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SAE fraternity chapter in Seattle accused of racist remarks

Posted at 10:33 AM, Mar 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-13 10:33:30-04

Another chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is under fire over alleged racial slurs — this time in Seattle.

University of Washington students are accusing fraternity members of offensive comments during a protest to raise awareness about racism last month.

“People were called monkeys and apes by members of SAE,” said Maggie Negussie, president of the university’s Black Student Union.

SAE’s university chapter denied the allegations, saying an investigation determined the culprits were not members of the fraternity.

An investigation into the “grossly insensitive comments” is underway, said Denzil J. Suite, the university’s vice president for student life.

The university is gathering information to determine who was behind the remarks, but a preliminary report by some students accused the SAE fraternity, according to Suite.

“If and when we can determine what occurred, we will take appropriate steps,” he said.

Accusations follow Oklahoma incident

About 1,000 people were marching across the street from the fraternity house when the incident occurred, Negussie said. She said the marchers opted to ignore the offensive words.

“At that time it was more important to continue marching … but that is not the only time,” she said. “There are many of us who have those stories.”

The accusations surfaced as the University of Oklahoma tries to heal after a similar incident. Last weekend, some SAE fraternity members were caught on video chanting racist words against African-Americans, including a reference to lynching.

Shortly afterward, the University of Oklahoma disbanded the fraternity chapter, cut ties with it and expelled two students seen in the video.

Searching for evidence

Negussie also accused the University of Washington fraternity of not allowing black students at its parties.

When CNN asked for videos or photos, she said members are reaching out to witnesses.

Michael Hickey, president of the fraternity’s university chapter, said the chapter was notified of the protest incident on February 25 — the same day it happened.

“We were naturally concerned and shocked by these allegations, as we pride ourselves in the diversity of our chapter membership and racism is against the moral ethics of our local and national organization,” he said in a statement.

SAE: Fraternity members not involved

However, he said, an investigation determined that fraternity members were not behind the insults. The culprits were on a nearby sidewalk and not on the fraternity house property, he said.

“We have determined this due to eyewitness accounts from our members viewing nonmembers of SAE yelling offensive comments on the sidewalk near our chapter house,” he said.

He asked witnesses to come forward and pledged to punish any members found to have been involved.

“We continue to seek any information or eyewitnesses to the incident,” he said.

Investigating other chapters

Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded in 1856 at the University of Alabama.

After the racist chant in Oklahoma made headlines, the fraternity’s national office said it was looking into incidents involving other chapters.

“Several other incidents with chapters or members have been brought to the attention of the headquarters … and each of those instances will be investigated,” the national office said in a statement.

It said some of the incidents date back more than 20 years.