Last month, the University of Oklahoma caught national attention when pledges of its chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) were caught reciting a racist chant on a bus. Since then, the video had gone viral, resulting in the shutdown of the chapter, and ongoing national reevaluation and discussion of the fraternity’s morals and values.
Michael Akinsanya, an Electrical Engineering junior and brother of NJIT’s colony of SAE, thought that the entire event was disheartening. As a successful member of SAE, being an employee of AT&T and the current public relations chair of the fraternity, Mike wants to spread more information about what SAE does.
The Vector was able to meet with Mike to talk about diversity, social stigma, and the future of SAE.
The Vector: Thanks for meeting with us! How are you?
Michael Akinsanya: “I am doing quite well thank you. I’m just a little tired from working yesterday and I have classes tonight, but otherwise I am delighted to talk with you.”
TV: Because of events similar to what happened at Oklahoma, greek organizations (fraternities and sororities) wholly unaffiliated with your fraternity have been on the receiving end of a lot of negativity. Do you feel that there is a social stigma for being a fraternity man, especially one of SAE?
MA: “I feel proud that I am in SAE, and the fact that there was an incident in Oklahoma does not define my experiences as a whole. That was one bad apple that doesn’t define us all. We are very diverse at NJIT.
There was a time when I was walking to my chapter’s meeting wearing an SAE hoodie and an African American man saw me and began to chant “No n****** in SAE!” I felt disgusted that a fellow African American male would think of the fraternity of a joke. “
TV: How did your brothers react to the video?
MA: “Everyone was saddened that there was a chapter out there that said what they did and damaged our image. Personally, when I first saw the video, I said that this will definitely hurt us, but we can come back from this.”
TV: How has the NJIT community reacted? Did anyone talk to you or your fraternity about the video? Has it impacted you in any way?
MA: “No one has openly come up to us and talked to us about this incident, and we believe that this will not affect our chartering process. We are still in the process of finishing up our charter, and we are in its last stages. We don’t believe that this will have any impact at this time. We should finish and be an official NJIT chapter by the fall semester.”
TV: Can you tell us about diversity at your SAE colony?
“I believe that we are the most diverse fraternity on campus. I myself am African American, and I would not have joined if our SAE were like Oklahoma’s chapter. We have brothers that are African, Caucasian, Hispanic, Greek, Indian, Asian— almost every type of person you can find in a fraternity.”
TV: Why did you join SAE?
MA: “I wanted to join a brotherhood on campus and I wanted to have more connections here at NJIT. I also joined because of the outstanding diversity at SAE. I am very glad that I chose to join, and I have been happy ever since.”
TV: What is SAE involved in, what do you do?
MA: “We have a philanthropy initiative that includes contributing to the Children’s Miracle Network; we try and raise as much money and donations as we can every week. A few of our members will attend HighlanderThon. We also actively participate in the breast cancer walk. Plus, we recently went to the food drive in Newark and helped out there. I think that we are very active.”
TV: What’s next for SAE, any plans?
MA: “We still have the Soak an SAE event coming up, we continue to take donations to the Children’s Miracle Network, and we still think of ways to raise money.”
TV: How is SAE doing?
MA: “It is doing as great as it can. We are on the road to finish our charter, as mentioned before, and we couldn’t be happier than we are right now.”
TV: Any final thoughts?
MA: “SAE here at NJIT does not condone racism, abuse, or harassment in any form at all. We pride ourselves on being very accepting and raise true gentlemen, and as true gentlemen we support everyone.
The incident at Oklahoma was very unfortunate, but that one event does not even begin to capture greek life as a whole.”
If you have any questions, or comments about SAE, please contact Michael Akinsanya at firstname.lastname@example.org.