IFC reverses course, recognizes SAE as a member with limited voting power


Daily File Photo by Colin Boyle

IFC, under new leadership, reversed its earlier decision to derecognize SAE until 2021. The announcement comes after months of uncertainty about how the fraternity would operate without recognition from the governing body.

Cameron Cook and Alan Perez

The Northwestern chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity will rejoin the Interfraternity Council this fall, a remarkable about face for the governing body that voted last year to cease recognition of the chapter until 2021.

While the embattled fraternity will not serve as a full member with voting power, SAE will enjoy some of the same benefits as other IFC chapters. The decision comes after the University announced SAE would return to campus this fall, and is a rebuttal of IFC’s earlier decision that unleashed months of uncertainty.

“We’re supporting the University and we partnered with them,” said Jack Harrington, the IFC president. “We recognize SAE, and we’re working with the Office of Student Conduct to manage all their sanctions, and be in good standing with the university and our community.”

In May 2017, the University suspended the fraternity until fall 2018 for hosting social events in violation of its probation and providing alcohol to minors. The suspension prohibited the organization from recruiting or holding social events.

In the face of widespread anger over Northwestern’s decision to not take disciplinary action against SAE for a report of sexual assault and druggings made in early 2017, lame-duck IFC chapter presidents voted in October to cease recognition of SAE until 2021. Days after, an NU spokesman told The Daily the chapter would be allowed to return if it “successfully completes” the terms of its suspension.

The announcements raised questions about how the fraternity would operate without the recognition of its self-governing body.

“This decision has implications that broadly, but deeply, affect many different parts of campus, from student life to higher levels of university administration,” the Panhellenic Association said in statement at the time. “All four Greek Councils are self-governing, but self-governance requires partnership and collaboration.”

For almost a year, the fate of SAE was uncertain — until now.

This year’s executive board had “disagreements” with how last year’s board responded to the incident, Harrington said. IFC avoided a potentially damaging clash with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, but the situation raises questions about the council’s relationship with the University.

“While their adjudication processes might be independent, we hope IFCs and universities work collaboratively on fraternity organizational conduct outcomes,” said Heather Matthews Kirk, the chief communications officer for the North-American Interfraternity Conference. “IFC is responsible for setting expectations for its member chapters and properly enforcing those with due process. We also recognize chapters can be student organizations regardless of affiliation with the IFC.”

Travis Martin, the Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said his office works strictly in an “advisory capacity.”

“That would be the same for any other student organization, we don’t necessarily run the organizations, but we try to work in concert with a council to advise them and things of that nature,” he said.

Martin declined to provide specifics about SAE, but referred to a news release announcing the chapter’s return to campus earlier this month. Harrington also declined to elaborate further.

17 members of SAE will be allowed to return, 13 of whom will live in the house, overseen by a live-in house director, according to the release by FSL and IFC. SAE will remain on alcohol restriction through Winter Quarter 2019 and on probation through Spring Quarter, Martin said.

Under its new capacity in the council, SAE will participate in IFC programming, attend forums and roundtables, and is subject to all IFC regulations.

The current president of Northwestern’s SAE chapter, Tommy Vaughan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In response to emailed questions earlier this month, Johnny Sao, the national headquarters’ communications director, said his office will “continue providing support and advice to the chapter, which is usual for groups following a suspension.”

An earlier version of this article misattributed an October 2017 statement to the Associated Student Government. The statement was made by the Panhellenic Association executive board. The Daily regrets the error.

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