Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), a fraternity currently embroiled in a nationwide scandal over hazing deaths, announced on March 7 that the entire organization is eliminating the pledging process.
Cal Poly freshman Carson Starkey was pledging SAE when he died of alcohol poisoning during an SAE hazing event in 2008. Starkey’s death is one of at least 10 deaths since 2006 that have been connected to hazing, alcohol, or drugs at SAE functions, according to a Bloomberg investigation.
In a press release announcing the pledging ban, SAE cited the “attack on our image” and “bad publicity” caused by “a number of incidents and deaths” as a motivating factor for the decision—but not the sole factor.
“We have endured a painful number of chapter closings as a result of hazing,” the organization said in the release. “Being a new member in any fraternity should never be about servitude, memorizing obscure facts, or enduring any physical challenge.”
Under the redesigned SAE program for new members—called the True Gentleman Experience—SAE chapters will selectively extend invitations or “bids.” Students accepting this bid will become full members almost immediately.
“For five years, we have lived with the knowledge that countless young people were being put into the same, potentially deadly situation as our son,” Julia Starkey, Carson’s mother, said in a statement. “We’ve worked hard to build a peer-driven movement to change the culture on campuses, and it’s working.”
One requirement of the True Gentleman Experience is the “Carson Starkey Membership Certification Program,” an alcohol and hazing awareness educational component developed with Starkey’s parents and their nonprofit organization, Awake Aware Alive.
The policy applies to all of SAE’s 226 chapters and 15 colonies—totaling approximately 14,000 undergraduate members, effective March 9.
At Cal Poly, SAE was banned from campus following Starkey’s death, and their reinstatement will not be considered prior to Dec. 2, 2033.