Sigma Alpha Epsilon Unveils Plan to Fight Racial Discrimination and Insensitivity

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Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the fraternity that dissolved its University of Oklahoma chapter because of a racist song, said Wednesday that it would hire a national director of inclusion and put its 15,000 student members through diversity training.

The fraternity said that it was still trying to determine where the song — which repeatedly used a racial epithet — came from. But its national executive director, Blaine Ayers, apologized for “the pain this situation has caused.”

“The chant in the video is ugly. It is demoralizing and absolutely counter to the values of SAE,” he told reporters in Chicago. “Now we must begin the task of seeking forgiveness and taking steps to make sure that this never happens again.”

The fraternity said that it would establish a national hotline for members to report “inappropriate, offensive or illegal” behavior, similar to a hazing hotline in place for a decade. It also announced a national advisory committee on diversity, to include outside “subject matter experts.”

It is conducting a review of its 237 national chapters to find any instances of behavior similar to what happened at Oklahoma.

Ayers said that the fraternity hopes to increase nonwhite membership. In the year and half that the national organization has kept track, 20 percent of new members have been nonwhite and 3 percent have been black, he said.

The national organization and the university both cut ties with the Oklahoma chapter after a video surfaced showing SAE members singing a song vowing, with the repeated use of the epithet, that there would never be a black member of SAE.

The university expelled two students. One apologized directly, and the family of the second also offered an apology. All 163 students in the Oklahoma chapter have had their standing in the national organization suspended while it investigates.

Ayers said that the song does not appear in any SAE-sanctioned songbook or official publication. “None of us had ever heard that song before,” he said.

IN-DEPTH

— Erin McClam

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