Letter to the Editor: My experience as a former SAE brother

Content Warning: Sexual assault, sexual violence, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, fraternity culture, rape culture

Former Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers, I’ve been silent too long and it’s time I told you publicly: stop rushing a new pledge class.

It is incredibly disrespectful to everyone on our campus who has been made to feel unsafe in SAE spaces and it ignores the important conversation on rape culture at Northwestern. I realize that rape culture on campus is not limited to SAE, but I am speaking to my own experiences within the organization. I know of women who have been sexually assaulted in our spaces and that is shameful.

SAE fosters an environment where members openly talk about past hookups in degrading ways at Sunday brunch, where first-years have to invite a certain number of freshmen women to increase the female-to-male ratio at parties and where it is not only accepted but esteemed to be the person who gets blackout drunk at events. This toxic culture was brought to light after last winter’s allegations.

I don’t mean to share any of this as a way to congratulate myself for deactivating in April — the fact that it took until this issue went public for me to do so is nothing to be proud of. My action is not laudable, and I should have never joined such an organization in the first place. I mean to finally call out behavior and a culture that I should have called out long ago. I mean to do it explicitly — and I mean to do it publicly — because my complicitness and silence have actively hurt others.

We men still have a long way to go in making NU safe, comfortable and accepting. Let’s make sure we know what we stand for, who we stand for and what we absolutely will not stand for. There is not, and never has been, an excuse for inaction. To survivors — and to all women, female-identifiers and non-binary individuals at Northwestern and beyond — I cannot apologize enough for being silent for so long. You deserve better. So much better.

First-year men who are going through the rush process: Show you are committed to being active, not silent, and do not even consider rushing SAE. In fact, I urge you to question why you want to join a fraternity in the first place — I certainly wish I had. It is disturbing that SAE prioritizes “having fun” over being introspective and realizing the overwhelming presence of sexual assault on our campus. Women on this campus, pretty much everyone outside of SAE and even some SAE brothers do not feel comfortable within the fraternity’s spaces or among its members. It is time for SAE to change. It is time for SAE to stop playing the victim card.

Jimmy Wester, Weinberg senior