Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Mission, our Creed and our Ritual challenge each of us to strive for the highest standards. Towards these goals, and with our members’ valuable input, there are two driving principles behind the initiatives outlined and announced by the Fraternity on March 28, 2018. First, keep it simple. Second, ensure that our programs work together in a manner that drives meaningful personal growth and group achievement. 

The initiatives are premised entirely on the feedback we received from literally thousands of our members through distributed surveys and town hall discussions, direct undergraduate and alumni conversations, as well as related information provided by campus and medical professionals and supported by published research. In every respect, we listened to you regarding the issues and challenges facing collegiate fraternities today. These new initiatives are tailored to and centered around three core components: leadership, culture, and environment. 

To our members, thank you for the honest and direct communication on the issues facing Sigma Alpha Epsilon and other collegiate fraternities. More importantly, thank you for the ideas and suggestions you have shared with us that will contribute to our collective growth and excellence in the years ahead. We look forward to sharing more information on new programs and opportunities in the coming months.

LEADERSHIP

Leadership begins with education, and education must start with a member’s first contact with SAE and then extend throughout his life. We have heard from you that the True Gentleman Experience, or TGE, must evolve and it will, beginning with improvements to the 96-hour, bid-to-initiation program.  

We will also dramatically expand in-person educational opportunities—both in number and frequency—and we will bring these programs closer to you. We will also refine our educational offerings to better reflect our Mission, Creed, and Ritual.

Our goal with the new curriculum is to improve the quality of recruitment, better inspire our emerging leaders, drive excellence with our chapter officers, and work towards the improved health and wellness of every member. 

We will create new opportunities for you to engage, track and measure success. We will recognize those men who show their commitment to our values at each step of the way, and we will reward chapters based on their members’ collective accomplishments. 

These new educational programs will take time to launch, and we appreciate your patience. We anticipate a more comprehensive rollout in the months ahead with the first of these new resources available to you this fall.

 

CULTURE

The second core component is culture. We heard you ask the same question in many different ways: “How do we build a better culture?” As our Fraternity continues to experience behavioral issues, we know that we are not immune to the problems facing college campuses. We must do a better job. 

We will begin by elevating the role of the Health-and-Safety Officer to the chapter’s Executive Board. The social chairman and anyone else involved in planning events and activities will report directly to him. In short, all events and activities must support the brotherhood and the health and wellness of our members and guests. 

We will refrain from activities that involve alcohol during the first seven days of each academic term as well as the week prior and during final exams.  This will give all of us an opportunity to reflect on our academic priorities, our Fraternity’s values, and strengthen our friendships in a meaningful way.

ENVIRONMENT

Given the challenges we face, how do we improve the environment across the Realm to better promote SAE’s values?  We asked brother after undergraduate brother “What’s the root of the problem?” Nearly every time we heard you say, “Hard alcohol.”  

Then we asked, “What’s the solution?” While we heard many different voices on this topic—some more extreme than others—the greatest consensus was to eliminate hard alcohol. We agreed. Beginning on June 1, 2018, at all SAE facilities and at all chapter events Realm-wide, only beer and wine will be permitted. This includes those hosted by the national fraternity. 

Like so many of you told us, we want SAE to be known and appreciated as something more valuable than a drinking club. We have all seen the news stories in recent months, and we all agree that nothing is more valuable than human life and the well-being of our brothers and guests.

These new initiatives reinforce our shared values, those upon which SAE was founded. It is important that we all come together as we work to improve our leadership, our culture, and our environment for the generations that follow. 

Overview of INITIATIVES

LEADERSHIP

Extended reach of in-person education

Focus on recruitment, emerging leaders, executive leadership and health and wellness

Development of member and chapter programming to recognize and award achievement

CULTURE

Elevate the Health-and-Safety officer to the Executive Board

  • This officer shall be a member of the Fraternity for a minimum of two academic years at the time he assumes office. The social chairman and any other officers or persons involved in planning social events and activities report to this position.

There shall be no Fraternity events with alcohol during:

  • The seven calendar days following the start of each academic semester/term
  • The five calendar days preceding final exams, during final exams and during the one calendar day after final exams

No alcohol at any point during recruitment activities or where potential new members are in attendance

ENVIRONMENT

Only beer and wine, not to exceed 15% ABV, are permitted

  • At Fraternity events or activities where undergraduate members are present
  • In fraternity-related facilities including ancillary facilities (satellite houses) and third-party venues
  • Alumni and/or parents events that include undergraduate members

 

GENERAL FAQs

Q: How did Sigma Alpha Epsilon ensure that multiple voices and perspectives were considered before acting on these new initiatives?

During the temporary alcohol moratorium, the Supreme Council charged the Fraternity Service Center staff to find as many ways as possible to reach out to our undergraduate and alumni members, and to simply listen. Based on this feedback, the staff was also tasked to identify and research the latest developments on the issues impacting our members and those who will form our collegiate membership in the years ahead.

