by Dr. Spencer Long (Central Michigan ’08)
Many times, I have been asked why I get so offended when someone refers to SAE as a frat. Growing up watching mainstream media depictions of ‘frats’ it’s easy for me to think of many reasons why I wouldn’t ever want to be a part of one. Looking at movies like Animal House and American Pie Beta House, stereotypical ‘frats’ are always looked at as males who have no respect for themselves or anyone else around them. They have no respect for women or authorities, and most importantly, have no respect for their so-called ‘brothers’. I grew up not too far from a Big Ten university, and it was all too often I was watching stories featuring the stereotypical ‘frat’ getting in trouble. To top it all, the most frustrating thing is that some people just don’t understand the difference.
To me a fraternity is much, much more than all of these things. Most important is the part of the word that is left out, ‘ernity’, referring to eternity, meaning forever. When you enter into a fraternity, you are making a commitment for life to the values of which the group stands for and was founded upon. When joining a fraternity, you are entering into a group that stands for things like academics, brotherhood, and philanthropic service. A fraternity is a group of men who respect each other and is a group in which you feel comfortable expressing yourself. To me, a fraternity is like a family, and like a family, it is a group you can always count on, always has your back, holds you accountable, and never judges or discriminates who you truly are.
The part that is most frustrating of all is when I refer to my fraternity; many people think of ‘frats’ and all of the negative things associated with a ‘frat’. They think of the negative portrayal we have been given by other brothers and other groups. This can be very frustrating and can be hard to overcome, but when you get into one of these situations, hold strong to what drew you to join SAE. Most importantly, remember the values taught in the True Gentleman. Take the time to stand up for what you believe in and take the time to educate those questioning your experience on the difference between a ‘frat’ and a fraternity. Take the time to share with them your positive experience in being a part of SAE and share with them the types of things your chapter does that make them different from a ‘frat’.
I look back to when I was asked to join Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Why did I join? What was it that broke my view on something I never wanted to be a part of . . . a ‘frat’? The thing that did it for me was when I looked at the SAE chapter at Central Michigan, I saw a Brotherhood. I saw a group of guys who respected each other, supported each other, and had dignity for each other. I saw a group that stood by the values of the fraternity and worked hard to hold themselves accountable to them. I am sure many of your stories are similar to mine, and these are the stories that make our experiences different than joining a ‘frat’.
Having a support network of brothers is critical, and fraternities are an accelerator for success in college and beyond. In fact, a recent research study from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, found that nearly 80% of fraternity men report excellent mental health and well-being. Additionally, the same study shares that 83% of members say their confidence in their leadership skills increased because of their membership in a fraternity. With students spending 90% of their time outside of the classroom, fraternities are preparing members for personal and professional success.
A study from Gallup furthers the value of being a member of a fraternity. In the research they conducted, they found that fraternity members are three times more likely to obtain an internship while in college and twice as likely to have a job waiting for them when they graduate. Once graduated, the research from Gallup shows that fraternity members are five times more likely to be satisfied with their lives as an alum than nonaffiliated alumni, two times as likely to encourage others to attend their alma mater, and are five times as likely to give back financially to their alma mater as well.
With half of collegiate fraternity members serving in leadership roles across campus, Fraternities Matter! Research shows that fraternities provide impactful, meaningful connections and create a strong sense of belonging, allowing those members to be more comfortable in having deeper, tougher conversations. I know I will never forget the lessons I learned during my time as an active and the experiences I continue to share with brothers as alumni of this great organization.
My hopeful wish is that each of us continues to take a stand for fraternities, and maybe one day, we can convince society that there is a difference between what we have and what people think. If nothing else, stand strong by SAE and stand strong by your experience in SAE.
- 80% of fraternity men report excellent to good mental health and well-being.
- Fraternity members are 5x as likely to be satisfied with their lives as alums.
- Fraternity men are 2x as likely to encourage others to attend their alma matter.
- Fraternity men are 5x as likely to give back financially to their alma matter.
- Fraternity men are 3x more likely to obtain an internship while in college.
- Fraternity men are 2x as likely to have a job waiting for them when they graduate.
