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Ex-Sig Ep Brothers Stage Rush Protest

Former members pass out flyers, discuss eviction circumstances with freshmen

By Rima Arnaout

Former members of Sigma Phi Epsilon evicted in an alcohol incident last year protested Sig Ep rush yesterday.

“They’re being nice about it,” said current Sig Ep rush chair Andrew W. Garza ’02. “They’re upset at the way the Alumni Board went through with kicking out people,” he said.

The campaign consists of several former members of Sig Ep standing in front of the fraternity house handing out flyers and explaining the events which led up to the eviction.

In November of 1998, seven MIT Sig Ep freshmen and four upperclassmen on a pledge trip to the Penn State Sig Ep chapter were caught with a keg of beer. When MIT’s chapter refused to kick out the people directly involved in the alcohol incident, the fraternity’s Alumni Board conducted a series of interviews which eventually led to the eviction of 28 Sig Ep members.

Tony B. Avila ’00, a former rush chair for Sig Ep, explained what the protesters would say to freshmen coming by the Sig Ep house: “I just want you to know what happened... If you read this flyer and still want to rush, by all means go ahead. But the system run by Shaun Meredith [the Alumni Board president] is malicious and we’d hate for this to happen to you.”

“I don’t think this is an ugly incident from the past that can now be overlooked,” said John Dunagan G, a Sig Ep alumnus who drafted the flyer and was stationed outside of Sig Ep. “It reflects poorly on the character and tactics of the same alumni board that still controls the fraternity,” Dunagan said.

“The guys in here told us all about it,” said Jonathan C. Bates ’03. Bates listened to the protesters but is excited that “the incoming freshmen get to be part of the whole reformation process.”

The protesters spoke to the Boston Transportation Department, Avila said, but no permit was needed since they were not blocking traffic.

The protesters intend to continue their flyer campaign outside of Sig Ep today as well.

Current and ex-brothers friendly

Both current and former Sig Ep members stress that there is no bad blood between them.

“We’re not too happy about [the protest], but we don’t have problems with them personally,” Garza said.

“It’s not between us and the people living in the house; they’re not happy about [the protest] because they’re trying to rebuild the house, but they understand,” Avila said.

But the protesters say that they are not only speaking out against the Sig Ep reorganization but also against the general problem that freshmen don’t always know the full history behind the fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups that they’re rushing. Sig Ep is “just one fraternity, but MIT as a whole wants people to be more informed about fraternities and the system, and we’re trying to help,” Avila said.

Freshmen “can’t go into rush with false pretenses,” said former Sig Ep member Joseph S. Compton ’00. “They have to understand that this could happen again.”

Members say Sig Ep is different

The current members say that the past incidents don’t matter because Sig Ep is not the same place anymore. Current Sig Ep President Michael G. McCarthy ’02 said that the events that led to last year’s mass eviction are no longer relevant.

“What we have here is so different from what was before,” McCarthy said, in the way the brothers live together and interact with each other.

This fall, the ten remaining members of Sig Ep will rush a new group of pledges.

“Full occupancy is 37, but realistically by the end of the term we’re looking to double our numbers,” Garza said. “Our program is meant for year-round recruiting, so we’re not pressured” to get all the members during rush, he added.

Through rush, current Sig Ep members are not only trying to increase numbers, but they are also taking the opportunity to reinvent themselves.

“The Alumni Board wanted to move in a different direction, a more positive leadership-type fraternity... some of the [former members] really want it to stay like a traditional party fraternity,” Garza said.

“We’re trying to start a new fraternity that’s based on a supportive atmosphere, and using that development program really fostered the growth of a leader, scholar, and gentleman,” McCarthy said.

“I am concerned that any freshman joining the fraternity would be putting his academics at MIT at risk,” Dunagan said.