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January 20, 2012 11:00 AM Brotherhood (and Complementary Objectives) at Cornell

By Daniel Luzer

A year ago, 19-year-old George Desdunes, who was pledging Cornell University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon, died in the chapter house after allegedly being forced to drink until he passed out. His mother sued SAE for $25 million. Cornell, sensibly, withdrew its recognition of the fraternity.

But displaying the sort of talent that might serve them well in America’s better corporate law firms, some of the pledges found a way to keep SAE going. According to a piece by J.K. Trotter at Ivy Gate:

Of the 22 pledge brothers in [last spring’s] pledge class — whose hazing contributed to Desdunes’ death — six left Cornell for good. All of the remaining 16, meanwhile, flocked to Tau Kappa Epsilon. But did TKE take them in — or did SAE take them over?
It’s getting clearer: TKE [has also lost] university recognition, after another alcohol-related hospitalization of a freshman (who thankfully survived). This follows TKE’s planning to host, last September, the White Party, a bash traditionally thrown by SAE, and other signs that the killed-off frat had reanimated in TKE’s body.

What seems to have occurred, at least according to the Ivy Gate post, is that SAE brothers approached TKE with an offer: “essentially, let [SAE] take over and they’d make us cool.”

Ryan Yeh, president of TKE, said it totally wasn’t like that. A lot of the TKE brothers were just friends with the guys from SAE. As Yeh told Trotter:

The real question is why the Cornell community is so obsessed with the perceived social status of fraternities that it missed the more important part of the story. It missed the fact that 16 guys who were traumatized by a tragic death were given an opportunity to live together and find a place that accepted them instead of exiled them. The Cornell Greek Community prides itself on tolerance and acceptance. Surely, those are more important issues to consider than whether they offered to “make us cool.”

Well yes, but it does seem a little odd that one fraternity would be willing to assume 16 new pledges if the only interest it had was helping friends and giving them an “opportunity to live together and find a place that accepted them.”

SAE, by the way, was a dramatically cooler fraternity than TKE. So TKE definitely had something to gain by incorporating the new members.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • alum on January 20, 2012 2:16 PM:

    Where were the adult employees at Cornell when these 16 men joined TKE? Someone should have stopped that.