Photographer: David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images

SAE Has a Four-Point Plan to Crush 'Reprehensible' Racism

SAE will create a confidential hotline for reporting inappropriate behavior and mandate diversity training, among other efforts

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity said Wednesday, March 18, that it will investigate all 237 of its chapters as part of a four-part plan to stamp out discrimination in its ranks. SAE's members have been blasted in the past two weeks over sweeping allegations of racism, starting with a damning video of a racist chant by members at its University of Oklahoma chapter. 

The fraternity is already investigating at least three chapters that have been accused of racist acts. Now it will comb through all its 15,000 active members to see if they, too, knew and recited the chant sung by Oklahoma members or engaged in other discriminatory behavior.

To purge SAE of its apparent tendency toward hateful speech, the fraternity offered a four-part offense at  a press conference in Chicago on Wednesday morning. It will appoint a director of diversity and inclusion; create a mandatory diversity program for its members and staff; establish a confidential, toll-free hotline for reporting inappropriate behavior; and form a committee to lead efforts to make the fraternity more diverse. 

"We intend to root out and eliminate this sort of reprehensible behavior from our organization," Blaine Ayers, executive director of SAE, said.  "Sigma Alpha Epsilon intends to be a leader among fraternities when it comes to ensuring our members are upholding our values, mission, and creed."

The plan is SAE's latest effort to refute the notion that its culture condones, or even encourages, discrimination against nonwhite brothers. While in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma video, SAE's national leaders said they'd never heard of the chant, accusations on Twitter, Reddit, and other social media forums insisted the chant—which said black people would never be admitted to SAE—had in fact been taught at other SAE chapters. Reporters at the press conference on Wednesday pressed Ayers on whether the song was a part of SAE tradition, to which he responded with a carefully worded denial.

"There's been no official publication from SAE that has ever produced this song, and to that point, none of us had ever heard the song before," Ayers said. Ayers was "demoralized and embarrassed for SAE" when he saw the video, he said. The fraternity's national leadership hopes the new diversity curriculum will teach brothers about "what's acceptable and what's not acceptable, and how they can engage in proper bystander behavior."

SAE hopes to increase recruitment among black students, Ayers said. In response to a reporter's question, Ayers admitted that its membership is only 3 percent African American, based on data it began tracking in the fall of 2013.

While many colleges have welcomed historically African American fraternities onto their campuses, students of color are often scarce in fraternities like SAE that are grouped under the Interfraternity Council.

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