Though it's not the only recent fraternity to have been caught for intolerant behavior, Sigma Alpha Epsilon has become the national face of what's wrong with today's Greek system. After its University of Oklahoma chapter's racially charged video went viral earlier this month, SAE announced Wednesday a diversity plan to stop racism within the fraternity's charters. The four-point initiative from SAE includes the hiring of a new director and required tolerance training for its members.
SAE said in a statement it would hire a director of diversity and inclusion to handle incidents of racist behaviors, including some reported incidents that go as far back as 20 years. The organization said it would also release a report that reviews all of its 237 chapters and colonies for "racially offensive or derogatory behaviors" similar to those displayed by former Oklahoma members. SAE will create a mandatory education program for members and staff, where they can be certified in diversity training online. The fraternity will also provide an anonymous hotline that anyone can call to report inappropriate frat behavior.
Executive Director Blaine Ayers, who heads SAE's national organization, publicly apologized on behalf of the fraternity at a Wednesday press conference in Chicago.
The chant in the video is ugly, it's demoralizing, and it absolutely counters the value of SAE. I want to be crystal clear — we have a zero tolerance for that sort of behavior. As a national organization however, we must answer for the actions of those whom we have welcomed into our membership. ... The words were offensive and harmful, and now we must begin the task of seeking forgiveness and taking steps to ensure that this never happens again.
SAE's response, though probably well intended, will most likely have little effect on the real root of the problem: individual racism born out of ignorance that is then amplified in college fraternities — a Petri dish of bro bonds, hormones, and elitism that forces members into an "us versus them" attitude toward their peers. The diversity initiative that SAE brings to the table takes on a retroactive POV, one that looks back on past incidents but offers little solution for how to prevent such blatant racism again.
As this current SAE cohort — presumably rehabilitated in its world perspectives — transitions out of college, what will happen as new recruits and members enter the arena? Can one, two, four years of diversity counseling in college reverse years of ignorance that often stems from home? Time and time again, fraternities have made headlines for racism, sexism, hazing, drinking, and drugs. History is a big indicator that the life lessons surrounding the Oklahoma video will probably just become Greek myth.