A free speech nonprofit called out Syracuse University Friday for suspending 15 students who participated in “extremely racist” videos.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) disputed the school’s allegation that the students breached the peace and exceeded “the bounds of protected speech,” reported Campus Reform. While the school suspended its Theta Tau chapter in April upon initial discovery of the videos, it only just suspended the students for one to two years each in June, according to CNN.
“When a university expels students for a private roast consisting of completely protected speech, it has no business pretending that it cares about free expression,” FIRE lawyer and director Ari Cohn said in a letter to Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud, telling the school to drop its investigation into the students. “Despite objections that these students were being tried as a group, by a biased committee, and ‘represented’ by an agent of the university, Syracuse has the gall to maintain that justice was served.”
In one of the videos, one unidentified student forces another unnamed student to get on his knees, pretend to suck a bottle of alcohol that the first student positions in front of his crotch, and swear an oath to “have hatred in my heart for n**gers, sp*cs and most importantly the f*ckin’ k*kes.” Students pretend to perform sexual acts on a “wheelchair retarded Yankee” in the second video.
Syracuse chancellor Kent Syverud termed the videos “extremely racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and hostile to people with disabilities,” according to a campus-wide email obtained by The Daily Orange.
“Each semester our new members are given the opportunity to write and act out a skit, in order to roast the active brothers,” the fraternity explained in a statement. “This event was never intended to be centered around racism or hate. 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.”
“Labeling this obvious satire ‘harassment’ makes light of the actual cases of serious harassment that colleges should be looking to combat, and wastes resources that could be used to investigate real offenses,” Cohn said. “Labeling it a ‘breach of the peace’ is just stupid.”
Syracuse has suspended three other fraternities during the 2017-2018 academic year. The school suspended its Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter in February for jeopardizing a student’s safety and suspended its Sigma Alpha Mu and Delta Tau Delta chapters for hazing violations. (RELATED: LSU Smacks Frat With 15-Year Ban After Pledge’s Death)
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Syracuse for comment but received none in time for press.
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