Inside America's deadly fraternity

by umer | 3:29 AM in |

Inside America's deadly fraternity--IT IS one of America's most notorious fraternities with a dark reputation for hazing, risky behaviour and, in at least nine known cases, the death of students.

Now a former pledge from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has come clean about his experiences inside the fraternity, describing his eight-week initiation process as being like "Guantanamo Bay".

The SAE fraternity is one of the of largest in America with chapters in more than 240 campuses around the country.

Founded in 1856, it has about 14,000 undergraduate members in the US and Canada with alumni including a former president and high rollers in the US finance industry.

But it has also been dogged by controversy. Since 2006, nine people have died in events related to the fraternity.

In 2008, Carson Starkey, a freshman at California Polytechnic State University, died after drinking a mixture of beer and spirits at an initiation ritual. His family sued SAE and members for negligence and settled for at least $2.45 million.

In a series of interviews with Bloomberg News, a former pledge to the fraternity Justin Stuart describes his experiences at Salisbury College in Maryland, US as something out of "Guantanamo Bay".
During one initiation test he was forced to stand outside in his underwear in a rubbish bin filled to waist height with ice while he was sprayed with a hose.

At the time he was prepared to go through the eight-week initiation process, convinced that being part of the fraternity would bring him success in college and later on Wall St.

Other initiation rites included being beaten with a paddle; being forced to wear nappies and women's clothes and having to drink until he almost passed out.

Pledges were also left for up to nine hours in a dark basement with no food, water or toilet and were played a German rock song at excruciating volume.

"It was almost like torture," he told Bloomberg.

His interview is a rare first-person account of the hazing that goes on inside the fraternity.

After the university was made aware of his ordeal, the SAE chapter was suspended until the spring of 2014.

SAE has a long history and influential alumni with a headquarters in a gothic-style building in Evanston, Illinois.

Alumnus include U.S. President William McKinley, crime fighter Eliot Ness and novelist William Faulkner. Most of its members work in the finance industry.