The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SAE fraternity generates questions

SAE fraternity generates questions

Sigma Alpha Epsilon had always held a special place in her heart. The SMU sophomore did not personally know any of the SMU fraternity members, but she disregarded the swirling rumors of out-of-control partying at the house. After all, her father had been an SAE. So had her five uncles.

So on Wednesday, March 20, the young woman, who does not want her name used, joined a few girlfriends at the recently built SAE house on Dyer Court. About 25 people had gathered at the fraternity to play beer pong. The group made their way to the third floor and the woman lost track of her friends. She stepped into the hallway and was met by a fraternity member who told her that he would help her find them.

Instead, he took her to a room that she says resembled an attic space. The only furniture was a bed and a few chairs. The fraternity man took a seat, and she began to feel uncomfortable.

“I asked him to let me out and he told me no, that I was fine,” the 20-year-old CCPA major said. “I kept asking him, ‘Please, I need to go. I need to find my roommate,’ and he just kept saying, ‘No. You’re fine, you’re OK.'”

The woman said that the fraternity man began pulling her toward him as her head began to spin and her vision became blurry. She said she ran to the door and pushed on it. A friend saw her and called for help.

The woman said she made it out of the SAE house and collapsed on the front steps of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house across the street, where she began vomiting and slipping in and out of consciousness. Her friends called SMU police and an ambulance came to take her to Parkland Hospital.

The woman said she submitted a blood and urine test and was treated for drug intoxication and drug poisoning. She said the doctor at Parkland told her it was the work of Gamma hydroxy butyrate, or GHB, known as the “date-rape drug.”

The woman believes that the fraternity man who took her to the attic room had placed the drug in her drink. She filed a report with campus police and the suspect was identified and questioned, according to the SMU police report. Police Chief Richard Shafer would not comment on the woman’s drug test.

But the woman did not press charges. She said she was afraid that nothing would come of it.

“I decided not to press charges because I didn’t want this to be the focus of my college experience,” said the woman, whose father was an SAE at Louisiana State University. “I just wanted it to go away, not stress me out anymore.”

“All charges were dropped,” said SAE President Royce Wilson, a junior. “If it was necessary to investigate further, they [the police] would have.”

Mr. Wilson did not want to comment further for this story. He said he believes The Daily Campus has not treated the fraternity fairly in the past.

“We are constantly subjected to a one-sided argument,” Wilson said in a text message. “I decline to comment on the matter. Our organization does a lot of good things and I wish that you would acknowledge them with the same amount of press rather than always focusing on the negatives.”

Some students, most of whom do not want to be named because they are in the Greek system or have friends who are, tell stories of SAE fraternity parties where drugs are used and behavior is out of control. Some SMU women whisper among themselves to stay away from the SAEs. Some say the acronym stands for “sexual assault expected.”

Since 2005, SMU police have been called to the SAE fraternity house at least five times for incidents ranging from pot smoking to the death of a student. A senior woman said she was raped by an SAE member when she was a freshman but was too afraid to come forward.

Yet the fraternity still stands, even when another was kicked off campus for a marijuana offense. In another case, a fraternity put one of its own members on probation after allegations of sexual assault.

“SAE gets caught for the same stuff and they just get a fine or a warning,” said a senior majoring in English. He is a former Beta Theta Pi member. The Betas were removed from campus in 2005 when eight people were found smoking marijuana in the house, and a “small amount of marijuana” was found on the premises after smoke alarms went off, according to SMU police reports.

The Beta fraternity chapter was small and had gotten into other trouble on campus. It also was not very involved in university or community activities.

“If something was really wrong, our national fraternity wouldn’t put up with it,” said Don Donnally, advisor to the Texas Delta chapter of SAE at SMU, whose son is in the fraternity. Donnally said that the group does a lot of good for the community, including raising money for cancer and insists that students found to have drug or alcohol problems get the treatment they need.

“We have done more for SMU than anyone on campus,” the fraternity advisor said. “We have more parent involvement than any other house.”

One reason students may believe the SAE fraternity is treated with kid gloves could be that six former Sigma Alpha Epsilon members, or in one case the wife of a member, sit on SMU’s Board of Trustees. All six donated a substantial amount of money to the construction of the $3.5 million fraternity house, which was completed in late 2005 and houses up to 46 men, according to the fraternity’s Web site.

Carl Sewell (’65), chairman of Sewell Automotive Companies, gave $50,000. Gary T. Crum (’69), of the CFP Foundation, donated $250,000. Richard Ware (’68), vice-chair of Amarillo National Bank, had his family give $100,000. Linda Pitts Custard of Custard/Pitts Land and Cattle Company is married to Bill Custard (’57), who gave $25,000 toward construction. James R. Gibbs (’66) of the Frontier Oil Corporation donated $25,000. Paul B. Loyd, Jr. (’68) of LSL Partners also sits on the board. Many have also given to other fundraising events, according to the SAE Web site.

Attempts were made to reach all of these trustees, either directly at their places of business or through the university. Mr. Ware was reached and said he wasn’t in a position to comment on whether the fraternity receives preferential treatment by the university. The SMU administration “runs the university,” he said. “Trustees merely are an advisory board. The point of the trustees is to raise money.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Lori White said there is no organization on campus that receives preferential treatment. She said an investigation is made into any matter when someone is willing to come forward. In order to proceed with an investigation, the student involved must be willing to disclose very specific information.

“Unfortunately, we have a lot of people who don’t come forward for whatever reason,” Dr. White said.

Some university officials and students say that it’s unfair to single out the SAEs for bad behavior. Other fraternities have problems. Dr. White recently took out a full-page ad in The Daily Campus chastising students who behave poorly in public after the university received letters complaining about out of control behavior.

