Fraternity president highlights misconceptions about Greek life

SUNY Fredonia's Sigma Phi Epsilon President speaks to WBEN

Mike Baggerman
April 16, 2019 - 3:00 am

Sigma Pi Fraternity House on Custer Street in Buffalo. 18-year-old Sebastian Serafin-Bazan went into cardiac arrest on the front lawn on the morning of April 12. April 15, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Tim Wenger)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Last Friday's apparent hazing of a freshman fraternity member at the University at Buffalo's Sigma Pi is putting the spotlight on Greek life and its history of hazing.

Most, if not all, college campuses have a hazing policy related to its Greek life organizations, yet incidents continue to happen. Hazing within fraternities and sororities can often involve drugs or alcohol, but the Friday incident that left 18-year-old Sebastian Serafin-Bazan in critical condition at Buffalo General Hospital had neither. He was allegedly forced to do strenuous exercises and he collapsed.

"That one really hit me," SUNY Fredonia's President of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity Michael Clark, a Lewiston native, told WBEN.

Clark said that chapters like UB's Sigma Pi need to be called out publicly and condemned any sort of hazing done by fraternities and sororities.

"There is absolutely no reason why you should be risking your life just to gain acceptance into a group," Clark said. "It's towards the end of the semester, so I'm sure this was (Sigma Pi's) final thing. If you're at the end and almost done, psychology says you will do almost anything...You are at the mercy of whatever those older brothers are telling you. It's not okay."

Clark, a 21-year-old senior at SUNY Fredonia, said his fraternity was the first in the United States to create an anti-hazing policy. If there is a case of hazing within their fraternity, a member will be automatically expelled from the fraternity if there is an example of hazing with no chance for a return outside of an appeal. If the fraternity's national representatives are utilized, they will restructure the chapter to a more successful structure of a different chapter.

"They work with you and get you where you need to be," Clark said about the national organization's involvement.

He said the actions by Sigma Pi International doesn't ruin the reputation of all fraternities and sororities because each organization is different. Clark said joining a Greek life organization is like taking on another class due to the obligations and responsibilities. He said they volunteer weekly and they do that because it's a way to make a difference.

"You can't blame everyone for something an individual chapter does," he explained. "I do think that UB took the right step. They suspended all Greek life and will do a thorough investigation of each chapter. I think that's what needs to happen. Bigger schools have big hazing problems."

Sigma Phi Epsilon at SUNY Fredonia runs a "Bald for Bucks" charity and raised $6,000 in one of their three philanthropic events that they require for their members each semester.

Greek life at colleges are often portrayed on television and in movies as a group of rowdy, rambunctious young adults, with little to no regard for their own safety. Clark doesn't think that stereotype will change any time soon, but said more often than not, that's a decision made by a school and those individual students, and not necessarily the value of the organizations itself.

He also hears the criticism that members of fraternities or sororities "pay for friends".

"It's like paying your union dues," he said. "It's about building an organization that can supply the network you want after college. Our dues are between $300-$350 per semester. Work that out for each semester and that's about $2,800 at the higher end. I would personally give a one-time lump sum of $2,800 if it gave me that much of an edge coming out of college."

Sigma Phi Epsilon is one of ten recognized fraternities at SUNY Fredonia. Learn more about them here

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