Stanford University fraternity loses housing indefinitely | News | Palo Alto Online |


Stanford University fraternity loses housing indefinitely

Investigation finds Sigma Alpha Epsilon members violated alcohol and social suspension

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Stanford University's Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has lost its house indefinitely after a university investigation found that its members engaged in acts of intimidation and retaliation, including deterring a female student from reporting a potential Title IX concern involving the fraternity.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), whose housing privileges were suspended earlier this year following a sexual harassment investigation, will now be an unhoused fraternity, the university announced Wednesday.

An investigation conducted this spring uncovered two incidents of intimidation and retaliation that occurred within the fraternity in recent months, both relating to concerns about federal gender equity law Title IX, the university said. One incident involved intimidation and retaliatory conduct, including acts of cyberbullying directed at another student based on a false belief that the student had reported Title IX concerns about SAE, according to the university.

The investigation also found that SAE members held social events at the Campus Drive house with non-members and had alcohol in common areas of the house on several occasions in recent months. This violated sanctions the university handed down this spring following a previous investigation that found the fraternity had created a hostile environment for female students at a May 2014 event in violation of Title IX and university policy.

That investigation resulted in SAE losing its house for two years, a decision that the fraternity appealed. Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman, the appeal officer for the case, found no grounds for overturning the findings of the investigation, but allowed members to stay in the house through the spring quarter of this year, an extension of the original sanction. They were not allowed to have alcohol in the house or host social events during that time.

"The university recognizes that some members of SAE sought to comply with the university restrictions and encourage their fellow fraternity members to do likewise," the university said in a statement Wednesday. "However, those members were not successful. Moreover, the university finds most egregious and will not tolerate conduct that intimidates students for speaking out when they believe they or others have been wronged."

Stanford also placed SAE on probationary status for three academic years.

"The chapter will continue to be a recognized student organization; however, it will be considered a chapter not in good standing," the university said.

In partnership with the university, representatives from SAE national headquarters and alumni will conduct a full membership review of current members by the end of the fall 2015 quarter. The review aims to determine whether each member is "living up to the standards and ideals of the fraternity," the university said. If not, SAE will be expected to dismiss any such member from the chapter.

For the rest of the current school year, SAE is prohibited from having any alcohol in the current house or surrounding property, having non-member guests in the house and sponsoring any social events. The fraternity can appeal the university's sanctions to Provost John Etchemendy.

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10 people like this
Posted by serious
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 20, 2015 at 9:21 am

Sexual harassment and cyberbullying are serious. I am far less concerned with a frat having alcohol violations. What about how thee frat guys are going to act going forward in their lives with respect to their perceived power in their relations with women and on the net, as they use their frat and Stanford connections to network their way to "success?"

15 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 20, 2015 at 9:33 am

Good to see Stanford doing the right thing here.

Of course if this article was about the Stanford Band instead of SAE, there would be some posters on here saying that they were just being "young and fun".

25 people like this
Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on May 20, 2015 at 10:32 am

Another ineffectual and inadequate sanction. SAE will continue to be a recognized student organization, rather than losing its charter, despite the fact that it ignored and flouted sanctions put into place as a result of a Title IX finding, and despite the fact that members engaged in retaliation, intimidation, and harassment of witnesses or those they believed were witnesses.

"The chapter will continue to be a recognized student organization; however, it will be considered a chapter not in good standing," the university said.

After the first finding, Greg Boardman reduced the penalty and allowed students to remain on campus through the end of the year when they were supposed to lose their housing at the end of winter quarter. As a result of that mixed message, they engaged in further violations of Title IX. Now, they will be "not in good standing." Oh, how awful. Will they be on Double Secret Probation, Dean Wormer.

Things won't change until Stanford takes this seriously in actuality not just in press releases.

22 people like this
Posted by Dean Wormer
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 20, 2015 at 10:52 am

"It's time for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me."

Web Link

14 people like this
Posted by Otter
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 20, 2015 at 11:31 am

"The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules or took a few liberties with our female party guests. We did."

Web Link

[Portion removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by A de Brignac
a resident of Professorville
on May 20, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Stanford has banned several fraternities in the past, especially in the 50s and 70s. this particular frat house was way overdue for censure.

