Simpson SAE members address national controversies

by Alex Kirkpatrick, video reporter

Riding the wake of public outcry and exposure, members of the fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), are “disgusted” by the behavior of their national counterparts.

Earlier this month, video surfaced online of racial slurs exclaiming “There will never be a (epithet) in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me!”

“I was not only shocked and disappointed, but disgusted by the outright display of racism displayed in the video,” SAE national president Bradley Cohen said in a statement.

SAE is no stranger to being critically scrutinized for what is being deemed by CNN as a “textbook case of frats behaving badly.”

More specifically, negative connotations of fraternities have unfortunately been associated with scandals such as sexual assault and rape.

At the beginning of the semester, The Iowa State Daily reported a sexual assault where the assailant happened to be a member of SAE and to which Christian Dahl, the president of that chapter, did not comment.

In an opinion piece, Ashley Smith, SARA advocate, writes, “If fraternity men weren’t pressured to show their male prowess through binge drinking and sexual promiscuity, there would be fewer sexual assaults and hazing occurring on campuses.”

In response to Smith’s article, one Facebook comment stated, “I would like to point out that Simpson’s fraternities go to lengths to ensure that destructive hazing is not present in their houses, especially during the recruitment process. The men take pride in what they are a part of…”

Spokesman Brandon Weghorst said in a statement, “Any form of assault or sexual misconduct by anyone is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate actions that are inconsistent with our values. The individual behavior of any member that deviates from our beliefs does not and should not reflect on other members, other chapters or other fraternity men.”

The Simpsonian editorial board reiterated its sentiments in an article stating, “At Simpson College, if you’re Greek, you might be used to defending your sisters or brothers, saying your chapter isn’t like the one at another school, where its reputation might be tainted. Those who aren’t Greek sometimes defend the chapters on campus when others criticize them.”

This comes after multiple reports of hazing and deaths occurring on college campuses nationwide that prompted SAE to ban pledging and hazing in totality, effective last year on March 9, 2014.

Now, new questions are being raised on how effectively administrations are handling sexual assault cases. At Iowa State, an investigation was launched after the university failed to

“promptly and equitably respond to complaints, reports and/or incidents of sexual violence of which it had notice.”

“If they have this stigma of one person,” Smith says, “and they don’t do anything to stop it, that is saying to us that they don’t care.”

President of Simpson’s chapter of SAE, Josh Harry, said in an interview, “There definitely is a negative stigma that gets wrapped in with fraternity life, and obviously when you get a group of anyone, we’re going to make mistakes, and that’s the case with any sports team or organization. It’s easy to point the finger at Greek life.”

In regards to the recent sexual assault reports, Harry said, “It’s important that people understand that’s not how we conduct ourselves. Obviously, it should be an expectation that sexual assault never happens. There’s an absolute zero-tolerance policy to any conduct relating to sexual assault.”

At a White House event last September, President Obama claimed that “an estimated one-in-five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years.”

However, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (a subdivision of the Department of Justice) completed a six-year study on college rape, and found that rather than one-in-five female students (20%), the actual figure is 0.03-in-5 (0.61%).

Nonetheless, Harry states that one case of sexual assault is one too many.

He says it’s necessary to prevent such instances and that current protocols are in place to do so, but that it’s also imperative to view Greek life on a wider spectrum.

“I would just like to say that that’s not who we are, and if there is conduct that doesn’t stand true to what we believe, we will try to right those wrongs in the best way possible and try to hold our members to the highest standards,” Harry said.

Meanwhile, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and PanHellenic Council partnered up with SARA to put on an event during Greek Week in which groups work with SARAs one-on-one along with the help of safety officers from each of their respective houses in order to become more educated about sexual assault and know what steps to take in order to prevent sexual assault on Simpson’s campus.

“I think there’s a negative stigma for fraternities in general, based on the actions of a few houses across the nation that are covered by the media,” Zach Goodrich, IFC president, said. “Thankfully, I don’t think that’s a problem here at Simpson because our Greek life is fundamentally different than what you’ll find at, say, Iowa State.”

The mission of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, as stated on its website, is to “promote the highest standards of friendship, scholarship, and service for our members.” Under these virtues, members strive to be a “True Gentleman” which is embedded in its creed. 

Garrett Pochop, SAE Recorder, says, “Part of our True Gentleman experience is, you know, you gotta be there for the events, you gotta put in the brotherhood, and I think that’s something that all almost the members pride themselves on. We have a strong showing at all of our events and all our meetings [sic].”

In the midst of national turmoil and media focalization, service chair of SAE, Kellan Kremer, says the philanthropic goals of SAE are widely under appreciated.

With over 1,100 services hours accumulated this year, Kremer says the service is not heavily advertised, and the projects are orchestrated on a smaller scale, such as raking leaves for the elderly or plowing snow. This usually only requires four to five people at a time.

Larger events include partnering with the local First United Methodist Church in Indianola by organizing a pancake drive that raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network, or participating in “Putting on the Ritz” put on by the National Balloon Classic.

Members must complete 20 hours of community service, while sophomore Austin Olsen has completed over 60 hours already.

“It’s kind of hard for people to see the work we do in the community, we don’t really advertise it that much,” Kremer said. “It doesn’t really compensate the negative stigma that fraternities get because it’s not one of those things that gets broadcasted; it’s always the negative things that go out. No one really focuses on the positive things that fraternities can do for a community.”

Through what seems like incessant plaguing, members of Simpson’s SAE chapter remain deeply rooted in the True Gentleman experience.

As one SAE member, Tyler Stokesbary, is sharp to point out, “There are two different types of fraternity people in the world. The frat boy that uses the fraternity to serve [himself]. And the fraternity man that uses the fraternity to serve others and better the community. More specifically in SAE, there are brother Zeros, who think of themselves and do not [exemplify] the True [Gentleman], and the brother Heroes, who live the creed of the True Gentlemen and become better people because of it.”