“It’s not representative of Sigma Alpha Epsilon as a whole,” said Andrew Bigelow about the recent racist controversy with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma. “It’s unfortunate that some chapters do act ignorant, and it puts a bad light on the rest of [the fraternity].”
Bigelow is a junior cell and molecular biology major and the president of Union University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, Tennessee Eta, which currently has 32 members.
After a video of members in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma singing a racist song was publicized earlier this month, the organization was banned from Oklahoma’s campus and the entire national fraternity has been placed in the spotlight.
As a result of this controversy in one chapter, the national fraternity is starting a four-part diversity initiative as well as reviews of its 237 chapters across the nation.
“One thing we’re doing now is a course about understanding racial diversity on campus and in the community,” Bigelow said. “In future recruitment, we want to make sure that there is never any discrimination going on.”
To discourage the hazing of new members, in 2014 Sigma Alpha Epsilon became one of the few fraternities nationally to eradicate pledging. Through the creation of a comprehensive diversity and inclusion program, Bigelow said the fraternity hopes to curtail prejudice and intolerance amongst its members.
The fraternity was founded in 1856, and its creed is called “The True Gentleman.” Members are challenged to value humility, brotherhood, scholarship and service, Bigelow said.
“One of the key aspects of ‘The True Gentleman’ is to not make any man feel his inferiority,” he said. “Especially in this situation, it’s very applicable with the goal of putting others before ourselves and realizing that one is not greater than the other.”
In their chapter, to combat the current stereotype placed on the fraternity nationally, Bigelow said they’re trying to ensure that people understand that they have African American brothers and membership diversity is encouraged.
“We want to make sure we’re always acting in a way that’s appropriate and that shows love and respect for each other,” he said.
Bigelow said he has enjoyed his time as a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon for the past two and a half years. Some of his favorite memories involve intramurals, winning Greek Olympics last fall and time spent with brothers on brotherhood weekends.
Considering the fraternity’s situation nationally, Bigelow said, “I know this might be a set back for a little while, but I want people to realize that’s not a reflection of who we are in our chapter at Union or what we want to portray for ourselves.”
On April 11, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is hosting a trap shoot at the Carroll County Shooting Complex in Huntingdon, Tennessee benefiting their philanthropy, Children’s Miracle Network. The cost is $5 per person, and ammunition will be provided. Tickets may be purchased from any Sigma Alpha Epsilon member on campus.