NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The president of the University of Oklahoma severed the school’s ties with a national fraternity on Monday and ordered that its on-campus house be shuttered after several members took part in a racist chant caught on video.
President David Boren said he was sickened and couldn’t eat or sleep after learning about the video Sunday afternoon. 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.
Boren attended a pre-dawn rally organized by students and lambasted those fraternity members as “disgraceful” and called their behavior “reprehensible.” He said the university was looking into a range of punishment, including expulsion.
“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 late Sunday 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.
Boren said members have until midnight Tuesday to remove their belongings from the fraternity house. He said the fraternity was “not totally forthcoming,” and he was still trying to find out who was on the bus so the school could consider disciplinary actions.
He said the university’s legal staff is exploring whether the students who initiated and encouraged the chant may have violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination.
“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.
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.
“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. “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.”
A university police cruiser was parked Monday outside the fraternity house, a sprawling two-story, sand-colored brick building on a street lined with Greek houses just west of the center of campus. The Greek letters were removed from the side of the house Monday afternoon.
University of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops, who attended a morning rally on the campus, canceled the team’s afternoon practice. The players and coaches walked into the practice with linked arms, gathered to say a prayer and then left.
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.
Boren said fraternity members had “violated all that we stand for.”
“Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this 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,” he said in a statement.
Associated Press writer Allen Reed contributed to this report from Little Rock, Arkansas.