NORMAN, Okla. — The University of Oklahoma’s president expelled two students Tuesday after he said they were identified as leaders of a racist chant captured on video during a fraternity event.
University President David Boren said in a statement the two students were dismissed for creating a “hostile learning environment for others.” Their names were not released.
The video 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 acted swiftly after the video surfaced late Sunday, severing ties with the fraternity and ordering its house shuttered Monday and announcing the expulsions Tuesday.
“I hope that students involved in this incident will learn from this experience and realize that it is wrong to use words to hurt, threaten, and exclude other people,” he said.
Boren said the university is working to identify other students involved in the chant, who may also face discipline.
Windows at the fraternity were boarded up and moving vans were parked outside Tuesday. Members have until midnight to remove their belongings. The Greek letters have already been removed from the side of the sprawling, sand-colored brick house on a street lined with fraternity and sorority houses just west of the center of campus.
Markeshia Lyon, a junior from Oklahoma City and one of about 1,400 black students who attend the university’s Norman campus, said the mostly segregated Greek culture at OU is partly to blame for creating an environment where racism can thrive.
“That’s something that’s passed down, and that’s something that needs to change,” Lyon said.
She also said the video has sparked intense interest in addressing racial tensions on campus.
The university, located in the southern Oklahoma City suburb of Norman, has about 27,000 students, about 5 percent of whom are black.
On Monday, a top high school football recruit withdrew his commitment to attend the university after seeing the video.
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 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,” Delance told KRLD. “But that was just heart-breaking right there.”
The Oklahoma football team decided to protest rather than practice 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.
Boren attended a pre-dawn rally organized by students Monday morning and lambasted the fraternity members involved as “disgraceful” and called their behavior “reprehensible.”
“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 an investigation confirmed members took part in the chant and announced they would close the local chapter. The national group said it was “embarrassed” by the “unacceptable and racist” behavior.
The fraternity also said in a statement late Monday that the chant was not a part of fraternity tradition.
Boren said members of the fraternity were “not totally forthcoming.” 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.