The University of Oklahoma (OU) permanently closed one fraternity chapter and expelled two students shortly after a video of members singing a song including racial epithets and references to lynching surfaced on Sunday.
The 10-second video shows students chanting in unison on a bus to a Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) event, using racial slurs and promising to never admit blacks to the fraternity.
On Monday, OU President David Boren declared "all ties and affiliations between the university and the local SAE chapter... severed" and said the fraternity will not be permitted back on campus during his time in office.
Additionally, the school began an investigation to determine whether individual SAE members may face disciplinary action for violations of the school's anti-discrimination policies. As of Tuesday afternoon, two students had been expelled.
"To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful," said Boren, adding "You have violated all that we stand for."
Members of SAE had until midnight Tuesday to move out of the SAE building—which was vandalized on Monday—and find new housing arrangements.
"We don't provide student services for bigots," says Boren.
The fraternity's national office released a statement late Sunday, apologizing for the "unacceptable and racist behavior" of the individuals and saying they are "disgusted that any member would act in such a way."
"[W]e 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," the statement continued.
The national office also closed the OU chapter and suspended its members.
Sooners come together
On campus, hundreds of students—and Boren—attended a solidarity rally Monday morning. The OU football team and coach Bob Stoops, one of the school's most famous faces, marched across camps arm-in-arm in lieu of practice as well.
Other students covered the Student Affairs office door with Post-It notes scrawled with related questions and comments for the administration.
"Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members," Boren says.
Addressing the issues
Members of Unheard, a student group that received a copy of the video and posted it to its Twitter and YouTube accounts, say they are "not shocked" by events in the video, although they say they hope the national attention will result in harsher punishments than racist actions have garnered in the past.
"Unfortunately, it took them getting caught on video camera for this to happen, but this is definitely not something that is brand-new. It's not something that's only seen within this one organization," says Unheard co-director Chelsea Davis.
The group drew up an evolving document that outlines issues for OU to address, including black student retention rates and recruitment, black scholarships, and underrepresentation of black student and faculty members on boards and committees. Boren said Monday that he plans to address "95%" of them (Brandes, Reuters, 3/10; Chappel, "The Two-Way," NPR, 3/9; Ohlheiser, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 3/9; Payne, CNN, 3/10).
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