Experts respond to UI Sigma Alpha Epsilon controversy


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The University of Iowa’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter isn’t alone as it faces allegations of hazing, several experts said Monday.

According to a statement the national fraternity released Monday, the UI chapter will be suspended and the charter will be closed following a four-week investigation focusing on hazing and misconduct violations. Members have been expelled from the fraternity, and those living in the house will have two weeks to find an alternative living space.

On Tuesday, Tracy Maxwell, the executive director of HazingPrevention.org, said despite fraternities and athletics organizations having the highest rates of hazing, the issue is a general concern in society.

“More people are recognizing that it is a big problem,” she said. “We’re hearing about it a lot more, which is a good thing. When we shine a light on the problem, it makes more people aware so they can do something about it.”

According a 2008 National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention survey of 53 colleges nationwide, more than 70 percent of social fraternity or sorority members said they experienced at least one instance of hazing.

But David Stollman, the president of CAMPUSPEAK, said he believed the level and number of chapters that haze people have gone down, as well as the amount of tolerance.

“They have been better at aggressively addressing the issue,” he said, referring to hazing on a national level. “[Sigma Alpha Epsilon] in particular has had a bad year, and I think more of it is because it has decreased its tolerance for anything that even looks like hazing.”

In 2008 and 2009, ΣΑΕ — which was chartered at the UI in February 1905 — faced complaints of hazing, in which sanctions were imposed, UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

In June, officials dropped charges against three former Cornell University ΣΑΕ members, who were accused in the death of Geroge Desdunes. Desdunes died after a hazing ritual in February 2011, according to the Cornell Daily Sun.

In March 2011, the University of Michigan’s chapter was accused of hazing and the
fraternity was suspended from campus, said Chris Kluka, the administrative coordinator for Greek Life Michigan.

The last fraternity closed at the University of Iowa was Delta Upsilon. Officials shut the doors on the house in 2008 after four fraternity brothers were charged with felony and misdemeanor drug offenses.

The 2012 UI Dean of Students Regulation of Student Organizations’ definition of hazing includes “compulsory alcohol or drug consumption, physical brutality, and forced confinement.”

UI President Sally Mason told The Daily Iowan Tuesday she hopes the incident does not negatively affect UI greek life and she’s had good experiences in the past with members of fraternities and sororities.

“I certainly hope that the hazing and alcohol-abuse issues that are a part of what happened with ΣΑΕ is not the typical of what goes on here, and I applaud the chapter for taking swift action to discipline the fraternity and its members, and going forward, hopefully, they’ll learn from this and realize that that’s just not good behavior under any circumstances,” Mason said.

But beyond this week’s troubles, Iowa City police records show officers visited the house at 8:56 p.m. on Sept. 11 for investigation or “follow-up.” It is unclear whether the investigation is related to the suspension. Iowa City police declined comment Tuesday night.

DI reporter Brent Griffiths contributed to this story.

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