The University of Oklahoma branch of the national fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) is almost literally being run out of town after a video leaked on the Internet of members singing a racist song to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
The lyrics of the nine-second video are not perfectly intelligible, but appear to be something along the lines of “There will never be a nigger SAE/There will never be a nigger SAE/You can hang him from a tree/But he’ll never sign with me/There will never be a nigger SAE.”
The song has turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because now there won’t be an SAE at OU at all.
The video was filmed on Saturday, and quickly leaked on Sunday when it was spread by the black activist group Unheard. Just hours later, SAE’s national organization closed the OU chapter, and national president Brad Cohen said he hoped OU would expel all students involved.
@koconews it means they can’t operate. But we have now closed the chapter and will expel all those involved. I hope univ expels students?
— Brad Cohen (@SAE_ESA_brad) March 9, 2015
The backlash on campus was equally swift. SAE’s house was vandalized Sunday night with graffiti reading “Tear It D[own],” and university president David Boren said that members had to move out of the house immediately, with suspensions or expulsions almost certain to follow.
“Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this University and the local SAE are hereby severed,” Boren said in a statement Monday morning. “I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow.”
Even on Sunday night, pictures were posted on Twitter of frat members hauling boxes out of the house while under police protection.
— Heather HOPE (@HeatherHopeTV) March 9, 2015
SAE was founded at the University of Alabama in 1856, and is notable as the only large national fraternity to have its roots in the antebellum South. Fraternity lore at some chapters even holds that founder Noble Leslie DeVotie was the first casualty of the Civil War, as he accidentally drowned while serving with Alabama troops shortly after the state seceded.
SAE chapters have been mired in racial controversy several times in the past. In 2013, the chapter at Washington University in St. Louis landed in hot water after a pledge was made to recite a rap song containing the N-word in front of a group of black students. In 2006, the Baylor chapter was criticized for a party theme that allegedly invited stereotypes of blacks.
Racial issues aren’t the only problems SAE has run into. A 2012 Rolling Stone article accused its Dartmouth College chapter of abusive hazing practices such as making pledges eat “vomlets” made of eggs and vomit. In 2014, the national organization abolished pledge terms entirely to discourage future hazing.
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