The GW chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon received a letter from the University’s general counsel’s office this summer in response to fraternity members’ alleged disruptive behavior.
The letter was the most recent confrontation in a feud between the University and the fraternity that began when the chapter decided not to register for GW recognition in 1993.
Mike Gargano, executive director of the Student Activities Center, said a letter was sent to the executive director of Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s international headquarters. However, Gargano refused to comment about the nature of the letter.
Gargano said University administrators sent the letter because it was forced to take action against Sigma Alpha Epsilon for its judicial history and pattern of disruptive behavior.
“We have expectations about how members of the Greek-letter community and their houses should conduct themselves,” Gargano said. “The truth is (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) has not met our expectations, even after it’s been brought to their attention numerous times.”
Jan-Mitchell Sherrill, associate dean of students, said University administrators always are concerned when organizations remain unrecognized. He said they are “certainly concerned” about Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“We are concerned about any group that is a danger to our students,” Sherrill said. “If they attract our students to their organization but don’t go through the safeguards sanctioned by GW, we can’t guarantee students won’t be jeopardized or misled.”
“We are not animals running wild,” said Tim Beresford, Sigma Alpha Epsilon president. “We have an alumni control board that is sometimes stricter than the University.”
In a letter to GW administrators, Sigma Alpha Epsilon said it received the letter from the general counsel’s office, according to an alumnus of the chapter who asked not to be identified because of potential legal discourse between GW and the fraternity. Representatives of the fraternity, like members of the administration, refused to comment on the details of the letter except to say it suggested the University and the chapter should discuss their relationship.
Beresford said the members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon are average students who came to GW to get an education and find a job after graduation.
In 1993, Sigma Alpha Epsilon members decided, with the support of their alumni and international headquarters, to refuse to register with the University, making the chapter an unrecognized organization, Beresford said.
He said the fraternity decided to remain unrecognized because GW’s rules were in direct conflict with the fraternity’s chapter rules.
“It was in the best interest of our house. (The University) violated our jurisdictional civil liberties and property rights,” said Beresford, quoting accusations made by the chapter in a November 1993 letter to the University.
Beresford said GW administrators make inaccurate assumptions about the membership of an entire Greek-letter organization, even on occasions when only one or two members are at fault. If one member of a fraternity is condemned for fighting or underage drinking, all the brothers are implicated, he said.
After attending a conference about the possibility of Sigma Alpha Epsilon becoming an alcohol-free fraternity nationwide, the alumnus said he began discussing that issue with Tracie Anzaldi, GW’s coordinator of Greek affairs and spirit events.
“We have high hopes for working with Tracie,” he said.
But Anzaldi said Sigma Alpha Epsilon members are not giving her any indication that they wish to regain University recognition.
She said after the alumnus promised to prevent Sigma Alpha Epsilon from hosting a party during Colonial Inauguration in violation of GW rules, the fraternity blatantly broke its promise by holding a party anyway.
“We admit there have been some failures on our part,” the alumnus said. “But the University has files on us that do not parallel our true behavior.”
The administration maintains that Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s behavior must be curbed before it can be re-established as a recognized organization.
“They would need to pay dues because they damaged this Greek-letter system,” Anzaldi said. “Right now, they’re a thorn in our side.”
Anzaldi said Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s international headquarters is unique because most fraternity organizations do not permit their chapters to remain unrecognized by university administrators.
Administrators agree that for now, University recognition seems unlikely for Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“They provide a black eye to the whole Greek-letter community,” Gargano said. “But, I don’t want to close the door on (Sigma Alpha Epsilon).”
Beresford said Sigma Alpha Epsilon is not interested in returning to campus until the University creates a balanced relationship – one he said would benefit the fraternity and the University.
Representatives of Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s international headquarters were unavailable for comment.