The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity continued efforts to redeem its image on Wednesday, following the release of a video showing University of Oklahoma SAE members singing a racist chant earlier this month.
The fraternity rolled out an anti-racism plan that will include an advisory committee and a staff member at the national level focused on diversity and inclusion, training for all its members. SAE is also providing a hotline number for those who see racially-charged behavior to report incidents.
“We are committed to having the tough conversations in every chapter with every member,” SAE executive director Blaine Ayers said at a press conference where he again apologized for the Oklahoma members' use of racial epithets. “As the leader of this organization, I was disgusted, I was demoralized, I was embarrassed , it's been an extremely difficult ten days."
Both the national fraternity and the school shut down the University of Oklahoma chapter after a video was posted a week and a half ago, showing students on a bus chanting, “There will never be a n***** in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me, there will never be a n***** at SAE” to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” The school expelled the two students who can be clearly seen singing the chant in the video and are currently investigating other participants. SAE says they're reviewing the suspension of all members of the Oklahoma chapter.
SAE said the investigation into where students first learned this chant is still ongoing, but one expelled student said the song had been taught to him by other members and online, while others have alleged that the chant was used at other SAE chapters.
Fraternity spokesman Brandon Weghorst said those allegations have prompted two additional active investigations at the University of Texas and University of Louisiana Tech, but added that he has no evidence of a widespread movement.
SAE – the first fraternity to be established in the deep South – said they only began tracking race 18 months ago; since then, they've reported that just 3% of their members have identified as African-American, though Ayers was quick to note that 20% of the fraternity didn’t identify as Caucasian.
Asked if the group would actively work to recruit more members, Ayers said only that “we want to train our members to find the best men possible. We hope that anyone who wants to will find an home within our organization regardless of their race or sexual orientation.”