Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the largest US fraternities and the deadliest, said Friday it will ban the initiation of recruits, citing the toll that hazing has taken on its newest members.
SAE announced what it called a ‘‘historic decision’’ to eliminate pledging, typically a months-long induction period featuring secret rituals. During pledging, recruits have been subject to forced drinking, paddling, and other abuse. At least 10 deaths since 2006 have been linked to hazing, alcohol, or drugs at SAE events, more than at any other fraternity, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
SAE, based in Evanston, Ill., has more than 240 chapters and 14,000 college members. Its alumni include Wall Street titans such as T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oilman-turned investor; and hedge fund managers David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital and Paul Tudor Jones of Tudor Investment Corp.
SAE becomes one of only a handful of about 75 national fraternities — and perhaps the most prominent — to eliminate pledging. The ban, which takes effect Sunday, may spur broader change among Greek organizations, fraternity and college officials said. There have been more than 60 fraternity-related deaths since 2005.
Many victims were freshman pledges, considered the most vulnerable because many are away from home for the first time.
‘‘This is a very big deal,’’ said Brian Madison Jr., president of SAE’s alumni association at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. ‘‘The fraternity set a line in the sand.’’
Under the new plan, SAE chapters will still recruit new members and extend them a ‘‘bid,’’ or invitation to join.