The national fraternity of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has issued a new statement about the racist chant caught on video at the University of Oklahoma.
At first, the national organization denied any connection: "...the national fraternity does not teach such a racist, hateful chant, and this chant is not part of any education or training." But an Oklahoma university report identified the source:
"It was learned by chapter members on a national leadership cruise sponsored by the national organization of Sigma Alpha Epsilon,” the university said in a brief report on the results of its inquiry into the episode. “Over time, the chant was formalized in the local S.A.E. chapter and was taught to pledges as part of the formal and informal pledgeship process."
In a new statement, SAE accepts the university's conclusion and promises its own investigation.
SIGMA ALPHA EPSILON CONTINUES INVESTIGATION AND PROGRAM TO ELIMINATE RACIST BEHAVIOR
Fraternity Confirms Chant was Shared at Past Leadership Meeting
EVANSTON, IL – The Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity (SAE) on Friday confirmed members of its former University of Oklahoma chapter likely learned a racist chant while attending a national Leadership School about four years ago.
However, Executive Director Blaine Ayers said the organization has no current evidence that the chant is widespread across the fraternity’s 237 groups. Ayers said SAE continues its in-depth investigation of its chapters.
“We remain committed to identifying and rooting out racist behavior from SAE, and we are actively investigating all of our local organizations to determine whether there are issues in any other location,” Ayers said. “We intend to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and this will take time. However, we will share the results of our investigation when it is complete. Our current findings at the University of Oklahoma are similar to those announced on Friday by University of Oklahoma President David Boren. But our investigation to date shows no evidence the song was widely shared across the broader organization.”
Ayers said he contacted Boren on Friday to acknowledge the university’s investigation and to assure Boren that Sigma Alpha Epsilon is continuing its own investigation.
SAE invites hundreds of leaders annually to a six-day leadership retreat, where participants attend classes, seminars and other educational functions throughout the day and evening. While attendees have little social time, there are occasions when participants can gather socially.
Ayers said it is likely that during one of these social gatherings, some members shared the racist song that was recorded on video at the University of Oklahoma and shared through social media earlier this month.
SAE closed its Oklahoma Kappa chapter immediately after seeing the video and subsequently announced a four-point initiative – including an anonymous hotline, mandatory online sensitivity training, the hiring of a diversity-and-inclusion officer and the appointment of a national advisory panel on diversity and inclusion – to eradicate racism and other forms of discrimination from the fraternity.
“The song is horrific and does not at all reflect our values as an organization,” said Ayers. “If we find any other examples of this kind of behavior currently occurring, we will hold our members accountable, just as we’ve done in Oklahoma.”
On its Facebook page, SAE posted a picture and link to a Washington Post article about a diverse chapter at Midwestern State University. The fraternity also gave a news conference about its diversity initiatives.
- Assess the tone, organization, and content of SAE's statement.
- Do you believe the national organization's claim that the chant isn't widespread?
- What's your view of the Washington Post article? How is it helpful and harmful to SAE's image?