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Newsletter > November 2014 > "The Beginning of a New Era for the Fraternity Membership"
The Beginning of a New Era for the Fraternity Membership
Thomas Dement III
In January of this year, the Supreme Council of Sigma Alpha Epsilon met in Tucson, Arizona, for one of its quarterly face-to-face meetings. During that meeting, the members of the Council discussed ways of dealing with the significant liability issues that the fraternity was facing. SAE has been plagued with an increase in hazing incidents over the past decade that have led to a number of deaths of some of its members, including pledges. Some in the media have labeled SAE as the nation’s deadliest fraternity. Our insurance premiums have risen over the last several years and SAE of lately has been paying some of the highest insurance rates in the Greek Letter Community.
As a result of these problems, the Supreme Council decided to implement the True Gentlemen Experience, which is a program whereby pledging has been eliminated from the fraternity. SAE was founded by eight young men who deeply believed in service and honor. Our first new member was a student who was initiated in the fraternity immediately after he was given a bid. Pledges and pledge programs were not part of the fraternity world until sometime after World War I and were not part of the laws of SAE until the 1940s.
SAE could not stand another major hazing incident leading to another death. The Supreme Council decided that we needed to enact a program to change the culture of SAE and do what we could to reduce hazing as much as possible.
SAE has never had significant problems with recruiting members. However, due to hazing, we have had some difficulty in retaining some our potentially great members. We also have lost quality men during the recruitment process who did not want to join because they did not want to undergo a pledge process that might include hazing.
The True Gentlemen Experience is a program where new members are initiated into the fraternity within 96 hours after accepting a bid. Recruitment will remain the same, except that chapters are encouraged to recruit year round given the fact that the True Gentlemen Experience allows chapters to initiate new members at any given point.
Once a bid is extended, new members participate in an online certification program and complete a Scope of Association Agreement. Within 96 hours of accepting a bid, the new member is initiated into SAE and becomes a full-fledged member with all the rights and responsibilities of any other member.
After initiation, the new members are required to participate in educational programing that will take place over the course of their entire collegiate career. These new members will be required to learn about the history of the fraternity and other aspects of fraternity life similar to what might be taught in a traditional pledge program.
SAE has received an overwhelming positive response to the True Gentlemen Experience. There has been extensive positive media coverage and many college and university administrators have applauded SAE for the steps that we have taken to reduce a second class of membership within our chapters. The Supreme Council realizes that the True Gentlemen Experience is not a “silver bullet” and will not solve all of our problems. However, we are confident that this is a giant step in the right direction to protect the health and safety of our members and to bring a greater level of respect for all members regardless of their seniority within a chapter. We are also extremely hopeful that the True Gentlemen Experience will allow SAE’s future liability exposure and related risk management costs to be significantly reduced over time.
Interestingly, after the announcement of the True Gentlemen Experience, there have been a number of colleges and universities that have announced the elimination of pledging for their Greek Letter organizations. We are confident that the decision to eliminate pledging is the wave of the future for Greek Letter men and women of this country.