Sigma Alpha Epsilon's Supreme Council ruled to ban pledging from the fraternity's initiation process in an attempt to amend its violent past and save the fraternity from extinction.
Brad Cohen, SAE's eminent supreme archon, said in a video for the fraternity's Founders Day that the ban on pledging was put in place due to the fraternity's history of hazing and the consequences of those events, such as suspended and shutdown chapters, bad press and the loss of student lives.
Nine students have died in events related to SAE since 2006 – more than any other fraternity. Bloomberg News has named SAE as the "deadliest" fraternity.
As of Sunday, the Georgia Beta chapter of SAE could not be reached for comment.
The University of Georgia has had a chapter of SAE since 1865. It was the first fraternity to be founded at the UGA. It has also initiated more members than any chapter in the nation.
Hazing has been prohibited from all major social Greek organizations for decades, but, as the incident with UGA's chapter Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. shows, hazing still occurs.
Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in New Orleans, has done research on fraternities and on hazing. He said he does not think the SAE's pledge ban will be successful in stopping hazing.
"Based on history, everybody who's gotten rid of [pledging] has still had hazing," Kimbrough said. "Does it limit it? The answer is no."
Lambda Chi Alpha banned pledging in 1969. The fraternity has been accused of hazing since then, such as the suspension of UGA's chapter of Lambda Chi in 1999.
Zeta Beta Tau and Historical Black Colleges and Universities have also banned pledging, said Kimbrough, but hazing is still a problem these organizations face.
Kimbrough said it would be naïve to think a pledge ban would work.
The SAE chapter at Cornell University had an allegedly hazing-related death in their fraternity house in 2011. David Skorton, Cornell's president, banned pledging on campus as a result.
The ban on pledging was also put in place in order to eliminate class structure between new members and active members. Chapters of SAE have been treating their pledges as second-class citizens, Cohen said in the video.
"We're going to make this change as a team, as a brotherhood, because it's the right thing to do and if we don't, we may simply just not exist in five years," Cohen said.
Starting March 9, pledge programming was eliminated from the fraternity's operations and the classification of pledge no longer exists. All SAE chapters are required to implement the change immediately.
SAE is one of the largest fraternities in the nation with chapters or colonies in more than 240 college campuses and about 14,000 undergraduate members.
From now on, any student who accepts his invitation to join SAE has four days to complete the requirements for membership. There can be no activity or event in which a new member must pledge their commitment to the fraternity within that four-day timeframe. Members guilty of such activity will be held accountable.
The changes to the initiation process are known as the True Gentleman Experience.