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Monday, March 9, 2015

Fraternity chapter closed after video showing racist chant surfaces

The University of Oklahoma is investigating a video that surfaced on Sunday allegedly showing members of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chanting a racist slogan targeted at African-Americans.
The video, which was posted to YouTube, shows multiple people using racist language to suggest that black students would never be admitted to the group. The individuals appear to be on a bus singing, “There will never be a n***** in SAE.” They also reference lynching, according to NBC News.
“If OU students are involved, this behavior will not be tolerated and will be addressed very quickly,” University of Oklahoma President David Boren wrote in a statement posted to his Twitter account on Sunday. “This behavior is reprehensible and contrary to all our values.”
After seeing the footage, the fraternity’s national president, Brad Cohen, called an immediate board meeting and took action to close down the Oklahoma chapter late Sunday night. He tweeted to other members of the fraternity, urging them to treat everyone with respect and dignity.
The fraternity also issued a statement, seemingly acknowledging the incident.
“I have a message to those who have misused their free speech in this way. My message to them is: You are disgraceful.”
“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,” leadership wrote.
The fraternity also tweeted about investigating the details and expelling all individuals who were involved. “Those types of behaviors are not consistent with our values whatsoever,” they wrote in a tweet.
Andrew Clark, reporter for the independent student newspaper, The Oklahoma Daily, told msnbc’s Jose Diaz-Balart on Monday that the video allegedly was filmed on Saturday evening on the fraternity’s “date party bus.” The footage, he added, “sparked, to say the least, some pretty big outrage here.”
“People are just outraged. Right now there is a peaceful protest going on,” he said on Monday morning. Students are inside the Student Union posting paper notes to a glass door that express how they feel, he said. The gathering was organized by Unheard, an African-American activist group at the university.
On Monday morning, Boren addressed the protest: “I have a message to those who have misused their free speech in this way. My message to them is: You are disgraceful.”
Clarke Stroud, university vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, said people are “deeply hurt and outraged all at the same time.”
“There’s just no room in our community for it,” he added.
The actions in the video allegedly occurred on the same day as other Americans, including President Barack Obama, gathered in Selma, Alabama, to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march for equal voting rights. At the event on Saturday, Obama urged citizens to fight for racial equality. He stood on the same bridge where marchers were brutally beaten and tear-gassed by police on March 7, 1965.
As a precaution, officers were dispatched to the fraternity house on campus Sunday night. They had a visible presence outside of the house for about 45 minutes, according to NBC. After they left, graffiti was spray-painted on the building. The vandalism wasn’t anything particularly vulgar or offensive, Lt. Justin Wishon of the Norman Police Department confirmed to NBC.
Students at the university held a candlelight prayer vigil Sunday night.

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