Audiences surveyed electronically included all undergraduate members, province archons, chapter and alumni advisers, house corporation presidents and other key volunteers, resulting in over 1,000 survey respondents. We also sought direct input from university fraternity and sorority advisers and conducted many hours of interviews with professionals in various fields including: leadership development, men’s wellness, psychology, sociology, substance abuse and addiction, and more generally, in education and personal development.

We hosted multiple town hall events to allow for open discussions and candid feedback with over 600 of our undergraduate members, including with all of our chapter presidents at the Eminent Archon Institute.

Finally, we held extended and more directed conversations with your Undergraduate Advisory Committee to help us better focus and target the action items of leadership, culture and environment.

Q: Why has Sigma Alpha Epsilon adopted these changes?

First and foremost, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is committed to the personal growth and development of our members. To achieve this, we must address the health and safety of our brothers and their guests at events held throughout the year and across the Realm.

We also appreciate that the issues impacting collegiate fraternities and sororities are significant, and that many of these issues are beyond the ability of our Fraternity to tackle alone. Certainly, we are not alone in these observations as dozens of universities have similarly suspended fraternity and sorority activities over the past 12 months. More troubling, however, are the politicians in several of the states where we operate who have proposed various measures that would either ban or severely curtail the operations of collegiate fraternities.

After much study and with the input from thousands of our members in the manner described above, the Supreme Council chose to implement these initiatives because: (1) they support the health and safety of our brotherhood and (2) they meet our desire to keep things simple.

While several of our chapter leaders initially reported that the temporary alcohol moratorium was a challenge, they later shared with us that this time was a rewarding opportunity to create a better balance in chapter operations and to minimize a nearly daily focus on the next social event. Our organization exists to advance the highest standards of friendship, scholarship, leadership and service for all members throughout life—this is our Mission. As so many of our members expressed to us, we want to be perceived in the spirit of our Mission, our Creed and our Ritual, and not just seen as a “drinking club.” Accordingly, these initiatives aim to better promote our Mission and to better foster brotherhood in spite of societal elements which detract from it.

Q: Does the Supreme Council have the authority to make these changes?

Yes. Your elected Supreme Council (our Fraternity’s board of directors) is the policy-making body for the organization. None of these initiatives concern or require changes to the Fraternity Laws.

Q: With improvements to our educational programs, does that mean we are bringing back pledging?

Absolutely not. Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s decision to eliminate pledge programs four years ago has proved both relevant and insightful, and we remain committed to it. In fact, several fraternities have taken similar paths including Alpha Kappa Lambda, Zeta Beta Tau, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Phi Kappa Psi. These and many others have continued to call us in recent months to explore the path we have already taken. Many universities are also considering a ban on pledge programs given the number of recent high-profile incidents.

However, we do recognize a need to make improvements to the True Gentleman Experience, or TGE, which was originally adopted four years ago along with the ban on pledging.

Q: When will the new educational programs and updated TGE curriculum launch?

We will provide more details on the new educational programs, including timing, in the months ahead. The Supreme Council and Fraternity Service Center have already been working with a professional consulting firm to help us improve in the education area. The new initiatives derived from the moratorium process will be incorporated into their current work. We are excited to announce these new programs as soon as the initial planning is complete.

Q: Why are you elevating the Health-and-Safety Officer to an Executive Board position, and requiring our social chairman to report to him?

We appreciate that social activities, when implemented properly, can enhance our members’ SAE experience. We actually encourage it. However, we must remain committed to providing a safe environment for our members and guests at all times. Towards these goals, and based on your feedback, we believe the Health-and-Safety Officer must be actively involved in all levels of discussion regarding chapter operations. The best way to realize this goal is for the Health-and-Safety Officer to serve alongside your other senior officers.

Moreover, having those members who are tasked with planning social events—even those which do not involve alcohol—report to the Health-and-Safety Officer creates valuable dialogue around accountability for the health and safety of our members and guests.

Finally, we know that a number of our chapters already have the Health-and-Safety Officer serve on their Executive Board with great success. In short, we know it works and the practice is worth implementing across the Realm.

Q: Why are we implementing these “dry periods” at the beginning and end of each semester?

Given the positive behavioral environment fostered with the recent moratorium, we agreed with the suggestions made by many of our undergraduate members to continue it throughout the year in shorter intervals. These periods are intended to allow our members to focus on their academic priorities, our Fraternity’s values and to strengthen your friendships in a meaningful way. We hope that all of our chapters embrace these periods for their intended purposes, including alcohol-free social programming.

Q: Won’t these dry periods adversely affect recruitment?

Recruitment activities are already dry based on current SAE policies and those of every college and university with whom we associate.

Based on initial feedback from the past moratorium, these dry periods should actually enhance recruitment and not detract from it. As many of you expressed, we want to be perceived as something more than a drinking club. We believe this perception (and reality) must start with recruitment and the manner in which we ask men to join our brotherhood. We hope these dry periods advance this discussion with our potential new members.

Q: Why limit alcohol to products below 15% ABV? What is 15% ABV?

ABV stands for “alcohol by volume.” Most beer, wine and other packaged products for individual consumption fall below 15% ABV. Bottles of bourbon, gin, vodka, rum, etc., all greatly exceed 15% ABV, and thus the ban of these hard alcohol products.

