Syracuse University's Hall of Languages.
(photo credit: JOHN MARINO/ FLICKR)
Syracuse University suspended the Theta Tau engineering fraternity after a video of its members engaging in lewd, racist and antisemitic behavior was discovered.
The video, which Syracuse’s student newspaper, The Daily Orange, published online, shows frat brothers acting out a skit which depicts an oath that the members must take.
The text of the oath includes the following:
“I solemnly swear to always have hatred in my heart for n*gg* rs, sp*cs, and most importantly, the f*ckin k*kes.”
At one point, one of fraternity brothers yells: “You f*ckin k*kes, get in the f*ckin shower,” alluding to Jews being sent to the gas chambers during the Holocaust.
It also includes lewd acts mocking oral sex.
Theta Tau’s chapter has stated that the video was “satirical.” Its website now shows only one page: a letter of apology.
“First and foremost, every single member of Theta Tau would like to apologize to everyone affected by the racist video that was recorded as a part of our new member process,” the letter reads.
The fraternity asked that viewers of the video “understand the context.” Each semester, as part of the initiation process, new members write a skit to make fun of the older fraternity brothers.
“This year, one of these brothers is a conservative Republican, and the new members roasted him by playing the part of a racist conservative character. It was a satirical sketch of an uneducated, racist, homophobic, misogynist, sexist, ableist and intolerant person. [Neither] the young man playing the part of this character nor the young man being roasted... hold any of the horrible views espoused as a part of that sketch. We would like to believe that the new members seen in the video laughing at the horrible things being said were not laughing in concurrence with these beliefs, but in fact the opposite – that racism, sexism and homophobia are so wrong that they are laughable. None of the satire was said or done in malice.”
Syracuse students, in response, held a discussion forum at the university’s main chapel and held massive protests and sit-ins across campus, including a large gathering in front of Chancellor Kent Syverud’s house.
The school said it will conduct a “top to bottom review of our all our Greek life policies, activities and culture,” according to an email obtained by the Daily Orange
. Student leaders have called for an audit of all Greek associations on campus.
The protests coincided with Syracuse’s Accepted Students Day.
The school’s Hillel Center released a statement after the video was made public, in which it condemned the fraternity’s actions and lauded the community’s response.
“There is no place for this at Syracuse University,” interim directors Jessica Lemons and Rabbi Leah Fein said. Lemons added she was “horrified and disturbed” by the video, saying in an interview with the Daily Orange
that it was “hard to hear as a higher education professional. It was hard to hear as a Jewish woman.”
She said she hopes Hillel will be a place for healing during this time at the university.
Currently, eight Syracuse fraternities are either under disciplinary remand or probation or have been suspended.
In February, Syracuse’s chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Jewish fraternity was suspended for violating the university’s Student Code of Conduct, for an unspecified threat to student safety. Laura Williams-Sanders, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, said hazing was not among the conduct violations.
In 2015, two members of Syracuse’s Nu Alpha Phi fraternity were charged by police in a hazing incident that nearly required one student to have four fingers amputated. That fraternity was suspended after the incident was made public. Syracuse’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter was permanently closed in 2015 after several allegations of sexual assault.
The university is known for being highly diverse, with significant black, Hispanic and Jewish populations.