Declaring a racist chant by members of its University of Oklahoma chapter “ugly” and “disgusting,” the leader of the embattled Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity organization laid out a four-part plan Wednesday to confront racial insensitivity among its membership.
“The words were offensive and harmful,” Blaine Ayers, the fraternity’s executive director, said at a news conference at the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago hotel. “And now we must begin the task of seeking forgiveness and taking steps to ensure that this never happens again.”
A video that surfaced last week showed University of Oklahoma fraternity members engaging in a racist chant that referenced lynching and indicated that black students never would be admitted to that university’s chapter.
Ayers said the Evanston-based fraternity will hire a director of diversity and inclusion, start a mandatory diversity education program, appoint a national advisory committee on diversity and inclusion, and establish a new confidential hotline for the reporting of “any inappropriate, offensive or illegal behaviors” to our organization.
“We will investigate every call,” Ayers said.
SAE has disbanded the Oklahoma chapter over the video that sparked the controversy. The university has expelled two students and banned SAE. Two students identified in the video have publicly apologized.
“As the leader of this organization, I was disgusted,” Ayers said when asked about the video. “I was demoralized. I was embarrassed. And it’s been an extremely difficult 10 days for myself and for my family.”
The fraternity, with 237 groups and about 15,000 members nationwide, has begun a “comprehensive investigation” of all of its chapters to determine if the type of behavior seen in Oklahoma has happened elsewhere, Ayers said. SAE spokesman Brandon Weghorst said two chapters, at the University of Texas and Louisiana Tech University, are being investigated.
Ayers said about 20 percent of its membership identifies as “non-Caucasian,” and since fall 2013, about 3 percent of its new members have been black. Though he said SAE’s goal is to attract “the best man possible,” he acknowledged he’d like to see those numbers increase.