Yale’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon formally announced Tuesday afternoon that it will be disassociating from the national chapter.
Following the decision, the organization will now operate independently and will be known as “Leo.” According to an email Leo president Grant Mueller ’17 sent today to the SAE national chapter, the former Yale chapter unanimously agreed that it will “absolve” any affiliation with the national organization of SAE and will no longer use the letters or services it provides. Mueller said the group chose to disaffiliate itself because many of the resources provided by the national chapter can be found at Yale and customized more closely to serve the organization’s needs.
While Mueller said the conversation about disaffiliation predates highly public allegations of racism and sexism against both Yale’s chapter of SAE and the national organization, he acknowledged that the incidents served as important considerations during the process.
“The incidents [that occurred at other SAE chapters] were definitely one of the focal points at the start of the conversation, but they were not a determining factor,” Mueller said.
In February 2015, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway banned Yale’s chapter of SAE from campus and prohibited it from using the name SAE in connection with the University, after a University investigation found that the chapter had violated Yale’s policies on sexual misconduct. And last semester, the chapter made national headlines after it was accused of holding a “white girls only” party. Holloway later announced that an investigation led by Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard in conjunction with a representative from the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs found “no evidence of systematic discrimination against people of color.”
Mueller said the February 2015 sanctions, which are effective until August 2016, will remain unchanged despite the disaffiliation. Holloway, who just learned of the disaffiliation today, told the News he does not know enough about the situation currently to provide a comment.
The national chapter of SAE has drawn national scrutiny for allegedly fostering a hostile racial climate among its brothers. In early March 2015, a video surfaced online of University of Oklahoma SAE members chanting racist lyrics. Following the video’s publication, the SAE chapter at Oklahoma was closed and two of its members were expelled.
Leo members interviewed said the change in affiliation and name of the organization does not affect the organization’s values or its image on campus. A junior member of Leo who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue said that the core values of the organization remain the same. Changing a name does not change the group’s ideals, he said, and Leo will still try to uphold the same morals and represent the organization as best as possible on campus.
“We will continue to work towards maintaining an inclusive climate and make sure everyone feels welcome,” one Leo sophomore member said. “Those efforts have not stopped and will continue as long as the organization operates.”
Still, the disaffiliation will bring changes in how the organization operates. Mueller said Leo will establish an alumni board to offer oversight over the chapter. He noted that members will also pay lower dues to the organization, adding that previously brothers were required to pay about $325 per semester to the national chapter.
“Yale and our alumni base offer services and advice that are a lot more personalized to the needs of our organization than what we get from the national chapter,” Mueller said. “This decision was not contested at all within the chapter, and while it reached its fruition now, it has been a really long conversation that has more or less consisted since I joined the fraternity.”
One Leo officer agreed that for Yale, affiliation with a national chapter is not necessary. Having a national chapter is advantageous for bigger fraternities that have to deal with a large house and numerous operations, he said, but Yale’s organization is smaller and does not have the same needs.
“A lot of the benefits the national chapter provides, we can get in a more personalized and fitting way at Yale because they’re more finely tuned to Yale’s unique culture,” the officer said. “I also think a lot of the benefits of the national fraternity don’t really apply to Yale because Yale sort of has a hands off approach to Greek life.”