The fraternity conducted a one-day investigation in response to allegations of hazing raised by The Daily Princetonian in an April 26 article. In the article, John Burford ’12, who rushed Sigma Alpha Epsilon but ultimately decided to drop the fraternity during the winter of his freshman year, alleged that he and other students rushing the fraternity were physically and psychologically hazed by fraternity brothers, and that their safety was jeopardized by rush tasks that included high levels of alcohol consumption.
“Based on our findings, chapter leaders deny the claims made in the article and maintain their pledge education follows stringent guidelines and risk-management regulations spelled out by the national organization,” the statement said. “In addition, other former and current pledge members deny the allegations are part of their program.”
Burford said he was not contacted by the national organization.
“What irritates me is that if the national SAE people gave a shit about hazing like they say they do, they would have e-mailed me and asked me if I could back up what I said,” Burford said. “They didn’t contact me to hear my part, I can tell you that much. My guess is that they had a really cursory investigation.”
Burford said that as part of the pledging process he was whipped in a strip club and forced to chug tobacco spit, and he and his fellow pledge brothers were made to swim naked in a frozen pond. As evidence to support his charges, Burford provided the ‘Prince’ with a spreadsheet listing the names, dorm rooms and phone numbers of all Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members as of January 2009. He also forwarded text messages, Facebook messages and e-mails between him and current and alumni members of the Princeton chapter, as well as photos from various pledging activities. Some of these communications make explicit reference to hazing, excessive alcohol consumption and the specific pledge tasks that Burford recalled.
“I can’t back up everything I’ve said with evidence, but I can back up some of it,” he said.
Brandon Weghorst, associate executive director of communications for the national organization, declined to comment for this article.
“Our investigation finds the allegations were made in reference to a pledge period two years [ago], in 2008, by a former new member, and no one has been able to substantiate that anything occurred that would be defined as hazing,” the statement said. “In addition, in the past two years, no individual has stepped forward to convey those concerns or hazing allegations.”
But Burford said he thinks he has done exactly that.
“It sounds like they didn’t want to find anything,” he said. “I mean, what do they expect people to say? ‘Yeah, we hazed the shit out of people’? No one wants to say that. No one wants to get in trouble.”
Weghorst also declined to comment on specific allegations about the Princeton chapter when contacted last month, saying only that the fraternity maintains “strict regulations” for its more than 200 chapters across the country.
“Sigma Alpha Epsilon maintains zero tolerance for hazing and investigates all allegations of any violation of risk-management policy — including hazing — immediately,” the statement said. “National leaders will not hesitate to take action against individuals or chapters that are found to be hazing — or participating in covering up hazing. At the same time, the leadership relies on our members and others in the college community to bring any concern to our attention if it does not comply with our standards.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2010/05/07/26115/