US university expels fraternity over race chant video

GMT 21:47 2015 Monday ,09 March

Arab Today, arab today US university expels fraternity over race chant video

University of Oklahoma
Washington - AFP

The University of Oklahoma banned a major fraternity from its campus Monday over a YouTube video that shows some of its members singing a racist chant.
The video came to light over the weekend, just as Americans were marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama civil rights marches.
The chant -- sung to the tune of a nursery rhyme -- used the racially charged N-word and refers to lynching in affirming that blacks shall never be members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the biggest fraternity networks in the United States.
The fraternity's national headquarters suspended its University of Oklahoma chapter and apologized for the "unacceptable" incident.
But officials at the university in the city of Norman went further, shutting down the Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat house and ordering its members to immediately go find other places to live.
"As far as I'm concerned, the house will not be back, not as long as I'm president," university president David Boren told a press conference.
It also kicked off an investigation to confirm who among the 30,000 students who attend the university participated in the video.
Boren conceded, however, that the campus's Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter has not been forthcoming with details.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon's national headquarters in Illinois apologized for "the unacceptable and racist behavior of the individuals in the video."
- 'Won't be tolerated' -
"This type of racist behavior will not be tolerated and is not consistent with the values and morals of our fraternity," it said in a statement.
The video went viral on social media after it was posted on YouTube on Sunday by Unheard Movement, an African American student group at the university.
Nine seconds long, it was apparently shot in a bus, with young men in tuxedos punching the air with their fists and a blonde woman hoisting a glass of wine.
It's unknown when the video was taken.
Oklahoma City television station KOCO reported that some Sigma Alpha Epsilon members left the fraternity house overnight Sunday under police protection.
Vandals meanwhile turned spray paint onto the brick building. On the side, graffiti saying "Tear it down" was seen.
Several hundred students turned out early Monday for a protest, attended by Boren and members of the university's beloved American football team.
Online, a crowdfunding appeal went out on Indiegogo for Sigma Alpha Epsilon's longtime chef at the University of Oklahoma, who is African American.
"He is about to lose his job because of a bus full of racist kids," said Blake Burkhart, a graduate of the university that is situated in the city of Norman.
With 15,000 members, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is one of the biggest fraternity networks in the United States, with more than 200 chapters on campuses nationwide.
Its history goes back to the mid-19th century when it was founded in the Deep South, before the Civil War, when slavery was commonplace.
- Under scrutiny already -
In recent years it has come under scrutiny over alcohol-fueled initiation ceremonies, which it banned in 2014 under the glare of negative publicity.
News of the University of Oklahoma video came as President Barack Obama reminded Americans how the dark shadow of racism still hangs over the nation.
"We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won," he said on Saturday by the Selma bridge where African Americans and police clashed in 1965.
Oklahoma as a state has a dark history of racism, adopting segregation within weeks of statehood in 1907 -- and not repealing race laws before 1965.
Some contend it still has a ways to go.
"We need to face the fact that racial and religious bigotry continues to be every bit as much a part of this state as its nationally recognized football team," wrote one white Oklahoman, Lyle Hamilton, on Facebook.

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