Following a suspension handed down from the national organization and after extensive alumni review during Fall Quarter, Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity disaffiliated all its members of Northwestern’s Illinois Lambda chapter before winter recruitment. However, Sheehan Walker, new chapter development director for Sig Ep, said the organization gave Illinois Lambda opportunities to improve.
When the national organization contacted members of the Illinois Lambda chapter regarding the alumni review, approximately 25 of more than 100 brothers “decided they wanted to participate. On our end, that shows us that the remaining 80 didn’t want to participate in the review because they knew things were going to change,” Walker said.
A former member of Sig Ep who requested to remain anonymous, who did not participate in Fall Quarter's alumni review, said it was not because of apathy, but because of a desire to not live in the Sig Ep house.
The alumni review was not only a form of disciplinary action, but also one of recruitment: When it concluded, Walker said that only a few current brothers qualified as ones he and fellow New Chapter Development Director Scott Swedberg planned on working with to rebuild the chapter.
"When [the alumni] conducted the interviews, they ask specific questions to identify what the experience was and what they were looking for," Walker said. "I don't believe that every individual was wrong or terrible, but when there's such a group mentality there, we came away with five of those guys."
However, Walker said these five brothers were further disqualified when proven to still hold ties with their former brothers.
"In late December, we realized that they were still participating with the former members after we had sat down with them and said 'This is how it’s going to be, it’s going to be difficult because we’re going to have to sever ties.' And they continued to host events at the old Sig Ep chapter, had been associated with and were recruiting under the old Sig Ep," Walker said. "A lot of parents were confused and were trying to figure out what was going on. We brought it back to the advisory council and it seemed like it wasn’t going to be a good fit with the former remaining five."
Though Walker did not comment at length about the “unofficial Sig Ep” bids made during winter recruitment, the former member said that the unofficial chapter had a "falling out," but would not conduct further fraternity-like activities, citing disciplinary action from the university.
Unlike the route Chi Psi’s national organization took last year when they removed their chapter from campus, thereby making its members alumni members, the disaffiliation process works differently for Sig Ep.
“When you’re not asked to participate in the chapter again, your membership is suspended until graduation,” Walker said. “If you’re a member in good standing, then you will be given alumni status.”
Walker is in the process of finding students to re-start the Sig Ep chapter here.
“We’re not necessarily part of the formal recruitment process, but we’re having information sessions. The process is to recruit from here until the end of next quarter, to recruit and train the next chapter,” Walker said. “At a school like Northwestern, there are plenty of students that want the experience Sig Ep provides. The types of students we want for Sig Ep are definitely here.”