In developing this policy, the Supreme Council listened to our members—undergraduate and alumni—who told us that hard alcohol was “the problem,” and the consumption of these products (particularly in raw form, such as shots) is the primary cause of the extreme behavior that we have seen play out in the national media. You also told us that hard alcohol was the leading cause of the unhealthy lifestyle of a number of your members and guests whose conduct at social events is most concerning, e.g., “pre-gaming” with shots.

We are not alone in this ABV limitation. Several other fraternities, including Beta Theta Pi, Sigma Chi, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Phi Kappa Psi have implemented similar policies which limit alcohol to 15% ABV. We suspect many other collegiate fraternities will follow our example.

Q: Aren’t you punishing those chapters who have managed alcohol well under current policies?

Our data, both qualitative and quantitative, suggests that virtually every chapter struggles with hard alcohol. For example, many of you shared with us that guests are arriving at your parties already greatly intoxicated having done shots of hard alcohol in their dorm rooms or they are carrying a flask with liquor to avoid ID checks. And, to be clear, most of our incidents that have resulted in an altercation or a medical transport have involved the consumption of hard alcohol.

We recognize that eliminating hard alcohol will not solve all of these potential issues. However, eliminating these products, along with our other new initiatives and existing policies, should greatly improve the difficult situations facing our brothers, guests, and chapters.

Q: How will the Fraternity handle violations of the 15% ABV limitation?

The Fraternity will treat a violation of the hard alcohol ban in the same manner we treat all other serious violations of our health and safety policies—with seriousness. For example, we presently ban kegs and drinking games, and the response to those violations are some of the most severe. An update to Minerva’s Shield will be released in the coming months to address these new policies.

We seek the support of all of our members, both collegiate and alumni, as well as all advisers, house corporation officers and volunteers to enforce and respect this 15% ABV limit. Our research and your feedback supports the premise that most of our undergraduate brothers prefer peer-to-peer accountability, and we always hope it starts there. This is one of the reasons that we elevated the Health-and-Safety Officer to a chapter’s Executive Board.

Of course, we have confidence in our brothers to make the right choices and to respect Fraternity policy. In many ways, this is a great opportunity to improve our brotherhood and to strengthen our Fraternity bonds, as illustrated in the Good Samaritan Policy (http://www.sae.net/good-samaritan).

Q: Does this mean we can have kegs now?

No. Kegs remain prohibited. We allow beer and wine only at Fraternity functions through BYOB or a licensed, third-party vendor. Please also observe all applicable laws and university regulations.

Q: When we host an event at a third-party establishment, can we have hard alcohol because they have bartenders and are licensed to serve liquor?

No. Beer and wine are the only alcoholic beverages permitted at any SAE event, facility or ancillary facility (such as a “satellite house”), whether or not a third-party vendor is catering or hosting the event. As referenced above, we expect Minerva’s Shield to be updated in the coming months to provide additional guidance on this issue.

Q: When does the 15% ABV limit become effective?

The 15% ABV limit (or hard alcohol ban) takes effect on June 1, 2018. Please be sure to remove these products from all areas of the chapter facility by this date.

Q: I’m 21, so can I drink hard alcohol at non-SAE events?

Yes. This limitation applies only to chapter events and facilities. However, we are asking everyone to do their part to help improve the SAE experience for our brothers and your guests of every age. For example, we ask that you avoid “pre-gaming” before arriving at an SAE event. Common sense tells us all that your safety and that of every brother and guest starts with individual decision-making.

Q: What about hard alcohol at alumni or parent events?

If undergraduate members are present, then the event is limited to beer and wine only, no matter where it is held. If the alumni or parent event is hosted at a SAE facility, then undergraduate members will be deemed present. Bottom line: there should be no hard alcohol product that is greater than 15% ABV at any SAE facility (including unofficial “satellite facilities”) or event that includes undergraduate members.

We also observe that most of your parents and alumni already attend some professional meetings and corporate events that serve only beer and wine, too. Accordingly, this should not be entirely disruptive or surprising. In fact, we hope alumni and parents will appreciate the beer and wine limitation for your personal health and safety.

However, we also realize that some alumni and parents may still violate our policies even after being advised by you on the same. In such circumstances, use common sense and report the problem immediately to your chapter advisors and the Fraternity Service Center. We realize that this dialogue with alumni or parents may be difficult for you, and we are here to help you implement this program. Also, remember, many of our peer fraternities have the same or similar policies, so we are not alone.

Q: What’s next? What if I have questions?

Please realize that there is much work ahead as we roll out these new initiatives. We ask for your patience as programs and resources are developed and refined. However, please rest assured that your Fraternity, including the Supreme Council, remains committed to ensuring a positive experience for all of our members premised on SAE’s Mission, Creed and Ritual.

If you have any immediate questions about these new initiatives, please contact your District Manager or Coordinator of Chapter Development at the Fraternity Service Center, or email us at contact@sae.net.

 
 

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