After a video surfaced on Sunday of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma (OU SAE) reportedly chanting racist slogans while on a bus the previous day, the organization’s national president, Brad Cohen, closed the chapter immediately.
The video in question was directed at the university’s president, David Boren and uploaded on Twitter by Unheard, with the description “Racism is alive at the University of Oklahoma.” It showed several members of the OU SAE chanting the phrase “There will never be a n****r at SAE,” followed by “You can hang him from a tree, but he will never sign with me,” then back to the first chant again.
National outrage followed the video uploaded by a group which describes itself as “an alliance of Black students organized for change within campus administration and atmosphere,” and both Boren and Cohen promised to deal with the matter immediately.
On Monday morning, Boren addressed a crowd of angry students, several hundred strong, outside the SAE, Norman residence. He stated that OU would not tolerate this kind of racist behavior on campus and the members had until midnight to leave their fraternity house.
Cohen announced on Sunday that as soon as he heard about the incident, he called an emergency meeting of the board and effectively closed the local chapter immediately, with hopes that the members involved would be expelled from the university. The video was also uploaded to YouTube on Sunday, gathering more support for a call of drastic measures to be taken against the SAE members involved.
A statement issued by the national organization reads in part: 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.” It continued, “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.
A statement released on Monday morning by Boren, echoed the words of the national organization and detailed disciplinary action taken by the university. It reads:
“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. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves ‘Sooners.’ It continued, “Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. 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.”
Directing that the fraternity house would immediately be closed and the university would forthwith severe all ties and affiliations with the SAE chapter, the statement commanded all members to remove their personal belongings by midnight Tuesday. It continued, “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 zero tolerance for racism everywhere in our nation.”
The national organization said following the statement that they hope to reopen a local chapter of the SAE at OU in the future, but would ensure that their members were those who would “exemplify our beliefs and who serve as leaders on campus and in the community.
Reportedly the SAE fraternity house was vandalized sometime during the night, with someone leaving the words on an outside wall to “Tear it down.” Under the protection of campus police, several members are said to have moved out of the house overnight, taking with them some of their belongings.