COLUMBIA, Mo. - Sigma Alpha Epsilon is closing its chapter at the University of Missouri.
The fraternity's national director of communications, Johnny Sao, said the closure is a result of multiple health and safety violations and an inability to adhere to the national organization's standards and guidelines.
All of the Mizzou members have been suspended indefinitely and the chapter will remain closed for no less than four years.
SAE president Ben Widger who became president lasa sophomore at Mizzou, said he was shocked when he received a phone call from a national representative Monday night who told him the chapter would be shut down.
"Everyone's blindsided," he said.
Widger, who became president last fall, said there were a few things the members felt needed to be addressed within the chapter. While he declined to go into details, he said there were aspects of the fraternity that were being "mismanaged."
"We may have mismanaged the new member process but no one got hurt and there was no malice in anything that was done," he said.
To solve the issues, Widger said, some alumni suggested a membership review based on attitude and involvement. As a result, they expelled about 26 men from the fraternity just before winter break.
Four days later, nationals hit the chapter with a cease and desist order, forcing them to stop all chapter operations until further notice as a result of an anonymous complaint letter. Widger said the chapter complied with the order but wasn't expecting the investigation to end in the chapter being shut down.
"Anything that was done prior to (the membership review) might have been mismanaged but no one was in any harm and we never failed an audit," said Widger. "We were in good standing with the university and I just don't think anything that happened warranted getting shut down for four years."
Widger said he would have liked to see nationals work with the chapter to improve it, instead of shut itdown. SAE has only been re-charted since March 2016.
"I'm sure people disagree with my opinion on this issue and that's fine," he said. "I was there in the house and I know the guys more than anyone else that makes this decision. At the end of the day, this is up to them, but I disagree."
The university said it didn't have anything to do with the decision to shut down the chapter but supports the SAE national organization's decision.
Sao said, "The loss of this group is unfortunate, but suspensions are a critical reminder that adherence to risk management policies and educational programming are crucial to Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s future. When incidents take place that fail to do so, they affect the entire organization and counteract the importance of our values."
The organization would not go into details on what health and safety violations are and Widger said he was never told what the allegations were.
Officials for the fraternity said they are optimistic that the University of Missouri chapter can be re-established with new members.
For more information on the original cease and desist order, click here.