Student Life

Sigma Alpha Epsilon formed under high standard

There was a problem when Sigma Alpha Epsilon first formed on campus.

They weren’t allowed to.

They formed in 2003, and after several fraternities were removed from campus for a long list of violations, Bruce Roscoe, then the dean of students, placed a moratorium on Greek chapters, forbidding new Greek letter organizations to charter.

Daniel Gaken, the director of the Leadership Institute and founder of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, immediately saw the reason why when he first came to campus.

“A friend asked if I would join him as he explored some fraternities during rush week. I was appalled by what I saw,” Gaken said. “At that time, the use of alcohol at recruitment events was common; little philanthropy or service was discussed, and academics were not part of the equation. I assumed at this point that I had my last encounter with the fraternity and sorority system on campus.”

Gaken was intrigued by the concept of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, though. The chapter wasn’t going to follow the path of other Greek fraternities. Their vision was to create a chapter for men who valued leadership and served the university and community.

Gaken and the other founding members were turned on to the chapter by Dyke Heinze, the former director of the Leadership Institute.

“Dyke had been a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon while attending the University of Michigan, and he shared with us their national values,” Gaken said. “These ideals, in particular the group’s creed, ‘The True Gentleman,’ resonated with us.”

Yet, a significant roadblock was in their way: Greek life on campus was still recovering from a variety of scandals, painting it in an array of negative stereotypes.

They appealed to the Office of Student Life and indicated that their group wouldn’t fall into line with the other Greek fraternities. The chapter decided to change the way they recruited, accepting students who were sophomores or higher, had earned a 3.0 GPA and were involved in at least one other student organization.

This was enough for the Office of Student Life to make an exception.

Brad Kloha, a CMU alumus and enrollment management analyst for Enrollment and Student Services, was another original member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He too, didn’t fit the traditional Greek mold.

“When I came to college, I didn’t consider Greek life. I bought into the stereotype of what you saw on TV or ‘Animal House,’” Kloha said. “But, the members of Sigma Phi Epsilon, they wanted to break that stereotype. The men that were a part of it had the right values and made sure every member lived up to them.”

Kloha said since Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s inception, Greek life has changed as a whole, leading to a better environment on campus.

“Sororities and fraternities on campus have changed,” Kloha said. “The dynamic has improved greatly. They’re having a much more positive impact in the community and the campus community. And, they’re starting to form a positive relationship with the city of Mount Pleasant.”

Clarkston senior Andrew Cabaj, who is an active member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said they still hold themselves to a higher standard today. In reference to alcohol policies alone, Cabaj said the group never drinks while wearing letters and refrains from drinking for the entirety of orientation week.

The group has also helped him personally to succeed.

“I was a shy kid when I first joined, and I wanted to be gain leadership skills,” Cabaj said. “The fraternity helped place me in several different positions and develop those skills. I can confidently say I wouldn’t have the job I have today without Sigma Alpha Epsilon.”

13 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    The fraternity was created by Steve Hough and a colleague of his. A lot in this article is completely made up.

  2. That’s nice, but there are a number of other fraternities like this. It’s just that the media likes to target them because of the irresponsible action of a few across the country. Having been in a fraternity during my time at Central, I can say it was quite rewarding – many of the friendships I built years ago remain in place today. The university and media tend to worry too much about the drinking aspect of social fraternities, forgetting that most everyone in college parties; it’s a part of college life. As long as it’s done responsibly and not emphasized as the main purpose of gathering, there is no harm done. I would like to see more articles about Greek life that don’t reference drinking or partying, as it plays up to the demonizing so many are ready to participate in when discussing fraternities.

  3. John L. Kaczynski says:

    Thank you for running a positive article about GREEK LIFE. It is always great to read about the value added change from fraternity & sorority life at CMU.

    My criticism is this article only touches on the basis for the creation of one group. I really wish CM-Life would have done some research into how all of the the fraternities & sororities were founded at Central Michigan. I’m sure none of the other groups were formed under a “low standard”.

    The article also frames a paradigm that all other Greek organizations at CMU only drank for recruitment events, didn’t participate in service events, were failing in academics / scholarship, and did not have good relations with the city in 2003. These statements about alcohol, service, scholarship should have been researched, as the journalist would have found that most of the national organizations do have a minimum bench line standard for Chapters to attain (to maintain their membership). Anecdotally, I remember four organizations specifically that had similar standards in 2003.

