The University of Oklahoma spoke forcefully and quickly today in condemnation of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members and their dates caught on video in a racist group sing on a charter bus apparently en route to a formal event.
Dressed in evening attire, frat members took to the bus aisles to lead a chant that included the lines, “There will never be a n*gg*r in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a n*gg*r in SAE.”
The swift and unequivocal response of OU leadership to the video left no doubt about the fate of the fraternity.
“To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for,” said an angry University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who kicked the chapter off campus, closed the frat house and ordered members out of it by Tuesday night.
Frat members are on their own finding new housing, said Boren at a press conference today, explaining, “We don’t provide student services for bigots.” He also said he does not want the frat back on campus as long as he's OU president. The university is reviewing the video and may take disciplinary action against individual students.
Boren joined outraged students in a dawn rally today after learning of the video Sunday night. It was released by the OU black student group Unheard, which was given a copy by an unnamed source. (Let’s hope it was a frat or sorority member on the bus who did so out of disgust. It would be nice to think at least one person on that bus had integrity.)
The OU football team did not hold spring practice this afternoon; players and coaches walked arm-in-arm wearing black in protest of the video. (A top football prospect announced today he was not going to OU, but it’s not clear whether Jean Delance was influenced by the video. In a tweet, he blamed “personal reasons.”)
In his statement to the frat, Boren said:
“You should not have the privilege of calling yourself 'Sooners.' Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members.
Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between the university and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow. Those needing to make special arrangements for positions shall contact the Dean of Students.
All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue. There must be a zero tolerance for racism everywhere in our nation.
In its own blistering statement, the SAE national office said:
Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national headquarters has closed its Oklahoma Kappa chapter at the University of Oklahoma following the discovery of an inappropriate video. In addition, all of the members have been suspended, and those members who are responsible for the incident may have their membership privileges revoked permanently.
We apologize for the unacceptable and racist behavior of the individuals in the video, and we are disgusted that any member would act in such a way. Furthermore, we are embarrassed by this video and offer our empathy not only to anyone outside the organization who is offended but also to our brothers who come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.
This type of racist behavior will not be tolerated and is not consistent with the values and morals of our fraternity. We have more than 15,000 collegiate members across the nation, and this incident should not reflect on other brothers because this type of hateful action is not what Sigma Alpha Epsilon stands for. This is absolutely not who we are.
“I was not only shocked and disappointed but disgusted by the outright display of racism displayed in the video,” said Brad Cohen, the fraternity’s national president. “SAE is a diverse organization, and we have zero tolerance for racism or any bad behavior. When we learned about this incident, I called an immediate board meeting, and we determined with no mental reservation whatsoever that this chapter needed to be closed immediately. I am proud of my fellow board members because we mean what we say.”
Alumni who serve on the chapter's house corporation board and who serve as advisers are appalled by the video and the song that was sung in it. They do not condone offensive and hateful behavior and will hold accountable the men who participated in the incident.
Although Sigma Alpha Epsilon regrets the closure, we believe members must be held responsible for their actions. We are hopeful that we can re-establish the Oklahoma Kappa chapter at some point in the future with a group of men who exemplify our beliefs and who serve as leaders on campus and in the community.