Thursday, November 16, 2006

SAE Disbanded at UCF Amid Allegations

Pledge Activities Top List of Problems
By Susan Jacobson, The Orlando Sentinel

The national headquarters of one of the oldest fraternities at the University of Central Florida disbanded the chapter Wednesday, voicing "disgust" over recent allegations of hazing that involved heavy drinking and pledges wearing women's underwear.

A spokesman for Sigma Alpha Epsilon, whose headquarters are in Evanston, Ill., flew to UCF on Wednesday to announce that the fraternity's board of directors had decided to close the SAE chapter immediately. The name of the fraternity and Greek letters will be removed from the on-campus house in the next couple days, spokesman Brandon Weghorst said.

"Our board does not feel it's worth the effort to rehabilitate the group," he said.

Board members were "disgusted" by what they read in a UCF police report and want to make an example of anyone who participated, Weghorst said.

Investigators summoned to the frat house early Oct. 26 by an anonymous call heard profane screaming, sobbing and moaning, they wrote.

They found pledges crawling on their hands and knees and wearing pink fairy wings, a rainbow-colored wing and a diaper, a striped prison uniform, a pink tank top, women's underwear and a blond wig.

"It goes against everything we stand for," Weghorst said.

UCF police and administrators and SAE officials are investigating the incident as a possible hazing.The same fraternity was suspended for a year for a suspected hazing in 2003. One man had his nose nearly ripped off in a truck crash, at least one man's hands were duct-taped together and drinking was suspected, a police report shows.

Investigators interviewed dozens of people but got little cooperation and never arrested anyone, UCF police Chief Richard Turkiewicz said.

The chapter was on university probation at the time of the crash for alcohol-related misconduct 15 days earlier. It was the second such alcohol-related probation for the frat that year.

Weghorst said members who are found to have participated in last month's incident, which they called a "ritual," could lose their SAE membership for life. The number involved could be as high as two-thirds of the chapter's approximately 90 members, he said.

Officers noted that the inside of the common area "reeked of beer, urine and vomit" and said they saw "mangled hot dogs" on the floor and beer cans and bottles scattered about.

At least one young man was vomiting and having trouble breathing. He and two others who police thought were very drunk were taken to a hospital and released hours later.

It was unclear what will happen to the 33 men who live in the house, which is owned by a nonprofit group of alumni who manage it, Weghorst said. University and fraternity officials said nobody would be left homeless, but they may have to move to other housing.

SAE had been at UCF since the university opened in 1968. It's possible that the chapter eventually could return if fraternity and university officials agree.

A young man identifying himself as an SAE member said president Dru Dalton did not want to comment.

Three other UCF fraternities are under suspension or investigation, university spokeswoman Linda Gray said.

Details of a recent incident involving Alpha Tau Omega have not been made public. Pi Kappa Phi is serving a one-year suspension for hazing and disruptive behavior.Pi Kappa Alpha was on probation for two semesters for alcohol misuse when it was involved in hazing, Gray said. The fraternity was suspended and decided not to stay at UCF. Its house has been vacant for more than a year.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, which opened with the school in '68, is shut after possible hazing.Copyright (c) 2006 The Orlando Sentinel.