    Finally, all students should be encouraged to join organizations that best fit their expectations, and or cultural norms. As “leadership skills” are not only nurtured from one specific organization. A organization that develops “leadership skills” does not need to be under the umbrella of Greek Life. For example a student could build their leadership capacity in ROTC, Residence Life, Student Government, Program Board, etc…..

    As an alumnus of CMU, I would love to read about the specific value added items that ALL of the Greek men & women at CMU provide to the Central Michigan University, and Mount Pleasant communities.

    Again, thank you for highlighting Greek Life. I hope CM-Life continues to highlight Greek organizations, and speak about the positive change they bring to campus.

  4. Travis Mueller says:

    This article is extremely inaccurate. I was Vice President/President of PKT chapter at CMU during the founding of the SAE chapter, and while there were problems -two fraternities were removed within the span of a year – there was never a moratorium in place. That was apparently a rumor and was dispelled by Mr. Tom Idema at numerous IFC board meetings. That’s what paved the way for SAE to charter. Even though it was pretty much two chapters causing the issues, it wasn’t the Animal House setting that you’d like to portray. I’m sure that this is a good PR move for SAE, but you need to get a few more sources to verify history before you take something like this to print.

  5. As one of the individuals “quoted” in the story, I want to first point out that I was told I was being interviewed for a story about CMU staff who were members of Greek Life as undergrads and how it impacted their professional careers, not this story. I assure many of those who have already commented on this story, and others that I’m sure will read it that my intent was not to portray the other Greek organizations at the time in a negative light.

  6. I am an alum of SAE at CMU. I agree with much of what has been said; there are a lot of amazing chapters at Central and nation-wide. I believe it’s possible the article focused on SAE is that our 10-year anniversary is upcoming. It is great to see a positive article on Greeks regardless of which chapter is the focus. I hope all of the CMU alums and actives are doing well.

  7. Yes, because Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the soul reason that the Greek community has improved and it must be true that that they are the only group to promote Leadership, Learning, and Service. All other groups on campus must hold a low standard. This article is extremely biased and inaccurate. It would be great if just for once CM Life could write an article that was accurate, unbiased, and gave all side of the story.

  8. Hey I was wondering if it was possible for CM-Life to print more lies and possibly get Dan Gaiken to tell more bullcrap lies/embelishment about a group that has done exactly what has been done by other fraternities?

    My favorite was the big whopper about the moratorium and how a special exception was done for them like they were jesus…..especially when theta chi and sig eps had been pretty much forgotten by the time they showed up on campus.

    I got a better idea….why don’t you interview Dan on his love to bash everyone except for his group when said groups weren’t in ear shot. I know his favorite to smack talk back in the day was Phi Tau

    • Anonymous says:

      I feel really sorry for you if you can’t take a joke. People, especially guys, have a culture of joking around and putting each other down- if your in a fraternity, I trust you would understand that concept. Get a thicker skin and prove people wrong if you hear something that bothers you. And, on the bright side, even if you are on the JV team, at least you’re still good enough to play the sport and you didn’t get cut completely.

  9. anonymous says:

    The reason the article focuses on SAE is that when individuals, from different Greek organizations, were reached for comment the only people to respond happened to all be SAE.

  10. Dear Central Michigan Life Readers,

    After reading some of the online commentary related to the article “Sigma Alpha Epsilon formed under high standard,” in the April 3, 2013 edition of Central Michigan Life, I did want to provide a response.

    Like to the post above, I too was interviewed for a story about current university faculty and staff who were members of Greek-letter organizations during their undergraduate careers. While this article does not address that issue, I stand by the remarks I have made.

    X-Man, the author of one comment (who appears to be a member of Phi Kappa Tau, although he or she did not sign their comment): “Hey I was wondering if it was possible for CM-Life to print more lies and possibly get Dan Gaiken (sic) to tell more bullcrap/embelishment (sic) about a group that has done exactly what had been done by other fraternities?” asserts that the notion that a moratorium on new Geek letter organizations did not exist. Jason Taylor, my brother in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, did have a copy of the original letter from the Dean of Students in which he outlines the reasons Central Michigan University would not endorse the establishment of new Greek-letter organizations. For those interested, I have posted a copy at http://www.dangaken.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/letter1.pdf
    During my time at Central Michigan University I have witnessed numerous fraternities lose their charters or have them suspended, including Sigma Phi Epsilon, Beta Theta Pi, Theta Chi, Sigma Pi, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Pi Kappa Phi, and Lambda Chi Alpha. The climate for male members of the Greek community was not positive.

