Syracuse University has suspended its chapter of the Theta Tau fraternity after the discovery of supposedly offensive videos on the group’s private Facebook page. Chancellor Kent Syverud issued a campuswide email condemning their actions, calling the language used “deeply harmful” and in direct contrast to the university’s values.
In the six-minute video, Theta Tau members were reportedly seen making statements that were racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and disparaging to those with disabilities. Syverud said that he found the rhetoric appalling and that he was “shaken” and “deeply concerned” for the entire community.
Initially, the university refused to release the video footage. However, campus protests put pressure on the Syracuse administration to exercise transparency. USA Today reported that one of the videos appeared to be filmed inside the Theta Tau fraternity house. One of the people in the video was taking an oath to “solemnly hate” minorities including blacks, Jews, and Spanish-speaking people. Other footage appeared to depict fraternity members insulting gay people and the disabled.
According to Chancellor Syverud’s statement, the university’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities suspended the engineering fraternity, which effectively brought all of its activities to a halt. Syracuse has also turned over all of the evidence to the Department of Public Safety. Law enforcement officials have opened an investigation into the matter and will now determine what further actions need to be taken.
According to the New York Times, student protesters say that the behaviors exhibited in the videos do not constitute isolated incidents. This is, rather, a systemic problem at Syracuse University. Demonstrators said that prior incidents have garnered lukewarm responses from university officials.
Students credit the Wednesday night protests, as well as their use of social media to organize them, for the successful release of the video footage as well as the fraternity suspension. There appeared to be several hundred students participating in a march and several public forums. They demonstrated in front of the chancellor’s house and then gathered at Hendricks Chapel on campus where they expressed their feelings on the incident.
National Theta Tau executive director Michael Abraham told the Times that they were conducting their own investigation and would make a recommendation for disciplinary action after it is “more complete.” They vow to hold the individuals involved responsible.
“The behaviors described are not representative of our very diverse organization, locally or nationally, nor rational or comprehensible for the multiethnic Syracuse chapter itself,” Abraham said. “While the language that has been described is troubling and inconsistent with our values, we tend to distinguish between words and deeds as well as between individuals and groups when determining appropriate remedies and penalties.”