One of the letters regarded an SMU fraternity’s charity Casino Night in which fraternity members took over a Dallas hotel, partying in the hallways into the wee hours of the morning.

The fraternity was not named in the letter, but it is commonly known around campus that it was Phi Delta Theta, which was holding its philanthropy event that night.

But consider these incidents involving the SAE fraternity:

• On Jan. 21, 2005, SMU police discovered marijuana in an open filing cabinet in the SAE house. The police report states that the drug was in plain view in an unlocked room. The house was referred to the Judicial Officer.

• A fire alarm sounded at 1:09 a.m. at the fraternity house on Oct. 21, 2005. According to university crime logs, SMU police smelled burning marijuana in a student’s room where the smoke detector went off. The student who lived in the room, who was not present when police arrived, was given judicial referral for setting off the alarm.

• On Nov. 7, 2005 an SMU staff member discovered three boxes of ammunition in the old fraternity house, according to police reports. The chapter was referred to the judicial board.

• A senior anthropology major at SMU believes she was drugged at an SAE Miami Vice party held at a local bar and later raped by a fraternity member in the spring of 2006. She did not press charges and is telling her story in the effort to raise awareness of assault on campus.

The woman said she asked a fraternity member to take her home from the bar, but was brought to a Dallas hotel instead. She explained that when she woke up the next morning she was completely alone and in pain. She believed she had been raped.

The woman, who is now a senior and a member of a sorority, said she took a cab home and tried to forget about what had happened. She said she did not file a report or press charges because she was planning to pledge a sorority and feared that the SAE fraternity would destroy her reputation.

“I think every fraternity has good guys and bad guys,” she said. “I just think that in most fraternities they weed out the bad ones. They take action when something happens and I think SAE has failed to do that. I think that’s been a fatal mistake for them.”

• On Nov. 18, 2006, Clark Scott, a sophomore SAE at the time, overdosed on drugs and alcohol at the Flagship Hotel in Galveston during the fraternity’s away weekend. When the officer arrived, Scott was unconscious, according to Galveston Police reports. Scott transferred to Wichita State University after his overdose.

• In a widely publicized incident on Dec. 2, 2006, SAE member Jake Stiles overdosed and died in the fraternity house. His father, Tom Stiles, said a second autopsy conducted by the family revealed the cause of death was from the drug Fentanyl. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the drug is 50 times more potent than heroin. The second autopsy showed trace amounts of cocaine and a blood alcohol content of 0.06, not nearly enough to be fatal.

According to Mr. Stiles, the university was not forthcoming after his son died. He said that the family received the information about how Jake died not from university officials, but from The Dallas Morning News.

At the time, SAE national headquarters called Jake’s death an “isolated incident,” according to an article in The Daily Campus, even though his friend and fraternity brother Clark Scott had overdosed just weeks before. The university has to this day refused to give the Stiles family the police report from the incident.

“I feel like they didn’t want to deal with it. They threw him under the bus,” said Mr. Stiles.

“We were unaware that [Mr. Stiles] remained interested in the report,” said Leon Bennett, vice president for legal affairs and governmental relations at SMU.

Mr. Stiles says that the university did not return repeated phone calls and e-mails concerning the police report and that the university had evidence that an SAE member provided the Fentanyl to Jake.

There may also be differences in the way SAE responds to the accusation of assault, compared to other fraternities.

In the fall of 2006, Kappa Sigma received news that one of its members may have assaulted a freshman woman. While there was no definitive evidence of rape, the judicial board in the fraternity held a meeting. The police were notified that something might have happened in the fraternity house. The member in question was put on probation. He is no longer part of the fraternity.

“We wanted to keep our bases covered,” said a Kappa Sigma alum and recent graduate of SMU who did not want his name used for fear of trouble from his fraternity. “If someone did something like that, they deserve to get in trouble. We told the police that if something came up this is what we heard. We weren’t trying to cover anything up.”

Mr. Wilson, the SAE president, wouldn’t talk about the recent claim against the fraternity. As far as students know, the SAE member who was questioned by police for the alleged assault on March 20 was never punished.

On June 11, 2007, President R. Gerald Turner appointed the SMU Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention after the drug-related deaths of three students, including Jake Stiles. The purpose of the Task Force is to ensure education, prevention and enforcement, and assistance is provided to SMU students in matters concerning drugs and alcohol abuse. Some believe the force has not fulfilled its purpose.

“[The university] cracked down with the Drug Task Force and everything but they cracked down on everyone,” said the Kappa Sigma member. “They just gave [the SAEs] a slap on the wrist [after Jake died]. It was a joke and it seemed preferential.”

Mr. Donnally, the SAE adviser, said that the fraternity helps any member with drug or alcohol problems get help from professional counselors. This semester alone it has held three drug and alcohol awareness classes in an effort to ensure that another death does not occur.

“If there is ever a major problem, I call the parents,” said Mr. Donnally, who referred to Jake Stiles as “Jason” twice in the interview before being corrected. “We get involved and have an intervention.”

Mr. Stiles said that he had never been contacted by Mr. Donnally or any member of the fraternity that his son might be in trouble with drugs before his death.

In the March 20 case, students sympathetic to the SAEs used the Web site to discredit the woman. The vicious comments made on the site are just one reason the woman declined to press charges.

Today, the woman says she gets a little scared and nervous when she sees an SAE fraternity member.

“Of course there are rumors swirling around everywhere about me, about what really happened because no one knows,” said the young woman. “The rumors have been pretty hurtful and it makes me nervous about going out or going to class or who I’ll see at the gym.”

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