SAE Fraternity Members Learned Racist Song At National Leadership Event, University Finds

03/27/2015 02:10 pm ET | Updated Apr 01, 2015
Brett Deering via Getty Images

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon members who were caught on video singing a racist song learned the offensive lyrics at a national fraternity leadership cruise four years ago, the University of Oklahoma revealed Friday.

In a document obtained by The Huffington Post, the university concluded that the students learned the song on a cruise organized by the national SAE office four years ago. Fraternity members brought the racist song back to the OU chapter, the university's investigation found, and over time, it was "taught to pledges as part of the formal and informal pledge process." The document said that the song was widely known and became part of the "institutionalized culture of the chapter."

SAE's national headquarters shut down the University of Oklahoma chapter on March 8, hours after video surfaced showing fraternity members on a bus singing "There will never be a n***r in SAE" to the tune of "If You're Happy And You Know It." The university ordered the students to vacate the fraternity house, which is owned by OU, within two days, and later moved to expel two students identified as having a "leadership role" in the song's usage.

OU President David Boren said in a press conference on Friday that the university will not be expelling or suspending any more students.

In a Friday letter to the SAE national office, also obtained by HuffPost, Boren said there was no indication the racist song was formally taught to fraternity members. But, he added, "it does appear that the chant was widely known and informally shared amongst members of the leadership cruise."

"The matter cannot be closed in our view, however, until the culture at the national level has also been addressed," Boren wrote.

The university's findings said that the racist song belted out by SAE members on March 7 was confined to one charter bus, not the entire chapter. However, the university did find there were roughly a dozen high school students on the bus who were exposed to the racist lyrics, which joked about lynching black men.

SAE's national headquarters did not immediately return a request for comment. It announced last week that it would conduct a national review of any racial intolerance among its chapters.

Students from other campuses, including Texas Tech University, Louisiana Tech University and the University of Texas at Austin, have alleged they, too, learned the racist song from their fraternity brothers. However, the SAE chapters at those campuses have denied performing it.

Boren said Friday that the remaining SAE members at the university who are not expelled will undergo diversity training.

UPDATE, 6 p.m. -- SAE's national office confirmed Friday afternoon that the Oklahoma members "likely learned a racist chant while attending a national Leadership School about four years ago." The office said it has "no current evidence" that the song is widespread across the fraternity’s 237 chapters and colonies.

"We intend to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and this will take time," SAE Executive Director Blaine Ayers said in a statement. "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."

Read the university's findings and Boren's letter below:

OU SAE Investigation: Findings and Letter by Tyler Kingkade

CLARIFICATION: This post was updated to include that members of SAE chapters at campuses like UT-Austin have insisted they did not perform the racist chant.

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