Sigma Alpha Mu returns to WU after suspension
After serving a two-year suspension issued by its national board of directors in 1999, the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity returned to Washington University this fall, initiating 10 members into the Phi chapter in December.
The fraternity’s suspension came on the heels of a rocky year, which according to Director of Greek Life Karin Horstman, included poor leadership, financial woes, troubling behavior and alcohol abuse, culminating in accusations of hazing stemming from SAM’s spring pledge events.
“[They] weren’t living up to our expectations,” said Jason Stone, a SAM field representative of the WU SAM brothers. “We don’t stand for hazing.”
SAM has been given a fresh slate, however, by the WU administration. Horstman stressed that SAM’s past, is just that: its past.
“Their punishment was their two-year suspension,” said Horstman. “Now, does that mean that there won’t be some lingering stereotypes of SAMs and that people won’t look upon the chapter with a little more scrutiny? No.”
Additional scrutiny and questioning of SAM’s recruiting practices has already led to a rocky start-or restart-at least amongst some members of the WU fraternity community.
Horstman explained that there is a perception by some other fraternities that SAM has engaged in recruitment practices contrary to the WU InterFraternity Council (IFC) rules, that stipulate that a bid, or promise of a bid, must not be extended to freshmen in their first semester. Reportedly, some freshman have already claimed to be SAM brothers, or future SAM brothers.
Horstman said that if such claims have been made, such promises had not been made by SAM’s national leadership. She did, however, say that it is likely that some freshmen attended SAM’s initial meetings aimed at building on-campus support.
“I firmly believe that those freshmen have been told that they would have to go through the rush process in the spring, along with the other fraternities,” said Horstman, who said the 10 “colonizing” members were all sophomores.
Stone appeared to understand the conflict differently.
“We told them to call up their headquarters and ask them what their fraternities do,” said Stone, responding to questions of whether it was right for SAM to approach students, instead of vise-versa.
“I went to an IFC meeting and told everyone exactly what I would be doing. I believe that all the fraternity presidents are supposed to be at those meetings, so if someone wanted to object that was the time to do so,” Stone said.
Incoming IFC president Jordan Estroff confirmed that IFC was approached and consulted about SAM recruitment on campus. He said that IFC had not been made aware of any complaints.
“To my knowledge SAMs recruitment practices were cleared by IFC and the Office of Greek Life,” he said. “There have been no infractions.”
SAM, though, is not being held back by any conflict that might exist.
“I would like to see the chapter continue in the tradition it has always had of promoting scholarship, brotherhood and fun,” said Steven Rosenblum, a SAM brother and associate director of development at the WU Alumni House. Rosenblum is serving as a advisory member to the Phi chapter of SAM.
According to Stone, the Phi chapter was founded at WU in 1919 and continued until its suspension in 1999, having initiated more than 1,300 brothers. Stone said that SAM wanted to return to WU because of the strong support base that the fraternity has built on campus, including four board of trustee members.
As far as its future members, Stone said that SAM will look for “good scholars and people that want to better themselves.”
“We don’t look for guys that typically want to join a fraternity,” said Stone. “We look for the other guy-the guy that doesn’t think that being in a fraternity is just about drinking and partying.”
SAM has been approved by IFC and the Office of Greek Life for participation in spring rush. The next step is for SAM to become a member of IFC, which Estroff said for practical purposes acts both as the Greek community’s and the WU administration’s stamp of approval. Becoming a full member of IFC occurs in two stages.
In the first stage SAM will present itself to IFC for approval, at which time IFC will hold a vote. If voted in, SAM will spend one year on IFC without voting rights, but will receive speaking rights. At the end of one year, IFC will hold another vote to approve SAM for full membership. Estroff expects the first vote to occur around the start of March, following spring rush.
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