The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, which was kicked off Cal Poly’s campus after freshman Carson Starkey died during its pledge process, recently ended pledging for its chapters across the country.
Carson Starkey was pledging Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) the night he died of alcohol poisoning.
Since 2006, SAE has seen 10 hazing-related deaths nationally, making them the “deadliest” fraternity, according to Bloomberg.
Now, SAE has made the “historic decision” to eliminate the pledging process.
Pledge programming “will be eliminated completely from our operations, and the classification of new member (pledge) will no longer exist,” according to a statement on the national fraternity’s website.
Effective March 9, new members will be initiated 96 hours after receiving a bid, said Patrick Johnson, a member of UC San Diego’s chapter of SAE. In those 96 hours, new members will complete a safety program named after Starkey.
Coordinator of new student programs at Cal Poly Andrene Kaiwi-Lenting said the Starkey family never expected SAE’s new education program to be named after Carson, but they had been advocating for change within the fraternity.
“Since SAE is one of the oldest fraternities, Aware Awake Alive wasn’t sure that they could have any sort of power over the decisions they made,” Kaiwi-Lenting said. “But their vision has always been to change the way things happen in the greek system.”
The new program requires members to undergo training throughout their entire membership, Johnson said.
“Pledge hazing does nothing to build brotherhood, and does not foster positive relationships throughout the chapter as a whole,” he said.
Pledging was eliminated “to protect Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s future and to eliminate a class structure between our new members and our active members,” the statement reads. Historically, pledging hasn’t been an integral part of SAE’s brotherhood — it became a tradition after WWII.
“I, for one, am ecstatic,” Johnson said. “I have often cringed at the reputation of our fraternity on the national level, and am proud that we are taking such bold steps.”
While SAE is no longer part of Cal Poly’s greek life system, Carson’s story continues to impact SAE. Johnson said he and his brothers know the story of the night down to the minute.
This decision is a drastic step in changing the greek life culture, Kaiwi-Lenting said. But she and Aware Awake Alive — a nonprofit founded by Starkey’s family to combat alcohol poisoning — know decisions like this might not work for every greek organization.
“We know that this kind of process isn’t going to work for everyone,” she said. “But it’s definitely a step toward eliminating the culture of hazing.”