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Controversial fraternity to be invited to return to USA

SAE+disbanded+at+USA+for+unknown+reasons+in+2005.
SAE disbanded at USA for unknown reasons in 2005.

SAE disbanded at USA for unknown reasons in 2005.

Shelby Guidry

Shelby Guidry

SAE disbanded at USA for unknown reasons in 2005.

Shannon Lundgren, Editor-in-Chief

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University of South Alabama’s Interfraternity Council voted on Tuesday, Oct. 3 to allow controversial fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon to start a probationary chapter at USA. The vote was tied, with IFC President Brendon Garrity casting the tie-breaking vote.

The University of Oklahoma chapter of SAE sparked controversy in March 2015 when a youtube video of SAE members chanting racist slurs on a bus surfaced. The video is still on youtube at this link.  Viewer discretion is advised, due to the explicit language in the video.  

SAE was at USA until 2005, when they disbanded for unknown reasons, according to Cathi Jones, USA Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

USA’s IFC is a member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, which requires its members to have a policy that supports the expansion of fraternities on campus, according to the NIC’s constitution.

“Honestly, my personal beliefs aren’t entwined in this at all,” Garrity said. “I have mixed feelings, but as IFC President, I don’t make decisions that that, you know, affect me, or Sigma Chi. I make decisions that help IFC and NIC and that’s expansion.”

Jones mentioned that SAE has a plan to rebuild their reputation.  

“They recognize that nationally they have had some issues,” Jones said. “They have talked to us about how they are going to revamp that…. They’ve given us information about what their colony [probationary chapter] is going to look like, how they’re going to set up the leadership and they’ve given us a timeline on where they see things going.”

The decision to allow SAE to return to USA is controversial within USA’s community. In their SGA meeting, Senator Caleb Santa Cruz introduced a resolution in SGA’s Monday, Oct. 2 meeting, calling for SGA to tell the administration that the student body does not want SAE to come to campus. A resolution is a non-binding request from the student body to the campus administration.

“The ideals of SAE, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, conflict with the ideals of the fraternity and sorority community,” bill co-sponsor Chelsia Douglas said. “It also conflicts with growing initiatives on diversity. At this time, where concerns about diversity and inclusion are high, it is our duty to do what is right for the student body at the University of South Alabama as a whole. During the president’s dinner, we actually had conversations about diversity and inclusion; what we can do as student leaders to include that here at our university.”

USA President Tony Waldrop did not respond to questions regarding how inviting SAE to USA would fit in with campus culture or the Empowering Change initiative USA is sponsoring.

Ferdinand Gomez-Barrera, IFC vice president of recruitment, encouraged SGA to vote on the resolution before the IFC voted on whether or not they should allow SAE to return to USA.

However, SGA elected not to vote on the resolution at that time in order to gather more information from the Office of Student Activities.

Santa Cruz expressed disappointment that SGA did not vote on the resolution, but looked forward to discussing the matter more at SGA’s next meeting.

“Even though IFC has voted, the resolution still can be reviewed in the SGA senate and I know moving forward the conversation that will take place will focus on the importance of student concerns,” Santa Cruz said.

USA’s administration is limited in the actions they can take to suppress student organizations.

We are not allowed to limit speech or expression, but we must create a safe environment for learning,” Dean of Students Michael Mitchell said.

Fraternities and sororities are protected under the First Amendment, with legal precedent set by the Supreme Court case Roberts vs. United States Jaycees. Fraternities and sororities are also exempt from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Mitchell discussed how new organizations must register to be an officially recognized group at USA.  

The process for registration of a new organization includes an online application to be completed within the registration and renewal time periods,” Mitchell stated in an email. “As part of the application process, a membership roster, which must include a minimum of ten currently enrolled students, must be submitted.”

According to Mitchell, the exact number of students required to petition to recreate SAE has not yet been determined, nor has SAE submitted an application with a minimum of ten active student members.

The video controversy isn’t the only concern students have about SAE. Gomez-Barrera also questioned SAE’s internal policies.

“When researching SAE, there was one thing I found I didn’t like,” Gomez-Barrera said.  “Most fraternities have six to eight weeks of pledgeship, [but] SAE initiates after 96 hours.  To me, that is a very little time to know what their organization stands for before initiating.”

Student-at-Large Namisha Ajit raised concerns that it is already difficult to match the existing eight fraternities with USA’s current five sororities for Greek life activities.

SGA will discuss the resolution more at their next meeting on Oct. 23 at 8 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom. Students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend.

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Controversial fraternity to be invited to return to USA