[Inside Higher Ed/Slate] The only national fraternity founded in the antebellum South, Sigma Alpha Epsilon spent the three decades after the Civil War rebuilding its ranks, eventually establishing chapters at Northern colleges. But their presence there among the well-established Northern fraternities was an uneasy one, so two members wrote a defiant march in which, as SAE’s manual describes it, the fraternity “entered, met and held at bay its rivals in the North.” It was the first of many songs SAE would produce, earning it the nickname “the singing fraternity.”
There’s nothing quaint about the nicknames SAE has these days—on many campuses people say the initials stand for “sexual assault expected” or “same assholes everywhere.” The fraternity is also known as the one in which members are most likely to die. And now, thanks to a leaked video of fraternity members singing a slur-filled song, it may be called the most racist. Despite the fact that its members agree to memorize and follow a creed known as the True Gentleman, SAE has frequently been accused of racist and discriminatory behavior over the years
Here are some other stories I’ve written about the troublesome behavior — and power — of fraternities.