Roughly 18 months after Yale’s embattled Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter announced it would dissociate from the national SAE organization, LEO — as the fraternity now calls itself — has not completed the formal procedure for dissociation.
SAE’s online chapter directory still lists LEO as the “Connecticut Omega” chapter located at 35 High Street, New Haven. And Ian Reid ’19, the new president of LEO, is listed on the website as an email contact for the Yale chapter.
“Our Connecticut Omega chapter at Yale University is currently active, though school policy does not recognize officially Greek-letter organizations,” said Brandon Weghorst, chief communications officer for SAE’s national organization. “There is no charter forfeiture or disaffiliation in progress [at the Yale chapter].”
That means LEO remains beholden to the fraternity’s national laws, Weghorst said.
Still, in a statement to the News, LEO’s membership said it remains committed to distancing the fraternity from SAE.
“Since informing the national SAE chapter of our intention to disaffiliate in May of 2016, we have been rigorously working towards that end,” the statement said. “This has been a difficult and frustrating process and we have been working with a lawyer to see it through. We are entirely committed to continuing disaffiliation and are confident we can complete this process with the national chapter.”
When LEO announced plans for the dissociation on May 3, 2016, then-President of SAE Grant Mueller ’17 told the News that the group chose to disaffiliate itself because many of the resources provided by the national chapter could be found at Yale and customized to serve the organization’s specific needs. He said conversations about disaffiliation predate a series of highly public allegations of racism and sexism against both Yale’s chapter of SAE and the national organization. But he also acknowledged that the incidents served as “one of the focal points at the start of the conversation” about disaffiliation.
In January, in an email to the Yale fraternity reform group Engender, last year’s LEO president — Jesse Mander ’18 — said LEO remains “in the process of disaffiliation, finalizing some legal details, and are thus bound to Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national policies through the rest of this school year.” Engender, which advocates for greater gender inclusion in fraternities, provided the email to the News upon request.
In recent years, SAE — both the national organization and the Yale branch — has faced intense criticism in the wake of a series of controversial episodes.
In February 2015, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway banned Yale’s chapter of SAE from campus and prohibited it from using the SAE name in connection with the University, after a University investigation found that the chapter had violated Yale’s policies on sexual misconduct. In the fall of 2015, when LEO was still affiliated with the national SAE organization, a visiting Columbia University student accused the fraternity of holding a “white girls only” party on Halloween. The fraternity denied the allegations, and a subsequent investigation by the Yale College Dean’s Office found no evidence of “systematic discrimination against people of color.”
Yale’s chapter is not the only branch of SAE to have faced a racially charged controversy. In 2015, a video of SAE’s University of Oklahoma chapter singing a racist song went viral. The chapter was ultimately shut down and two students were expelled.
Since announcing the dissociation in May 2016, LEO has not made any public announcement that it remains formally affiliated with SAE, even as the fraternity has changed its name on campus, rolled out diversity reforms and made sweeping revisions to health and safety protocols at parties as part of its new life as LEO.
In an interview last fall, Mander told the News that the dissociation from the national chapter allowed LEO to redefine its image on campus — without mentioning that the formal disaffiliation process was incomplete. He also said LEO has saved money because it no longer pays annual dues to the national SAE organization. In their statement to the News, members of LEO clarified that an alumnus has paid the chapter’s dues to the national organization since the fraternity’s Yale branch announced its intention to disaffiliate from SAE.
Although there is a set procedure for a chapter to dissociate from the national organization, Weghorst added, any students who are currently members of LEO are free to individually resign their membership in SAE at any time for personal reasons.
Representatives from Engender said LEO’s continuing affiliation with SAE represents a dishonest attempt to manipulate the views of the student body.
“Because the actual negotiations between Yale fraternities and their national chapters are, for the most part, completely unregulated by Yale’s administration, fraternities can spread misinformation about membership proceedings easily and rampantly,” said Anna McNeil ’20, Engender’s director of university affairs, in an email to the News. “In the case of Leo, we can see a perfect example of this falsified information. Fraternities breed a culture of secrecy and elitism, wherein only a privileged (exclusively male) few are able to exaggerate and even lie in order to preserve their reputations.”
Last month, LEO came under renewed scrutiny on social media after Alexys Barrett, a black student at Southern Connecticut State University, claimed on Facebook that the fraternity turned her and her friends away from a party on the basis of race. Shortly afterward, Yale opened an investigation into the incident. LEO maintains that their doormen do not discriminate on the basis of race and that their door policy is to allow entry only to students who have Yale IDs or are accompanied by students with Yale IDs.
SAE was founded on March 9, 1856 at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Britton O’Daly | firstname.lastname@example.org