Signs point to Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity’s re-recognition by national organization
Although SAE’s national organization allegedly re-recognized Dartmouth’s chapter in October, the fraternity remains unaffiliated with the College.
The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter at Dartmouth, formerly known as Scarlett Hall, is now listed on SAE’s national organization website after it was derecognized nearly seven years ago. According to internet archives, the chapter was not listed on the national chapter list in September 2022 and appeared on the website by February 2023.
A member of Dartmouth’s SAE chapter, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about his experiences, stated that SAE’s national organization re-recognized the local chapter in October 2022. The organization remains unrecognized by and unaffiliated with the College, assistant dean of Residential Life and director of Greek Life Josh Gamse wrote in an email statement.
The fraternity was initially derecognized by SAE’s national organization in January 2016 due to health and safety violations — following an investigation into a hazing complaint — as well as a failure to comply with national standards, according to past reporting by The Dartmouth. The fraternity was subsequently derecognized by the College due to its national suspension in February 2016.
According to the anonymous member of SAE, the fraternity attempted to obtain re-recognition for at least a year before achieving success. He said the fraternity proposed to national representatives a “detailed plan” for future operations before signing formal re-recognition paperwork in October.
“National just wanted to be very cautious and sure that we were ready to be re-recognized,” the brother said. “They take [hazing] very seriously, since it’s banned at all chapters.”
The member added that early in spring term, several SAE national executives spent the weekend in Hanover for “ceremonial” events, such as banquets and presentations on promised expectations between Dartmouth’s chapter and the national organization.
According to the member, the chapter is “not even close” to re-recognition by the College. He said the group’s unrecognized status may stem from past hazing rumors, as well as an ongoing legal battle with the College.
The fraternity has been the subject of a civil land use appeal since 2016, when the Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment ruled that the fraternity could no longer reside in its College Street property after its derecognition, according to the Valley News. Hanover Planning, Building and Codes director Robert Houseman stated that the town’s decision stemmed from SAE’s location on land zoned for institutional use, explaining that the fraternity was no longer connected to its institution — the College.
According to the Valley News, the fraternity’s lawyers argued that SAE itself should be regarded as an institution. Houseman said the appeal reached the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which found issue with one of the town’s decisions — what qualifies as “institutional” use. The appeal then went back to the town, who upheld the decision and sent the case back to court, where it stands now.
“Our definition of an ‘institution’ in our zoning specifies exactly what an institution is, and the board found that [SAE] did not meet that criteria,” Houseman said. “And they’re appealing that.”
The SAE member said there remained “a lot of work” that needs to be done between the fraternity’s executives and the College before a potential re-recognition.
He added that SAE’s members decided to pursue national re-recognition so that its achievements — as well as any positive impact the fraternity has on the Hanover community — could be acknowledged beyond the College’s campus.
Although the College did not derecognize SAE until 2016, discourse surrounding the fraternity’s hazing — which has since been banned by the national organization — came to light in 2012, after Andrew Lohse ’12 exposed the fraternity in The Dartmouth. Lohse’s column sparked a widely circulated Rolling Stone article, “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: Inside Dartmouth’s Hazing Abuses,” that further discussed Lohse’s experience with hazing in SAE, as well as the College’s Greek system at large. In 2014, Lohse published “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: A Memoir” — a book that further outlined the soon-to-be derecognized fraternity’s culture.
Despite his experiences, Lohse said he is not surprised that SAE’s national organization is re-recognizing Dartmouth’s chapter.
“This is sort of just what happens — there’s a long history of that,” Lohse said. “Obviously SAE has a rich tradition of some scandal and intrigue, but then again, I would say probably that every house does in its own varying way, and it’s often just a matter of time before the re-recognition happens.”
Lohse attributed the College’s refusal to re-recognize SAE to the fraternity being a “unique case” of public interest, as the house garnered significant publicity after the Rolling Stone article was published.
“I did a lot of research back in the day,” Lohse said. “It usually seems like [derecognized fraternities] come back. [But] we live in such a unique cultural moment. It’s quite different from when I was a student. On a broader cultural level, we’re in a much more touchy and high [publicity] kind of ‘woke’ moment.”
Lohse said he believes that Dartmouth and the world at large have evolved to have “bigger” problems, adding that fraternities may take on a new role going forward.
“Would it be possible that fraternities can exist and not harm people — not harm women, not harm minorities, not harm each other [and] not harm themselves?” Lohse asked. “There may be a possibility that the idea of fraternities, if practiced in a way that doesn’t harm people and doesn’t commit crimes, can be a good thing and, in fact, the necessary thing against the creeping social contagion of insanity in America.”
Students expressed mixed reactions to SAE’s national re-recognition.
Ann Tran ’25, executive director of the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, said she thinks the decision could give the chapter an opportunity to improve chapter culture.
“This is an opportunity for SAE to affect their culture in a meaningful way,” she said. “I don’t think that the house itself should be defined by its past. They can use their past to learn, do better and improve their chapter to create a better and safer culture.”
Quinn Allred ’26, who has started to consider rushing a fraternity next fall, said that rumors of SAE’s past connections with sexual assault have led him to not consider the house in his recruitment process.
“I’m sure they’re saying things like, ‘Oh, we’ve learned,’ or whatever,” Allred said. “I honestly just don’t want that association.”
SAE president Perry Zhang ’24, along with several other SAE members, declined to comment. SAE’s national organization also declined to comment.
Correction appended (April 14, 3:40 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Josh Gamse’s position. He is the assistant dean of Residential Life and director of Greek Life, not the assistant director of Greek Life. This article has been updated.