Fraternity chapters at U of M, Gustavus accept national pledging ban

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Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members at the University of Minnesota and Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter will no longer run semester-long pledging rituals, after the national SAE organization banned the practices effective March 9, the Star Tribune reports.

At the U, some leaders in the Greek community say they support the innovative change but noted that pledging at their house was already safe, the Star Tribune reports. It's too bad "some bad apples" led to a scrapping of the tradition, Brad Otto, the U’s SAE chapter president, told the newspaper.

Pledging has gotten a lot of attention in recent years as hazing scandals have surfaced nationwide. Many fraternity members have said the time-honored tradition of pledging is usually all in fun and helps build camaraderie. But it has turned violent and cruel in certain cases.

SAE has undergone particular scrutiny. At least 10 deaths since 2006 have been linked to hazing, alcohol or drugs at SAE events, more than at any other fraternity, according to an analysis conducted by Bloomberg.

Among those who allege hazing inside SAE were Justin Stuart, a former student at Salisbury University in Maryland, whose claims got the attention of the state Legislature. He alleges that in 2012 SAE brothers took him outside in freezing temperatures, doused him with cold water and put him in a dark basement for nine hours as loud music blared. He also alleged beatings.

The SAE fraternity was expelled from Arizona State University last year, following several high-profile events, including the death of a freshman member, who disappeared from a Greek social event. His body was found several weeks later and his death was ruled an accidental drowning.

SAE's shift in policy, announced Sunday and deemed "historic" by the fraternity, affects 14,000 undergraduate members at its 240 chapters nationwide. Leaders said the change was aimed at creating a safer and more inclusive atmosphere.

Matt McFarland, a sophomore engineering major from Sherwood, Minnesota, told Bloomberg his pledging experience led to tighter bonds with his fraternity brothers.

“It’s so tragic that chapters do dumb, dumb, dumb things, and people get hurt because of it,” McFarland, 19, told Bloomberg. “It’s so backward to the idea of a fraternity. Instead of cherishing your relationship with your brothers, you end up hurting them.”

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