NORMAN, Okla. – A racist chant by several members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity that was caught on video led to outrage from the school’s president and the organization’s banishment from campus, but fallout from the incident appears far from over.
President David Boren said an investigation is underway to determine if some of the students could be expelled for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination. The video, which was posted online, shows several people on a bus participating in a chant that included a racial slur, referenced lynching and indicated black students would never be admitted to OU’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“We are also going to look at any individual perpetrators, particularly those that we think took a lead in this kind of activity,” Boren said.
A top high school recruit de-committed from the university on Monday after seeing the video. And an online fundraiser has been launched to help support an African-American cook who worked at the fraternity for about a decade.
The incident also had a profound effect on many of the roughly 1,400 black students who attend the university’s Norman campus.
“I was shocked they were just doing it openly on the bus, like they were proud of it,” said Jared Scarborough, a junior in construction science who is African-American. “From the chant, you could tell they had done it before. It wasn’t a first-time thing. And it was everybody. And the fist-pumping.”
The Greek letters were removed Monday from the side of the sprawling, sand-colored brick house on a street lined with fraternity and sorority houses just west of the center of campus, and members were ordered to have their belongings removed by midnight Tuesday.
The Oklahoma football team decided to protest rather than practice on Monday. At the team’s indoor practice facility, coach Bob Stoops led the way as players, joined by athletic director Joe Castiglione, walked arm-in-arm, wearing black.
Boren attended a pre-dawn rally organized by students Monday morning and lambasted those fraternity members as “disgraceful” and called their behavior “reprehensible.”
“This is not who we are,” Boren said at a midday news conference. “I’d be glad if they left. I might even pay the bus fare for them.”
National leaders of Sigma Alpha Epsilon said that its investigation confirmed members took part in the chant and announced it would close the local chapter. The national group said it was “embarrassed” by the “unacceptable and racist” behavior.
The fraternity also said in a statement late Monday that the chant was not a part of fraternity tradition.
Boren said members of the fraternity were “not totally forthcoming,” and he was still trying to find out who was on the bus so the school could consider disciplinary actions.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the efforts by the university and the national fraternity to repudiate the racist comments were “an appropriate step.”
It’s unclear who recorded the video, when it was recorded and who initially posted it online. Boren suggested it was likely taken by another student who didn’t agree with what was being chanted.
OU Unheard, a black student group on campus, posted a link to the video after someone anonymously called it to the group’s attention Sunday afternoon, communications director Alexis Hall said Monday.
“We immediately needed to share that with the OU student body,” said Hall, a junior. “For students to say they’re going to lynch an entire group of people. … It’s disgusting.”
The video appears to have been taken on a charter bus, with at least one of the chanting young men wearing a tuxedo.
Telephone and email messages left Monday with several members of the fraternity seeking comment on the video were not returned. Other members declined to comment.
North Mesquite High School football star Jean Delance, a top offensive lineman prospect, told KTVT television and KRLD-AM in Dallas-Fort Worth that he would not attend Oklahoma. He said he spoke Sunday night with coach Bob Stoops, but wasn’t told about the incident.
“I’m very disappointed in the coaches not letting me know,” Delance told KRLD. “But that was just heart-breaking right there.”
The University of Oklahoma, located in the southern Oklahoma City suburb of Norman, has about 27,000 students, about 5 percent of whom are black. The Greek system is largely segregated.