LATEST OFFICIAL STATEMENTS
This page contains the latest statements regarding the current media coverage of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Previous updates are archived below.
The spokesperson for Sigma Alpha Epsilon is Brandon Weghorst, Associate Executive Director of Communications, who can be reached at (847) 424-3038 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read Sigma Alpha Epsilon's Diversity & Inclusion Position Statement, click HERE.
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.”
Sigma Alpha Epsilon, founded in 1856, is one of the nation’s largest national social fraternities, with 237 chapters and colonies and approximately 15,000 collegiate members and 200,000 living alumni. Our creed is known as “The True Gentleman,” and our mission is to promote the highest standards of friendship, scholarship and service for our members based upon the ideals set forth by our Founding Fathers and enunciated in our creed.
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What is SAE doing about the recent video from the University of Oklahoma?
Like others, we were shocked and appalled at the despicable and unacceptable behavior shown in the video of students at the University of Oklahoma. We expect our members to serve as role models and to live up to our creed, “The True Gentleman.” When members fail to do so – as they did at the University of Oklahoma – we are committed to swift, corrective action. Guided by our bylaws, we are now reviewing the actions of each individual of the chapter under our disciplinary procedures to determine their status within our Fraternity. We are committed to a thoughtful and deliberate process as we make these determinations.
When did SAE learn about the video?
Within an hour of learning about the video on Sunday, March 8, we put the OU chapter under temporary suspension, which was followed by a formal closure notice within several hours.
What is SAE doing about other allegations of racial insensitivity?
Discrimination and racial bias of any kind has no place in our organization and will not be tolerated. Our priority remains squarely focused on making sure we continue to proactively address this issue in a way that reflects our zero-tolerance for any kind of discrimination and upholds the values of our Fraternity. We have launched an investigation into other allegations that have come to our attention and will report our findings, as well as any corrective action, when complete.
Has your investigation found that the song was sung by members nationally?
Our investigation to date shows no evidence the song was widely shared across the broader organization?
How diverse is SAE?
Based on data gathered since 2013, approximately 20 percent of our members self-identify as a minority or non-Caucasian.
Has the national organization of SAE hired attorney Stephen Jones?
No. Mr. Jones was retained by the University of Oklahoma SAE board of alumni, which is the group that oversees the Oklahoma Kappa chapter. The national organization is not involved in retaining Mr. Jones and, as of now, we have no further information about his intentions.
What are we doing to address issues related diversity in our chapters?
As an initial step forward, on March 18, we announced a four-pronged initiative to help ensure that we are cultivating a culture of diversity and inclusion within our chapters. This includes a commitment to:
- Hire a Director of Diversity & Inclusion, which we believe will be the first such executive-level position at a national Greek-letter organization;
- Engage Paradigm Group Consultants to help us develop a mandatory diversity-and-education program that will enhance existing programming in place for all SAE members and staff;
- Appoint a national advisory committee on diversity and inclusion, which will include SAE undergraduates, alumni and outside subject-matter experts. The committee will provide oversight and guidance to the actions that have been announced, as well as other activities in the area of diversity and inclusion; and
- Establishment of a new confidential hotline that SAE members and any other concerned parties are encouraged to call to report any inappropriate, offensive or illegal behaviors to our organization. That number is 1-844-ALRT-SAE (1-844-257-8723).
Why did we start tracking the race of our members in 2013?
As we seek to expand our membership to new campuses around the country and throughout North America, one of the questions we’re often asked by schools is to provide the diversity of our membership. Until 2013, we didn’t track those statistics. We started doing so in order to be able to accurately address those questions from schools and to better inform our organization of its member base.
Will SAE be establishing quotas for diversity?
No. Our objective through all of these measures and other engagements with our members is to make sure that we’re a Fraternity that is welcoming to all who want to join our brotherhood, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. We want men who seek to become the best versions of themselves and who want the educational, philanthropic and brotherhood opportunities we offer on campuses. Our hope is that by educating our members on this important topic, we will start to see our diversity numbers increase.
How will SAE measure success against the initiatives we set forth?
How we best measure success is one of the areas where we’re hoping to benefit from the insights and expertise of Paradigm Group Consultants, as well as our to-be-hired Director of Diversity & Inclusion.
Ultimately, success means that on every campus where we have a presence, we are known as a Fraternity that welcomes any member who seeks to join our organization and who reflects our values. And certainly our hope is that through our enhanced education and training, we see our diversity increase.
We recognize, however, that it’s important also to have shorter-term measures to making sure we’re making progress in addressing this issue. Having every member complete the diversity-and-inclusion training will be one early measure, but we know there are more. And that is work that we’ll be undertaking in the coming weeks with our partners.
Has your investigation found that the song was sung by members nationally?
Our investigation to date shows no evidence the song was widely shared across the broader organization.
Was the racist chant taught at the national Leadership School?
No, the chant was not taught at the Leadership School to delegates by the national organization. It is not, nor has it ever been, a part of the teachings of the national fraternity.
Update from March 18, 2015 (10:30 am CT)
Update from March 14, 2015 (2:00 pm CT)
Update from March 13, 2015 (3:30 pm CT)
Update from March 13, 2015 (9:30 am CT)