University Statements


Decision regarding Sigma Alpha Epsilon

March 18, 2011

Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy released the following statement:

Cornell University has decided to withdraw, effective immediately, its recognition of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, pursuant to its University Recognition Policy for Fraternities and Sororities. The revocation is for a period of no less than five years, and the chapter house must be vacated by March 31, 2011.

This decision was taken as sufficient facts became available that warranted action by the university. At this time, the information provided to the university indicates that George Desdunes, 19, was provided alcohol while in the care of certain members and associate members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and became incapacitated. Even though the members and associate members recognized the condition Desdunes was in, they failed to call for medical care. He subsequently died.

A comprehensive investigation regarding all the circumstances surrounding this loss of life continues under the direction of the Ithaca Police Department, with the support of the New York State Police and Cornell Police. As we are able, we will continue to inform the community and share decisions regarding any further action. The university will invite a campus conversation, after spring break, about the implications of this tragedy, in keeping with Cornell's aspirations as a caring community where the struggles of one of us are a concern for all of us.

The university will assist members who need to find alternative housing by making campus housing available. Additional instructions will be provided to facilitate this.

The loss of University recognition is the loss of any and all privileges and benefits bestowed upon a recognized fraternity or sorority, including but not limited to those listed below. Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity must:

  1. Vacate the house located at 122 McGraw Place.
  2. Stop identifying the chapter with Cornell, and stop the use of the university's name in any fashion;
  3. Withdraw from the university's organizations related to self-governance of the fraternity and sorority system at Cornell (e.g., the Interfraternity Council);
  4. Withdraw from all University membership solicitation programs or separate membership solicitation programs, as articulated and monitored by the self-governance organizations of the fraternity and sorority system within the terms of University policies (i.e., any form of recruitment activities are not permitted);
  5. Withdraw from all educational, social, philanthropic/service and athletic programs and activities of the university, which are provided for fraternal organizations; and,
  6. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is denied access to and use of University facilities for official functions as approved by the university offices under whose jurisdiction utilization of a particular University facility is regulated.

If recognition is requested and approved at any point following the five-year period, the chapter would remain on probationary recognition for an additional period of no less than three calendar years.