12 people like this
Posted by Tsk tsk
a resident of Community Center
on May 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Yes, so disappointing that the administration is only willing to do a little hand slapping. Their reduction of the penalty in allowing the students to remain in the house through Spring quarter suggests that they don't really care about Title 1X infractions or about women for that matter. If they did, they'd treat the offenses as serious. Instead they're teaching these young men that it's acceptable to sexually harass, bully and otherwise create a hostile environment for women. I guess that's what's included in a Stanford "education".

6 people like this
Posted by gf
a resident of College Terrace
on May 20, 2015 at 2:50 pm

gf is a registered user.

It seems to be that this is a Stanford issue. (Not a nice thing of course). But shouldn't we let them implement their policy without imposing the famous "palo alto process" on the university.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2015 at 2:54 pm

The University has been very generous, in my opinion, with a clear problem fraternity. This is an approach tried for years. An incident involving rape at a similar Stanford event recently says to me that this policy is not helpful to students, let alone the general public. It is long past time for the University to mete out much stronger penalties, including expulsion. Undergraduates are not terribly affected by the sanctions. They are easy to work around. A minor inconvenience. It seems to me this is close to being a waste of University time and resources.

12 people like this
Posted by Armagnac
a resident of Professorville
on May 20, 2015 at 4:24 pm

This frat should be closed down for good, period. Send a message to groups of hormonal college men.

Like this comment
Posted by not marching
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2015 at 4:26 pm

And the Stanford Band........

19 people like this
Posted by Proud Father
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Please read my daughter's brave account of her experience in this sorry episode: Web Link

13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 20, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Proud Father - You should indeed be very proud of your daughter. And she deserves the gratitude, respect and support of the entire community.

1 person likes this
Posted by serious
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 20, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Sounds like an awful mess.

Sheesh, do all Stanford students get to go to Cabo for spring break?!

And yes, thanks for sharing, Proud Father, we can all learn from these details.

10 people like this
Posted by Paging David Boren
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 20, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Shame on Etchmendy for allowing SAE to keep it's charter. This is shameful. Stanford obviously cut a deal with SAE national. Maybe when they come from national to "examine the character and fitness" of the members they can teach them the cool song that national taught the OK chapter last year.

This is shocking. I am very sorry Mr. Horowitz that this happened to your daughter and sorrier still that Stanford failed her so spectacularly.

5 people like this
Posted by Rinc-A-Delt
a resident of Stanford
on May 20, 2015 at 7:46 pm

Good that they've been booted. But sure not seeing anything worse than what I saw in Stanford dorms or from the band for that matter. The one really terrible act reported this school year was committed by a swim team member. The university as a whole seems to perpetuate an environment for poor conduct.

4 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2015 at 11:06 am

I thought kids go to college to get that all-imporant degree that guarantees future success. With learning something as a secondary accidental benefit.

I didn't realize college was a suffocating socially limited atmosphere.

What goes on in universities is fairly disturbing. Why do we keep valuing them so much? Why should kids fresh out of high school be pressured to join these disgusting organizations? I personally know a kid from Palo Alto who died from drinking too much at one of their horseradish initation rites.

Fraternities sound like hellholes and I am glad I never joined one.

There is something truly wrong with youth and the lengths to which they go just to fit in and feel accepted... the secret ingredient: alcohol.

10 people like this
Posted by Harry
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 21, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Proud Father - not only has your daughter had the courage to stand up to the retaliation, but she has turned it into the most positive result that could happen in a case like this. She will use her openness and leadership to assure that other women do not experience assault, harassment, intimidation nor retaliation. Bullies will not go away until all of us feel the right and have the bravery to stand up to them. Bravo to your daughter and bravo to you for supporting her through this difficult process.

1 person likes this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2015 at 1:25 am

Sparty is a registered user.

From what I saw in terms of dorms vs fraternities:

Dorms- just as much drinking but every night of the week. So actually-more drinking.

Dorms- a lot more drinking just to get drunk, plus unlike fraternities, when someone threw up all over the hallway or bathroom, it just stayed there until monday when the custodians came back on duty.

