Oklahoma fraternity council: 'We will not tolerate the existence of bigotry'

Oklahoma fraternity council: 'We will not tolerate the existence of bigotry'
The University of Oklahoma in Norman. "What you saw in that video is the face of what we go through every day," said a black student at the university. (Brett Deering / Getty Images)

Days after a racist video upended the University of Oklahoma, the student council that oversees fraternities said it was outraged and pledged to be part of the solution.

The Interfraternity Council said it rejected "the close-minded and ignorant values" exhibited by Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the fraternity whose members were on video chanting a racist ditty that repeatedly used the N-word and alluded to lynching.


"We recognize that racism is a problem in our community, on our campus and around the country," the council said in a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday. "We are deeply disturbed. We acknowledge that the feelings of hatred and disgust are real. ... The actions of a few members of one chapter are not an accurate representation of more than 2,500 fraternity men."

"Reform is coming," the council said, without elaboration. "We strive to be honorable fraternity men, not insensitive 'frat boys.' ... We will not tolerate the existence of bigotry."

Retribution has been swift for SAE.

University President David Boren ousted the frat on Monday, one day after the video went viral. The next day, he expelled two students he said were leading the chant.

The national SAE organization closed the OU chapter and suspended all of its members, saying those who were involved in the incident or responsible for it would "face having their membership privileges revoked permanently."

SAE national leaders said they were investigating "several other incidents with chapters or members" using the song.

After one of the expelled students said the song had been taught, the national SAE headquarters responded: "The national fraternity does not teach such a racist, hateful chant, and this chant is not part of any education or training."

"Our investigation has found very likely that the men learned the song from fellow chapter members, which reiterates why Sigma Alpha Epsilon did not hesitate to close the chapter completely because of the culture that may have been fostered in the group," the SAE statement said.

The chapter's sudden demise cost the fraternity's black chef, Howard Dixon, his job. The university offered him a job as a campus chef, school spokesman Corbin Wallace said, but Dixon instead took a job with a private business.

An online fundraiser on Indiegogo has raised more than $60,000 for Dixon.

The fallout from the video continued Wednesday night, when hundreds of people packed an auditorium for a previously scheduled meeting intended to discuss diversity at the university's business school. All the seats were filled; more participants had to stand.

Many who came were students of color at the university. They described myriad ways they have encountered racial prejudice, from being ignored in class to being called the N-word to their faces.

Many students who spoke said they were the first in their families to attend college.

"What you saw in that video is the face of what we go through every day," Micah Wormley said. "It needs to be shaken up."


Twitter: @nigelduara

Times staff writer Hailey Branson-Potts in Los Angeles contributed to this report.