The University of Oklahoma’s SAE’s: Defining the Line Between Free Speech and Racism

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On March 9, 2015, a nine second video publicly surfaced online of The University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapter singing a racist anthem. In the video, riled up students are clapping and pumping their fists as they chant that they will not allow African Americans in their fraternity and other obscene acts. David L. Boren, the president of the university, expelled two of the students who seemed to be the “ringleaders” of the chant. President Boren and the SAE national headquarters have also ordered that the University of Oklahoma chapter to be closed. The greek letters from the fraternity house have been taken down and the house’s windows have been boarded up. Because of this incident, some are beginning to feel as if fraternities are a form of an “American apartheid.”

Many have protested the fraternity’s actions. The university’s football team marched with linked arms across the school’s campus and some students arrived on campus with tape on their mouths. A top recruit for the Oklahoma football team officially de-committed to play with for the school right after the incident, stating that he would “reopen his recruitment due to personal reasons.” Waka Flocka Flame canceled his April performance at the University of Oklahoma. The rapper expressed his disapproval of the SAE’s actions, stating that he was hurt and disgusted because he had performed for those kids previously and they had made him feel “like a brother.” One of the two expelled students, Parker Rice, has expressed his apologies and remorse about his actions, stating: “I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless. I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same.”

It is important to note that this is not the first time the SAE chapter has been subject to scandals. The chapters at Yale University and Stanford University have been banned for sexual misconduct. At least 130 chapters have been suspended or noted due to “health and safety issues,” which mostly hover around hazing and substance abuse. It is for these reasons and others that the media has listed the SAE chapter as “the world’s deadliest fraternity.”