Letter to the Editor: It is time to stop giving SAE chances

I wrote last year that SAE was unworthy of a spot on our campus. The op-ed published by their president last week did nothing to change my mind.

I hold many privileges as a wealthy, white cisgender woman in a PHA sorority, and I don’t want to speak for perspectives that are not my own. But, after two years of publicly and privately wrestling with this organization in student government and in this newspaper, I cannot hold my tongue in the face of this organization’s apparent inability to grasp the severity of allegations of sexual violence.

The op-ed the president of SAE wrote is laughable. They have never, as an organization, publicly demonstrated any grasp of the severity of sexual violence on college campuses since we received the student-wide email about allegations of drugging and sexual violence at SAE and an unnamed fraternity. They have never shown us they take the allegations seriously. The op-ed was no exception.

To recap: SAE membership, in the wake of the email originally sent to the student body, debated with me and Lars Benson for two hours in ASG senate on our statement on the issue and walked out of the room at the motion to vote by roll call. They were de-recognized by IFC last year because of reports that they recruited during their suspension. After that, I wrote an op-ed arguing that people feel SAE did not deserve to come back onto our campus as they lacked even the decency to respect their suspension on a basic level.

Vaughan wrote that SAE has been criticized for “making this campus unsafe, prioritizing ‘having fun’ and lacking accountability for its actions.” Towards the very end, he writes that they knows that SAE stands “for everything wrong in the greek community,” “including sexual assault.”

Vaughan spends little time discussing sexual violence in his piece. But for everyone else, sexual violence is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of this organization. It is the core of the issue. We don’t care if they were reckless or partied too hard or served alcohol to minors. We care about the fact that they potentially drugged and sexually assaulted people in their fraternity spaces.

What I needed from SAE is not a bland commitment to do the already-required workshops, a vague promise to “start from scratch,” a confusing determination to have a more “individually-focused” recruitment, (when that is already how IFC recruitment is supposed to work).

What I wanted in a public statement from SAE was empathy. I wanted them to show that they know what it is like to feel unsafe on this campus. All they have demonstrated so far is that they have a sheepish understanding of what it is like to be the person who is making others feel unsafe and a poorly-articulated desire to fix it. I wanted them to own the impact they had on this campus in a real way. Write a better op-ed, SAE. Show you care for survivors and for campus culture by not just doing what you’re supposed to but figuring out how you can do more.

And, even then; men thinking of joining greek life: don’t join SAE. Even with a display of public accountability — which, as I have argued, the most recent op-ed was inadequate of doing — I still do not believe that their letters and their presence deserve money, capital and physical space on this campus. After a couple of University-mandated workshops, will they really be a “new SAE”?

In NU’s inability to act, the decision is left to us. Are we going to keep SAE going, or are we going to attempt to do what is rarely done — hold fraternities accountable?

In SHAPE, we talk a lot about how impact is more important than intent. Even if SAE did not mean to cause harm, they have to take responsibility for their ultimate impact. Given multiple chances over the past two years, SAE has been unable to do so effectively. It is time to stop giving them chances. It is time to stop giving them our money, our time and our membership. If the University cannot do that, I can only hope that we will.

— Gabrielle Bienasz, Medill junior