- 83% of members say their confidence in their leadership skills increased because of their membership.
Testimonials from SAE members:
“I decided to join a fraternity because I was drawn to the sense of community and camaraderie it offered. Fraternity matters because it provides opportunities for personal growth, lifelong friendships, and a chance to impact my campus positively. Joining Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) specifically, I’ve benefited from a strong network of alumni connections, leadership development opportunities, and a platform to engage in philanthropic activities. Within SAE, I experienced a more enriched collegiate experience compared to someone who didn’t rush due to the countless leadership roles and responsibilities I undertook, enhancing my interpersonal skills and organizational abilities. Mentally, it helped me develop resilience, adaptability, and stress management skills, which have been valuable throughout my collegiate journey and into my career. Moreover, the leadership experiences gained within SAE have prepared me for leadership roles beyond college, and the networking opportunities have been advantageous in my professional life. Overall, joining a fraternity like SAE has had a profound, positive impact on my personal and professional growth, contributing significantly to my college experience and post-graduate life.” – Juan Martinez (Cal State-Los Angeles ’23)
“As an Alum of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, I am continuously being impacted in such rewarding ways and have been able to renew my fraternal involvement and engagement. I was chosen as a leadership school facilitator when the Leadership School was on the cruise ships and in Phoenix, AZ. During the pandemic, I facilitated on Zoom with undergraduate members across the realm. I have also facilitated at the Leadership School when it returned to National Headquarters and for the Executive Academy at HQ. Recently, I have had the opportunity to plan, create, and develop the training materials for revising the Phoenix Education program. I have worked with James Irwin, Eric Eidson, and, most recently, with Dr. Spencer Long, Hannah Blenden, Shelby Fete, and Trevor Bloom. James and I created an initial set of materials that were revised and adapted for the Phoenix Member Education. I developed lessons on leadership, scholarship, history, and more. I also recently developed some officer training curricula for the recent Executive Academy. The fraternity honored me with both the Order of Lion and the Order of Minerva. I am working with Trevor Bloom to create a lesson on Awards Applications and a series of lessons on Business Communication for Careers and Jobs.” – Dr. Scott Slechta (Simpson ’80)
“SAE has become so much more than just a fraternity for me. For me it became a community; a home. I stayed in my hometown for college, and while I enjoyed high school, I didn’t want another four years of the same exact thing. While I had never planned on joining a fraternity, I quickly learned that they weren’t all that was portrayed in the media or TV. I decided to go through rush with one of the guys I graduated high school with and we both went SAE and are both so much better off for it. After my guardian passed away suddenly my junior year, I didn’t know where I’d go or what I’d do. Thankfully, I had strong support from our chapter alumni that helped me move into the chapter house and keep me in school. Obviously, I’ll never be able to repay all that SAE has provided to me, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. Membership truly is for life for those that want it.” – Ryan Gibbons (Tennessee Tech ’16)
“Greek life holds different associations and meanings for different people. Despite having wonderful college memories, the only experience Micah’s dad and I had with Greek life was at the periphery. We were both apprehensive, albeit supportive, when Micah mentioned Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Evansville. Our agreement, Micah would incur all expenses related to rushing and Greek life. He was all in, becoming a SAE brother and, unknowingly, gaining a family-away-from-home. Micah left Cincinnati timid, quiet and reserved. The impact of SAE’s community service initiative met him right where he was. Micah thrived in Greek life, remaining academically invested and engaged in activities with the fraternity while developing effective time management skills. He earned, and was afforded, ongoing responsibilities and leadership roles in SAE. Rushing and being an active member of SAE was an investment of time, talent and treasure. As a result, Micah has grown into an entirely different adult than the one that left home to attend college. His decision to rush remains the single best decision he made in his college career. He has grown in so many wonderful ways as a result of serving in numerous leadership positions with SAE and UE. Four years, many leadership positions and awards, and one degree later, it is apparent that SAE provided Micah opportunities to develop lifelong friendships, confidence, responsibility and loyalty that will serve him well throughout his life. We are forever grateful.” – Denise Johnson (Parent of Micah Johnson (Evansville ’23))