The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) suspended its Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter this week over allegations that members of the fraternity used racial slurs.
A black member of SAE cataloged a series of incidents since the fall of 2014 of his fellow fraternity brothers using racist epithets. He filed a complaint with the university in March on the matter, which prompted an investigation by administrators.
According to a statement released by UW Tuesday, the incidents include a member allegedly singing lyrics to a song that included a “racial slur,” a fight between the offended member and another brother where an epithet was uttered, and a member yelling derogatory term outside of the fraternity house. The fraternity told school officials they had punished some of the members involved in the confirmed cases of misbehavior in-house.
It is not clear whether any of these cases were confirmed by the school, but UW administrators ruled on Tuesday to suspend the SAE chapter until November for violating the university’s non-discrimination requirements for student groups. The entire fraternity will be required to undergo “mandatory training and take other actions before it can be reinstated,” according to the university.
According to UW’s student policy guide’s non-discrimination requirements, a student organization cannnot exclude inviduals “from membership, officer positions, or participation on the basis of his or her race, color, creed other than commitment to the beliefs of the organization, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status, or, unless exempt under Title IX, sex.” The statement does not state how the accuser was excluded from fraternity activities due to overhearing alleged racial slurs.
This is not the first time an SAE chapter has caused a stir due to accusations of racism. In March 2015, the SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma was kicked off campus and some of its members expelled after a video of members singing a racist chant went viral and caused a national uproar. (RELATED: Oklahoma: Tough On Racism, Weak On Assault, Burglary)
At the time, University of California-Los Angeles law professor and Washington Post writer Eugene Volokh said that the decision to expel the offending members was unconstitutional because “racist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on their speech.”
Volokh added, “That has been the unanimous view of courts that have considered campus speech codes and other campus speech restrictions… The same, of course, is true for fraternity speech, racist or otherwise.”