After a nearly 51-year hiatus, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity whose Dartmouth chapter garnered a lot of negative press after former brother Andrew Lohse revealed all the butt beer and vomletes its pledges were forced to consume, is returning to Columbia University, where students are organizing a friendly welcome-back gala complete with protests and strongly-worded editorials in the student newspaper. Sadly, however, there won't be any cake.
The New York Post gauges the student reaction to last week's news that Columbia's Interfraternity Council would grant SAE permission to form a "colony" on campus next semester as somewhere on the spectrum between "mildly pissed but it's summer so, nbd" all the way to "Columbia has opened the ninth gate to hell." Said one commenter on Columbia's student paper's site, "SAE isn't just notorious for a little bit of hazing. They have a reputation for routinely putting students' lives at risk in supremely idiotic ways."
These "idiotic" life-endangering rituals include inducing pledges to chug ungodly amounts of booze and vinegar, Jawbreaker-style kidnappings, and human excrement spa treatments. Last month, the New York Times' Micahel Winerip wrote a lengthy piece about how SAE's Cornell chapter was banned recently over the death of sophomore George Desdunes during a kidnapping stunt, explaining that SAE has a peculiar reputation for violent hazing practices, with disciplinary action having been taken against 80 of the frat's 223 chapters over the last five years. Another Columbia commenter asked in frustration, "How fucking oblivious can the council be to think it's a good idea to welcome a notorious, nationally stigmatized organization onto our college campus?"
I don't know, pretty fucking oblivious? Columbia offered no official statement, though SAE spokesbro Brandon Weghorst said that SAE's arrival on campus should "in no way concern" the university community. Andrew Lohse, the Dartmouth SAE whistleblower and recent Rolling Stone profilee, was on hand to lend his expert commentary to the Post, saying that he totally gets why Columbia's student community is nervous about SAE coming to campus. "If you look at this pattern," Lohse said, speaking about the nationwide pattern of the frat's systemic hazing infractions, "it's really hard to say that these are isolated incidents."
That's because extremely violent hazing rituals aren't anomalous — they're an integral part of an exclusionary Greek system that, in a true celebration of Hellenic culture, treats pledges exactly the way Spartan overlords treated their Helot slaves (the Helots were a super disenfranchised group of people in ancient Laconia that the Spartans routinely hazed), by bullying them into believing in the legitimacy of an institution's established hierarchy.