Dorms- more privacy, more sexual assault

Dorms- no matter how many times people go things stolen, they refused to lock their doors because "I was just going to the bathroom/get my mail/get a soda for a minute"

Dorms - people throwing cans and bottles out the windows every friday and saturday night

Dorms- random people from off campus coming into the doors and starting fights--because dorm residents held door open for anyone who walked up to the door with them

2 people like this
Posted by Appalling.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2015 at 11:33 am

Appalling. They should lose their charter. The national fraternity should take action against this behavior. Shame on them. Shame on Stanford.

1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 22, 2015 at 11:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

How can the University of Oklahoma closed down its SAE chapter, evict all of its residents and take the SAE sign off the building when mighty Stanford allows its SAE chapter to remain part of its community?

Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by disgusted faculty member
a resident of Stanford
on May 22, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Peter that is a very good question.

SAE was already sanctioned in 2009 for sexual harassment: "In 2009, following an investigation of SAE, social restrictions were placed on the fraternity and its members went through training relating to sexual harassment, sexual assault and responsible alcohol use, the investigation noted." See: Web Link

Strike 1.

Then, in 2013-14, there were reports about an event, that involved forcing pledges to recite misogyistic "jokes" as a part of their initiation in front of women, who were invited for the purpose of being degraded by the pledges. Here's a first person account: Web Link

Here are some of the "jokes":

“What do you tell a woman with two black eyes? Nothing, you’ve already told her twice.”

“What do you call the useless skin around a vagina? A woman.”

“What do a woman’s orgasm and her opinion have in common? No one cares about either.”

Following the reported possible date rape drugging of a guest, along with the report of these "jokes" SAE was given the sanction of losing their house for 2 years, in a penalty that should have taken effect April 1.

Strike 2.

SAE appealed, and vice Provost Greg Boardman reduced the sanction by allowing them to remain in their house through the end of this year because of "the absence of misconduct complaints against the fraternity this academic year, and positive steps the fraternity is taking to demonstrate leadership as an organization,” according to the University statement."


Faster than you can say "useless skin around a vagina" the University found that SAE members engaged in serious retaliation, harassment, and intimidation of those who were either witnesses or were merely believed to be witnesses in the investigation. The university also found that SAE members ignored the alcohol and social restrictions placed on them as a condition of staying in the house through the end of the year.

Strike 3.

What happened on strike 3?

Do they have to vacate their house immediately?
Do they lose their status as an official student organization?
Do they lose their house for longer than 2 years?

None of the above. In a scene straight from Animal House, they are on Double Secret Probation. They have been re-warned not to do the exact things they already did, and their housing ban is now "indefinite" which does not mean that it is longer than 2 years, despite the best efforts of University Counsel and Press Office to make us believe that "indefinite" is by definition longer than 2 years.

And the national office will come and visit to see if their members are upholding the SAE values.

And they are "not in good standing."

Those values were on full display in Oklahoma recently with the lovely tune sung by pledges who -- it must be remembered -- learned it from the national office.

Does anyone believe for a moment that if the jokes that were told above were racist that the fraternity would still have a charter? Why doesn't Stanford show the courage shown by Oklahoma president Boren, who immediately "severed all ties and affiliations" with SAE on the basis of conduct that was arguably less severe in that it did not involve retaliation and two prior warnings?

If this is not a case for charter revocation then there never will be such a case at Stanford for a Greek organization. Stanford may as well fold its tent on reining in the worst excesses of the frat system because this sends a message that nothing serious will be done to a fraternity no matter how many warnings, probations, and restrictions it flouts or violates.

Three strikes and you really going to be in trouble mister if you do it again.

5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 22, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I would note for the public record that I am a member of SAE - Mass Gamma Chapter, Harvard, 1962. I have also served as the Executive Director of the Stanford University Medical Center and on the Advisory Board of the Haas Center as well as having numerous other Stanford affiliations.

I urge Stanford's President Hennessy to show the same leadership and courage as did the President Boren of the University of Oklahoma and to immediately close the SAE house and permanently remove the organization from any Stanford affiliation. Leadership means leading.

President Boren stated "The house will be closed, and as far as I'm concerned, they won't be back." That is leadership.

1 person likes this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2015 at 2:55 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Stanford is allowing an unindicted war criminal to be a tenured member of its faculty, so I wasn't expecting much from Stanford in this matter. As I thought they would, they have done the minimum they could away away with without a huge outcry.

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