Members of Oklahoma University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon have until midnight tonight to pack up and get out of the frat house.
The eviction was ordered by the university’s president David Boren after a video of fraternity members singing a racist song went viral on YouTube and elsewhere. In the song, frat members boasted that there would never be a black student in their frat. The chant also repeatedly invoked an ethnic slur and included references to lynching.
The university has acted quickly in the two days following the video’s posting. Tuesday morning, President Boren tweeted:
The investigation is ongoing and more students could be expelled as the university learns more about the students that participated in the chant. Though this is the first story of fraternity racism to make headlines, author and Atlantic contributor Caitlin Flanagan says that bigotry is a frequent theme in frat culture.
"There’s something a bit disingenuous about the comments by the university president, because there’s no secret about who belongs to these fraternities … year after year after year, it’s all white," she said.
The lack of diversity in public school fraternities is nothing new. Speaking from her research, Flanagan notes that some even chose to celebrate their homogeneity in reprehensible ways.
"It’s quite common at many fraternities to have parties that have explicitly racist themes and they sometimes will try to laugh that off as though it’s some satire," she said.
Though fraternities were initially formed with the intention of creating morally upstanding young men, Flanagan contends that many fraternities have come to represent anything but, asking, “Is this really a system that has a place in modern America? I question that very seriously.”
As the university begins disciplining students for their roles in the incident, questions of the punishments’ legality may arise. Jody Armour is a professor at USC’s Gould School of Law who thinks that expulsion shouldn’t be the school’s go-to.
"I’m also concerned about the young people here … they’re still in a formative stage, they’re in a university setting where education should be our priority. Maybe we can turn this into a learning experience for them and others… but people don’t seem to be going down that road in this conversation," he said.