National fraternity closes longstanding Ole Miss chapter

A fraternity's national office has closed its longstanding University of Mississippi chapter, citing health and safety concerns and violations of national standards.

Posted: Dec 13, 2017 9:47 AM
Updated: Dec 13, 2017 8:12 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — A fraternity's national office has closed its longstanding University of Mississippi chapter, citing health and safety concerns and violations of national standards.

Local media reported Tuesday that Sigma Alpha Epsilon, based in Evanston, Illinois, had made the move.

The fraternity said in a statement that current members have been suspended indefinitely from the fraternity and members recruited this fall have been released. Sigma Alpha Epsilon said it hopes someday to re-establish a chapter at Ole Miss.

The national organization says it learned of "continued activity" after it ordered the chapter to stop unnamed behaviors. The organization says the closure is a "crucial reminder" to other chapters to follow the fraternity's decision to replace traditional pledging in 2014 with what it calls the True Gentleman Experience, welcoming new members with a "holistic education."

"Failure to follow our membership-education program known as the True Gentleman Experience will not be tolerated and may result in closure," the statement says. "Those types of violations jeopardize other chapters and colonies and devalue the positive membership opportunity we should enjoy as a brotherhood."

The following statement was issued to WTVA by the University of Mississippi.

"Following an investigation of reported hazing allegations, the University of Mississippi’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct uncovered serious and concerning conduct within the Mississippi Gamma Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Those findings and concerns were shared with representatives from the national organization. Late last week, the national board decided to suspend the charter, close the chapter and disband the undergraduate group for several years.

The actions that led to this decision are deeply disappointing and troubling. Hazing will not be tolerated and we support the actions of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity to close the chapter."

Alumni of the Ole Miss chapter, which was founded in 1866, include former Gov. Haley Barbour, author William Faulkner and U.S. Supreme Court Justice L.Q.C. Lamar.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brandi Hephner LaBanc said in October that Ole Miss was investigating four fraternities or sororities for hazing. It's unclear if the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter was one of them. University spokesman Jon Scott didn't immediately respond Tuesday night to a request for comment.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been under national scrutiny after the publication of a book by John Hechinger exploring the fraternity. Hechinger describes SAE as America's deadliest fraternity, with 10 deaths — most linked to alcohol— since 2005. The fraternity also came under scrutiny after a 2015 video captured members of the University of Oklahoma chapter singing a song with racist lyrics.

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