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.
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. Meanwhile, a top high school recruit withdrew his commitment to the university after seeing the video.
Boren attended a pre-dawn rally organized by students and lambasted the 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.
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.”
Boren said fraternity 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 was 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.
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.
“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.”
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. ‘Hey, Jean, this is going on. Be aware. I don’t want you to be shocked tomorrow when you wake up,'” Delance told KRLD. “But that was just heart-breaking right there.”
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.
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,” he said in a statement.
Associated Press writer Allen Reed contributed to this report from Little Rock, Arkansas.