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America's 'Deadliest Fraternity' Drops Pledging

Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the oldest and deadliest fraternities in the U.S., announced that it is dropping its pledge process.
Posted at 11:36 PM, Mar 08, 2014

Labeled the "deadliest fraternity in the U.S." by Bloomberg in December, Sigma Alpha Epsilon has decided to completely nix pledging, and consequently hazing, in an attempt to improve their image. 

Calling it a "historic decision," the fraternity made the announcement to ditch pledging and hazing Thursday saying it will "protect Sigma Alpha Epsilon's future and to eliminate a class structure between our new members and our active members​." (Via SAE)

What's a frat to do with for membership without pledges though? Well, SAE said they hope a new initiation period where candidates must be initiated within 96 hours will foster a stronger brotherhood.

​Pledging is nothing new for college campuses, but SAE has had multiple deaths from hazing and alcohol-related incidents in recent years including drug overdoes, hypothermia, and multiple cases of alcohol poisoning. (Via TexasMonthly, Campus Safety Magazine, KTVB)

In an interview with Bloomberg, one member of SAE said that being forced to sit in a dark basement for nine hours listening to blaring rock music without food or water was so much like torture that it reminded him of Guantanamo Bay. 

Some are skeptical that the announcement counts as a mea culpa from SAE. One writer at PolicyMic said:

"SAE is still far from accepting blame for the recent string of pledge deaths. ... Rather than acknowledging the tragedy of its pledge deaths, SAE provides a pragmatic rationale for its decision: the 'damage to our national reputation is making it difficult for [chapters] to operate.'"

Caitlin Flanagan, who spent a year investigating fraternities in a piece for The Atlantic, said in an interview with CBS she found that hazing actually ranks as the lowest cause for harmful incidents within fraternities saying:

"Hazing is the least common problem. It's only 7%. Most common is assault and battery. These kids get liquored up and they get in horrible fights."

SAE's new fraternity guidelines, called the "True Gentleman Experience", will go into effect Sunday.