Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s chapter status suspended, house now off-limits

The Pennsylvania Omega Alumni House Corporation and Alumni Commission voted to suspend Allegheny College’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter on July 1, after the April 18 arrest of two students, Jacob Bonessi, ’14, and Gavin Gratson, ’15.

According to a June 27 statement issued by the Commission addressed to current undergraduate members of the fraternity, Allegheny College and the Commission agreed to a series of items, including the suspension of the chapter’s charter from active status until the fall semester of academic year 2016.

Current SAE brothers will be granted alumni status after graduating from the college, but all members found to have collaborated with the drug use and distribution were expelled from the fraternity, according to the Commission’s statement. No statements have been made as to which, if any, members have been expelled.

Undergraduates who were planning to live in the off-campus SAE house on North Main Street must find new living arrangements for future semesters. Some students still have personal belongings stored in the house — but the house is off-limits to everyone until SAE alumni direct a move-out process this summer.

The announcement is the most recent development in a series of events related to drug arrests.

According to the affidavits filed by arresting Pennsylvania State Polive officer Trooper Edward J. Walker, Bonessi and Gratson admitted to ordering a pure, distilled form of ecstasy, MDMA from British Columbia. After tracking the suspicious package to a house on the 200 block of Prospect Street, police and agents from the Department of Homeland Security raided the off-campus fraternity house on North Main Street, finding more drugs, drug paraphernalia and money order receipts, suggesting an intent to distribute the illicit substances.

Former SAE president Michael Yarnell, ’14, previously told The Campus that the the arrests could not be connected to the fraternity at large.

“This incident was not a fraternity issue,” Yarnell said. “It is misrepresentation to allow this to reflect on us whatsoever.”

The Commission, however, found that a recent string troubling incidents merited the suspension of the chapter.

“Recurring incidents punctuated by the recent raid of our chapter house by U.S. Homeland Security bring to light deep-seeded problems within the culture of our chapter that cannot simply be fixed with workshops, mentoring or more direct alumni supervision,” the statement said. “We hope you understand why the current events involving our chapter warranted such a firm decision.”

The Commission plans to use the suspension period to rehabilitate the chapter and prepare for the return of a healthy new colony.

“It is our strong belief the suspension period gives us the best opportunity to rebuild a stronger Pennsylvania Omega chapter. One that is more closely aligned to the standard operating principles and values of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Allegheny College, and that can live on to serve future classes of young men at Allegheny College for years to come,” the statement said.

Edit: A prior version of this story stated that Yarnell provided his commentary via an e-mail; he did not write an e-mail but rather spoke with a reporter over the phone.

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