SAE incident reflects drawbacks in Greek communities

By Nathan Peters, Managing Editor

Eastern’s Greek community is a small one. Despite the competition between houses, we are one big Greek family. Taking a look on a national scale, all Greeks are part of a larger family of networked organizations. When incidents like the University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity take place, it affects all Greeks.

These incidents are opportunities for the Greek family to come together and find solutions to these issues so they won’t happen again. As a fraternity member myself, the SAE members represent me and many other Greek men and women.

The SAE Oklahoma Kappa chapter was recorded singing a racist chant on a bus, with the video being leaked onto the Internet. The members had to move out as the chapter was closed by the SAE headquarters shortly after the leak of the video. The University of Oklahoma president took swift action against the fraternity: Two members identified as leaders of the chant in the video were expelled from the university.

Nickolas Robbins, the University of Utah assistant dean of students, said he commends the University of Oklahoma president for knowing his campus, students and community in his response against the fraternity chapter and its members.

“That kind of behavior and sentiment has no place in institutions of higher education,” said Robbins.

When I first learned of this video and that a chapter affiliated with such a large national fraternity did it, I was shocked. According to a SAE headquarter media release, the fraternity confirms the chant was shared at a past leadership meeting. SAE is one of the largest social fraternities with 237 groups across the nation.

Most Greek organizations have official songs; some may even have unofficial, traditional songs taught by members to the next generation within chapters. This chant is one of the unofficial, traditional songs taught between chapters.

Robbins said the University of Utah is taking this incident as an opportunity to evaluate its own community to create inclusion.

For Eastern, I believe this is an opportunity to look within our own organizations for signs of any actions or cultures that stray from our values. Greek organizations are all values-based: As a Sigma Phi Epsilon member, our core principles are virtue, diligence and brotherly love.

Samantha Armstrong Ash, Ph.D., EWU associate director for Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership, said, “For the Eastern Washington University community, I think one of the things we need to start doing is we have to recognize we are joining private, values-based organizations.”

Similar to what Armstrong said, Robbins said Greeks must get back to what their founders had started and back to their values. He said we need to stop looking backward but toward the future: “Look forward and reevaluate what it means to be a [Greek] member now.”

Armstrong said, “We can’t just argue it doesn’t happen when people see it happening all across the country. We actually have to do our work to prevent it from happening [at Eastern] and to live our values. When you do your work, when you hold yourself to a higher standard, people start seeing that in your community; you don’t have to spend as much time fighting the stereotype. You just have to do your work.”

The SAE video incident at the University of Oklahoma serves as an opportunity for Greeks to come together. This incident reflects poorly on all Greek organizations and all Greek members. This is the time for Eastern’s Greek community to take a stand and refocus on our values to better our members, campus and community.