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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Sigma Alpha Epsilon enters the Greek life scene

SAE Fall class 2023. Photo taken by SAE Nationals

As an endless amount of hazing incidents and complaints surround Greek life at Chico State, news of a new fraternity may not be exciting for some students – but a new fraternity is on the rise.

In spring of 2023, one of the nation’s largest fraternities found its way to Chico State, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Kyle Johnson, the current fraternity president, started the Chico chapter in February and has caused some controversy for Chico State’s Greek life.

In the spring of 2022, Johnson and some of his friends began discussing how they could influence the Greek life scene. At first, they came up with the idea of starting their own unofficial fraternity as a joke, but with a big enough group of members to participate, they decided to give it a try.

They named the interest group Sigma Ligma and held activities and social events for about a year before becoming an emerging SAE chapter.

“We started a fake frat, always with the goal of becoming SAE,” Johnson said. “This is what we promised the guys coming in, and this is what we delivered.” 

After being denied the first time SAE applied to the Interfraternity Council, Johnson said the fraternity is determining its next steps. With fraternities often maintaining poor reputations, SAE aims to be a positive influence on Greek life and students.

SAE is one of the country’s oldest and largest fraternities and was founded in 1856 at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Today, there are more than 350,000 initiated people among over 220 chapters. At a national level, SAE was the first fraternity to ban hazing and hard alcohol from social events.

According to the SAE website, the fraternity has adopted the title the True Gentleman. Johnson said the Chico chapter intends to uphold this title as they recruit new members. 

Though the fraternity adopted the True Gentleman persona, universities across the nation have other ideas. Sexual Assault Expected is a nickname that has dominated the SAE reputation at many campuses with an SAE chapter. The nickname was earned from frequent complaints and allegations surrounding sexual assault, with some leading to chapters shutting down around the nation.

Johnson said this title does not reflect the reputation that the Chico State chapter plans on creating. He believes that as the largest fraternity in the country, SAE has the greatest capacity to be good, just as much as it has to have a negative impact on the culture of universities.

The Chico State chapter is working toward breaking stereotypes by making their social events safe for female students, Johnson said. 

“Why would I want to create any other type of environment?” Johnson said.

But despite their efforts to join the Greek life community, SAE is receiving pushback. The fraternity needs 25 members to become a chartered chapter and has been taking many steps to achieve this goal.

Johnson is a legacy for SAE as his father, uncles and grandfather were all members, so starting a chapter at Chico State seemed fitting. The fraternity will be chartered in the spring and is already recognized by SAE nationally. Though the process has been difficult and discouraging for Johnson, he said it is extremely rewarding to be surrounded by the students SAE attracts.

This year, SAE attracted many students who agreed with their mission. Scott Schweibert is a junior at Chico State and a new member of SAE.

“The guys were super respectful to me, and I felt like it was different than your stereotypical fraternity atmosphere,” Schweibert said.

Sophomore and recruitment chair Brandon Hofman joined with the original SAE group back in February.

“It’s an elaborate scheme to hang out with your buddies in an official way,” Hofman said.  “They want to have this brotherhood, this connection, have something to work on.”

SAE had 21 new members this year. Each student is expected to value balance and create a welcoming environment.

“We want to be a positive influence on boys who are becoming men,” Johnson said.

As organizations with substantial influence on student life, Johnson believes fraternities should hold their members to a higher standard. Prioritizing academics, safety and philanthropies is required for all members of SAE.

“It’s all about balance,” Johnson said. “Yes we like to have fun, but we take care of business.”

Johnson and Hofman both agreed that reflecting on past generations of Chico State is crucial to restoring and uniting its Greek life. 

“We can curve what’s been happening, and turn back the clock a little bit,” Hofman said. 

The future of SAE is still up in the air, but regardless, the fraternity is determined to bring positive change to Greek life. They hope to be recognized for their core values and promote unity with other fraternities.

“It takes a special kind of person to join SAE, and we’ve found a group of guys that are just like that,” Hoffman said.

SAE will continue to recruit year-round while pushing for their high expectations in an effort to create change.

Grace Stark can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Grace Stark is a second-year majoring in journalism news. She is from Loomis, CA, a small town outside of Sacramento. This is her first semester on the Orion and she is excited to pursue her interests in writing and reporting. Outside of school, Grace enjoys thrifting, reading, drawing and spending time with friends. She also has a small business online called Rings by Grace where she sells handmade spoon rings.

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