Leaders from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity -- which made national headlines after some members of a chapter were recorded on video chanting a racist song -- apologized Wednesday and vowed to join a national dialogue about eradicating racism on college campuses. "The words were offensive and harmful, and we now must begin the task of seeking forgiveness and taking steps to ensure this never happens again," SAE Executive Director Blaine Ayers said during a national news conference.
Ayers announced a new diversity training program, national diversity committee and confidential hotline to promote inclusiveness within its membership. "I can promise that just as we did with Oklahoma, if we learn of any discrimination or other unacceptable behavior currently going on, we will be swift in our response," he said. "We know that we have a responsibility to educate our members and we are committed to helping to develop these young men into men of great character."
The SAE news conference came more than a week after the closing of a chapter at the University of Oklahoma. Some of that chapter's members were recorded on video chanting racial slurs to describe how African-Americans would not be allowed as members. "I was embarrassed for SAE when I saw that," Ayers said Wednesday.
SAE was founded in 1856 and has 237 chapters and colonies. Its creed is known as "The True Gentleman." Its membership nationwide is about 3 percent black. Overall, 20 percent of its members identify as nonwhite. Ayers said the fraternity hopes to attract more diverse members in the future.
The fraternity is expected to hold a special trial commission composed of alumni members who will review the Oklahoma incident. The commissioners will recommend one of several penalties for those who participated in the video, including expulsion from the fraternity.