University of Washington investigating alleged racist chants by SAE fraternity

Officials at the University of Washington are investigating allegations members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity hurled racist names at African-American students during a demonstration last month.

The fraternity is already embroiled in controversy. The University of Oklahoma closed its SAE chapter Monday after a video surfaced online showing students chanting racist phrases, prompting the school to expel two students.

At the University of Washington, officials are trying to gather evidence after student claims SAE fraternity members called African-Americans "apes" during a Black Lives Matter demonstration last month. The alleged incident occurred as the protesters were marching past the fraternity house.

It was not known when the allegations were reported or when the university launched its investigation.

"The University recently learned of alleged behavior during the Black Lives Matter march two weeks ago that contained grossly insensitive comments and rude gestures aimed at the marchers," the university's vice president for student life, Denzil Suite, said in a statement to

"The allegations attribute this behavior to members of one of our fraternities. We have been and are currently still in the process of gathering information about this incident to determine what occurred and who may have been responsible," Suite said. "To date we do not have answers to either of these questions."

"If and when we can determine what occurred, we will take appropriate steps to deal with it," he added, urging anyone with photos, recordings, or videos of the incident in question to email them to him at

The statement by Suite came after the University of Oklahoma shut down its SAE chapter. The decision was made after members of the fraternity were caught on video leading a racist chant that referenced lynching and said African-Americans would never be allowed as members.

A spokesman for the fraternity's national headquarters could not be reached Friday by

Meanwhile, the alumni of the University of Oklahoma SAE chapter have hired a high-profile Oklahoma attorney to represent them and have severed communications with national headquarters.

Attorney Stephen Jones, who gained national prominence as the attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, confirmed Friday that he was hired by alumni members who served on the board of the university's local Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter.

Jones said he does not represent two members of the fraternity who were expelled from the university after the video was posted.

He said he was planning to meet with his clients Friday, and he couldn't say whether he would represent current members of the fraternity who are being investigated by university officials for their role in the chant.

"Obviously there are issues about First Amendment rights, due process and real estate issues, but we're still gathering documents," said Jones, who has also represented several Oklahoma politicians in high-profile corruption cases.

Brandon Weghorst, a spokesman for the national SAE told the Associated Press Friday that officials with the Oklahoma chapter have stopped communicating with them.

"We have not heard from the Oklahoma chapter," Weghorst told the AP. "They have not engaged us since the time the chapter was closed."

Weghorst said the national fraternity is moving forward with plans to expel all of the suspended members of the OU chapter, a move that will permanently revoke their membership.

Meanwhile, Weghorst said the national fraternity is continuing its investigation into SAE chapters at other universities, and planned to release an update on those investigations. He confirmed Thursday that investigations were underway into chapters at the University of Texas-Austin and Louisiana Tech University in Ruston.

The national SAE fraternity has said some allegations of racism, which it acknowledges, refer to incidents from more than 20 years ago. But the fraternity maintains that none of its official chants are racist and that members of the Oklahoma chapter likely learned the one that was recorded from fellow chapter members.'s Cristina Corbin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.