The GW chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity continues to prepare to defend itself against possible legal action by GW’s general counsel’s office.
But GW is not the first university to accuse a Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter of misbehavior, nor is it the first time the national organization and university administrators have clashed in discussions of fraternity members’ violations.
Last year, leaders of the national organization considered appealing Louisiana State University’s decision to suspend its Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter after a fatal incident in which a pledge consumed six times the legal limit of alcohol, according to reports after the incident.
When the chapter pled no contest to charges of purchasing alcohol for underage drinkers, LSU administrators suspended the fraternity until June 2001. Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national organization came close to appealing the suspension, said Frank Ginocchio, assistant executive director of the fraternity’s field office.
Ginocchio said local alumni at LSU suggested the organization appeal the suspension because he said they wanted to reduce the amount of time the fraternity would remain off campus. He said no proof of forced hazing existed and the alumni thought the chapter might face less extreme punishment if university officials heard its side at an appeal hearing.
He said Sigma Alpha Epsilon officials also were criticized because they did not revoke the charter of the LSU fraternity.
Kathy Marcel, director of Greek affairs at LSU, said she could not comment because lawsuits involving the pledge’s death still are pending.
Officials at other institutions said Sigma Alpha Epsilon national leaders have been helpful and supportive when confronted with disciplinary problems.
“Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been open with us about our questions, problems and concerns,” said Anne Humphries, assistant director of student activities for Greek life at the College of William and Mary.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon officials were supportive of the college’s rules and regulations, and appropriately responded to her concerns about an incident about which she said she could not give details, Humphries said.
The Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at Clemson University was sanctioned last year for misbehavior and recently was charged with university violations. Mandy Hays, director of student activities and organizations at Clemson, refused to comment on the specific violations.
She said the national organization has been helpful in dealing with the incident. A hearing Wednesday will determine the fate of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Clemson, she said.
“(Sigma Alpha Epsilon officials) said they would be supportive of suspension if we decide to suspend the organization,” Hays said.
Ginocchio said Sigma Alpha Epsilon officials are cautious about taking charters away from their chapters.
“Learning is not saying `we’re throwing you out,’ ” he said.
GW’s general counsel sent a letter to the fraternity’s national organization in August threatening legal action if members did not quell their behavior. Sigma Alpha Epsilon officials said the general counsel’s office canceled a scheduled meeting with local fraternity alumni to discuss the potential lawsuit.
GW’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon alumni said GW’s rules and regulations conflict with those of the fraternity.
Bill Clinton, regional director of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said he was surprised by the adversarial relationship GW officials have with fraternities. He said the controversy between Sigma Alpha Epsilon and GW administrators is pointless because the University has no jurisdiction over off-campus organizations.
“They choose not to recognize us, so they have no say in what we do,” Clinton said. “Effectively, we are another apartment house and they don’t like it.”
Tracie Anzaldi, coordinator of Greek Affairs and Spirit Events at GW, said GW’s relationship with Sigma Alpha Epsilon is unusual because the national organization has continued to support a chapter that is not recognized by GW.