UC Davis' oldest fraternity has been slapped with a five-year campus ban its second major sanction in three years and its charter has been suspended indefinitely by its national headquarters for providing alcohol to underage students in a pair of penalties that all but ends its nearly century-long run at the university.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon's California Kappa chapter was stripped of its status as a student organization for five years for supplying alcohol to students at a January event and at a party in February, said Courtney Robinson, an assistant director at the university's Office of Student Development. The office oversees organizational conduct and Greek life on campus.
"Sigma Alpha Epsilon no longer has a presence at UC Davis," officials said in a prepared statement last week.
Repeat offenses sealed the Davis chapter's fate. SAE was still on probation at the time of the decision to ban it from campus following a two-year penalty in 2009 for supplying booze to an underage student and other violations. That violation came just months after an alcohol-related sanction in October 2008, Robinson said.
Pulling a group's organization status is "the most severe sanction we can impose," Robinson said.
With the sanction, the fraternity can no longer raise funds for campus activities, is barred from using campus facilities and resources, is removed from the university's Interfraternity Council and can no longer affiliate itself with University of California, Davis.
UC Davis revoked the fraternity's status on April 2, said officials who only recently announced the decision.
"The university's expectation is that it will not operate as a student group anymore," Robinson said.
That's virtually guaranteed following sanctions handed down by the fraternity's Illinois headquarters.
Under its penalty, Sigma Alpha Epsilon's national organization will not recognize its UC Davis chapter while it is under suspension. The local house's 50 members are suspended until they graduate, at which time they can become fraternity alumni, said Sigma's national spokesman Brandon Weghorst.
In an email, Weghorst said the national fraternity supported the university's decision, calling its relationship with UC Davis "a partnership," and struck a noncommittal tone on SAE's future in Davis.
"There is no date currently for the period of this charter suspension. However, we view our relationship with the university as a partnership," Weghorst said via email. "If the opportunity to re-establish a group presents itself in the future, Sigma Alpha Epsilon may return to campus with a new group of gentlemen and leaders," a reference to the fraternity's moniker "The True Gentlemen."
It's a likely death knell for a fraternity that can trace its roots at UC Davis to 1913 when it was the then-local fraternity Phi Alpha Iota.
An SAE member contacted at the fraternity house Friday declined to comment, and no one else from the fraternity was available for comment.
The fraternity's national chapter appeared to have had little choice but to impose its own severe sanctions.
As one of the nation's largest collegiate fraternities, SAE has had to answer for several high-profile hazing and alcohol-related incidents, including deaths at its fraternity houses at campuses across the country in recent years.
Among them were the alcohol-related death of a student at Cornell University in New York in February 2011; the March 2009 death of a University of Kansas student; the death of a California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, student in December 2008; and a 2006 hazing death at University of Texas that resulted in a $16.2 million judgment against the fraternity.
Meanwhile, officials at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire continue to investigate the alleged hazing of a student by SAE members that became the subject of a recent article in Rolling Stone magazine. That chapter remains under a cease-and-desist order, according to information on SAE's website.
Amid SAE's troubles nationally, members in 2009 were linked to the theft of UC Davis property a sign used to promote a rush event the alcohol violations and a student who was injured and then hospitalized after a fall at a fraternity while pledging the house, said campus officials.
The troubled fraternity had been allowed to return to campus life on a probationary basis only last fall after the two-year ban.
But intoxicated students returning to their residence halls after SAE bashes in January and February tipped off campus officials to more illicit alcohol use and led to the five-year ban, Robinson said.
SAE is the fourth group since 2007 to receive university sanctions, Robinson said.
The other three a sorority, a fraternity and a co-ed fraternity were penalized for hazing. One of the groups, Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity, received a five-year sanction in December 2011.