    To be fair, although Dr. Bruce Roscoe initially opposed the creation of our chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, he later became a major proponent of our organization and the Greek community, and was supportive of subsequent organizations chartering on the CMU campus.

    Today I work at Central Michigan University with a multitude to student populations. When students ask about my experience within the Greek community I share an overwhelmingly positive experience. I am grateful that students today have a number of outstanding organizations to join including Phi Kappa Tau, Sigma Tau Gamma, Beta Theta Pi, Sigma Pi, and others. I believe that the creation of new chapters invigorates the Greek community, and that healthy competition drives us all to improve. To that end, I am very proud of what Sigma Alpha Epsilon helped to accomplish.

    I do also want to take ownership of a negative comment I have made in the past concerning another fraternity of this campus.

    While at an event with a sorority, I referred to a member of another fraternity as a member of the “SAE JV team.”
    What was intended to be an innocent comment to a close personal friend was overhead by others and taken out of context. I made a remark to Mr. Todd Burlingham that was inappropriate and was not consistent with the values of a true gentleman. To this day I consider Todd to be an excellent representation of our Greek community, valued professional colleague, and a very close personal friend.

    I believe that we have moved past that incident, and I do sincerely regret my actions. To be honest, I am embarrassed to have said that. I wish it to be known that I have nothing but respect for Todd, John Kaczynski, and many other Phi Taus whom I care for deeply.

    Dan Gaken

  11. CM-Life has a LONG history of getting things wrong. The paper is filled with children trying to make a journalism name for themselves, therefore they make up quotes and lies in order to make things “edgy”. Lets all just deal with that and get over it. This paper is never reputable.

    BUT…

    I completely agree with and appreciate Dan Gaken’s comment.

    SAE did come at a time in which fraternities portrayed the Animal House stereotype and cared less about leadership. I think it is sad that other fraternity men are making disrespectful comments that try to diminish your fellow Greek brothers and their accomplishments. SAE has made great strides for all of the Greek community and has set a great example for all of us. We finally are being recognized by the CMU and the Mount Pleasant community as positive, upstanding members. ALL fraternities are doing amazing things. I love logging online to find out that all of the Greek men in ALL of the affiliations are doing great things for philanthropy, academia, CMU, etc. Let’s celebrate each other rather than putting each other down.

    And for once…let’s thank CM-Life for being positive about Greek Life. At least they are seeing us in the light we should be seen in.

    A proud Greek Alumni :)
    -Kelley

  12. I wanted to make certain to add my name to my post here as to not be confused with those choosing to be anonymous. The comments posted in reaction to the article have a mix of truth, perceptions of truth, and some misunderstandings.
    I AM proud to be Greek, not was proud…AM PROUD. I’ve had the privilege to serve on IFC as its president and the distinct honor to witness the chartering ceremony of SAE first-hand. It was an incredible moment to watch those brothers come together and celebrate an amazing accomplishment; adding another Greek Letter, Social Fraternity on campus. In turn, I’m proud to call Jim Strand, SAE’s president at the time, as one of my closest and best friends.
    As with any fraternity, the culture changes from year to year and campus to campus, as it has with SAE and my own fraternity of Phi Kappa Tau. It would be foolish to think otherwise. I agree with Dan in that some fraternities did lose their charters before, during, and after our undergraduate days at CMU. That is unfortunate, but I’m certain those decisions were made with sound judgement and in the best interest of the students, the national fraternity, and the CMU campus. There was a time when PKT had there charter suspended, but we came back and have been a thriving and contributing member of the Greek community at CMU for many years.
    To address the most recent comment by Kelley; all fraternities contribute to the changing image of Greek Life, not just SAE. Sometimes this is for the better and sometimes not. All in all, I am appreciative that you’ve shared your thoughts as I agree with much of what you had written.
    To the author, I wish I had the opportunity to speak to you prior to this going to print. I would hope that perhaps, at a time in the future, we will chat to address some of the concerns listed within these comments. It is unfortunate that you’ve misquoted Brad Kloha as being part of Sigma Phi Epsilon, as he is a well respected alumni member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Also, thank you for choosing to write about Greek Life in a positive light.

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