit that mold then they’re perfect for the house. If not, we’re not going to take anybody that we don’t feel fits.”
Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the fifth member of the North American Interfraternity Conference to eliminate the pledging process. Among these fraternities is Sigma Phi Epsilon, which eliminated the pledge process in 1991 with the Balanced Man Program that states, “An element of the BMP is to uphold the tradition of SigEp’s Founders to give a member full rights the day he joins, so he becomes a full contributor with equal responsibility.”
Ferris said he doesn’t believe Sigma Alpha Epsilon will be the last fraternity to eliminate the pledging process.
“I feel this is the way that fraternities as a whole are going to go just because of the way the media portrays us,” Ferris said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s what has to be done.”
Alex Mosher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.