March 10, 2015 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Are there any Black members of the SAE fraternity anywhere in the US? Have there ever been?
posted by LonnieK to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
totally anecdotal, but at my alma matter, KA was the white-southern-good'ole'boy racist frat. SAE had at least one black member, as I played club lacrosse with him.
posted by k5.user at 8:12 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

First Google news hit for african american members sigma alpha epsilon
posted by drlith at 8:15 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes. A black friend of mine was in SAE at Princeton. He was posting about the kerfluffle on Facebook yesterday.
posted by gnutron at 8:18 AM on March 10, 2015

Yes, I met some at MIT years ago.
posted by goggie at 8:23 AM on March 10, 2015

There were at least a few in the chapter at my New England college.
posted by rtha at 8:24 AM on March 10, 2015

I went to school in NJ and a new chapter of SAE was founded when I was there. They had non-white brothers.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:34 AM on March 10, 2015

The last black member of SAE at OU gives an interview, here.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:36 AM on March 10, 2015

Frat cultures seem to vary widely from school to school; much like any other organization defined by proximity and friendship, they are a product of the individuals with only loose guidance from the organization's propaganda.

In response to k5.user, at our school, KA returned to our campus after a multiyear suspension (something to do with "over serving" alcohol I'm sure) and re-started the frat with a group of 20 ragtag nerdy boys, only 2 or 3 of which are white. You should've seen their group picture next to the others in the annual nation-wide publication! Sadly, once those guys understood the tenor of the national org, I think it affected their recruiting strategy somewhat; I heard stories from one year's president, an Indian guy, who said he felt some rather overt racism at some nationwide retreat for house presidents (and this guy Is mighty charismatic with a hint of Entitled White Guy douchiness behind his brown exterior; if he was ostracized, it was very likely due to race). Still, they maintain one of the most liberal and diverse KA houses in the country, years later, and when they send delegates to frat-wide events they prepare them and encourage them to push their fellow KAers toward a not-everyone-is-white reality check.
posted by samthemander at 8:39 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

KA is the "good old Boy" frat at basically every school everyone I know went to, including my own. In fact called the triple-K-A's and that's fairly common as far as I know.

SAE had a rep for having guys who would do stupid things (and my College's SAE chapter was banned my freshman year and then banned AGAIN by the time I was a senior for various and sundry dumb crap) but they didn't have a rep for being bigots.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:39 AM on March 10, 2015

More information about William James (the OU African-American SAE interviewee in Pogo_Fuzzybutt's link) here.

Also his blog post.
posted by sevenless at 8:47 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with samthemander - fraternities seem to have a general ethos coming from the national organization, but individual chapters can vary widely.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:55 AM on March 10, 2015

When I went to Carnegie Mellon in the 80s, SAE was the frat that flew the Confederate Battle flag at every opportunity. No members who were not white.
posted by OmieWise at 9:23 AM on March 10, 2015

Frats don't generally have a national character, despite the marketing. The character of every house is very localised. SAE on my campus was filled with rapists but not racists; there were a few black members back then, and their are several currently.

Having said that, SAE seems to have more of a documented issue with race in various chapters than other Greek houses seem to have.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:32 AM on March 10, 2015

There's one in the banner picture of the MIT SAE wordpress site here and one in these Stanford chapter pictures. It's not clear if either is currently active (MIT'S chapter was disbanded in 1999, looks like there have been attempts to reform since then but there are conflicting news articles)
posted by maryr at 10:42 AM on March 10, 2015

(SAE seems to have more of a documented issue with EVERYTHING than many other frats.)
posted by maryr at 10:45 AM on March 10, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks all. My 2 cents:
When I was at UGA a few decades ago, 2 frats were decidedly 'Old South' -- KA & SAE. They had a parade thru town every year, in full CSA regalia, with young Black boys helping guide the horses. That came to an end after my time. They still flew the CSA flag.
As to their demographic, both were mainly rich kids --some super wealthy, some just well-off -- from around GA. And this matched their counterparts around the South. I'll bet the southern chapters never had a Black member.
posted by LonnieK at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2015

Frats don't generally have a national character, despite the marketing.

I disagree with this. At least as it pertains to SAE and KA.

I was a KA at a school out west. Our chapter was a small, off-campus affair with a range of wannabe frat boy to nerdy types. It was hard to ignore the Old South stuff coming from the national organization. They employ graduates in their mid-20s as directors of "leadership development" or whatever. These guys would come around and party with you and then go to your chapter meetings to promote the Old South stuff.

And you couldn't avoid the influence of dads, older brothers and local alumni who did go to school in the south. Older alum were particularly bad because they expected us to do some sort of Robert E Lee birthday celebration and then would complain to the national chapter when we ignored it.

National also went out of their way to show pictures of chapters with black members in marketing materials but I have no idea what the reality was. We didn't have black members but we had some asian and latino members.

Interestingly, during my years, there was a big fight at the national conference about whether or not to ban the confederate flag from public display in chapter houses. It was basically west coast vs south. I'm not really sure how that played out.

FWIW, I had big problems with all the southern stuff but still joined because a few friends of mine did too. There was plenty I enjoyed and benefited from but I wish I hadn't participated in greek life at all.
posted by mullacc at 1:47 PM on March 10, 2015

I think saying "most fraternities" don't really have a culture imposed from National is fair. There are a few. obviously, whose historical basis may be more important to their identity than most, such as KA and SAE. FWIW, at my Big 10 school in the 80s we did a couple of joint functions with KA. I was aware of their heritage but I actually remember them as kind of nerdy - but generally nice guys. I believe they were the northern most chapter for KA at the time.

SAE was a party house, didn't even know about the Confederate connection until this week.
posted by COD at 3:02 PM on March 10, 2015

Mod note: Folks, I understand that the topic raises a lot of interesting sidebar ideas, but we need to stick to the actual question rather than use this as a general discussion area. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:33 AM on March 11, 2015

I'll bet the southern chapters never had a Black member.

That would not be correct. There have been black brothers in that very chapter. Here's another.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:22 PM on March 11, 2015

Response by poster: Thx all for the answers. Surprised me.
But like I said: I'll bet the southern chapters never had a Black member. (I've never heard OK included among the 'southern states.') Anybody know otherwise?
posted by LonnieK at 7:38 AM on March 12, 2015

OK is a Southern State. If you actually mean "Old South" slave states, that includes Kentucky. My links included a link to an SAE brother at the University of Louisville.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:00 AM on March 12, 2015

Response by poster: Maybe my reference to Southern states wasn't clear, even though my post meant the term in a specific sense, i.e. the Confederacy. In the old CSA states today, and in two particular fraternities, that's the hallowed icon, and as such it's hard to imagine they attract interest from Black students. Or show it.
But yes, that even a KY chapter of SAE would admit a Black student is surprising to me. Guess I need to get out more.
posted by LonnieK at 5:44 PM on March 12, 2015

I went to college in louisiana, and the sae chapter had several members of color.
posted by beignet at 10:42 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

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