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Boren: Racist Chant Learned On National Leadership Cruise, High School Students On Bus

University of Oklahoma President David Boren addresses reporters on the steps of Evans Hall Friday to announce the findings of OU's investigation into the local chapter of the SIgma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
Kate Carlton Greer
University of Oklahoma President David Boren addresses reporters on the steps of Evans Hall Friday to announce the findings of OU's investigation into the local chapter of the SIgma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Updated 5:06 p.m.: SAE reaction to University of Oklahoma investigation

The SAE national office confirmed in a webpost that the fraternity's former OU chapter members "likely learned a racist chant while attending a national Leadership School about four years ago." Regardless, SAE executive director Blaine Ayers believes that the chant is not pervasive across the fraternity's 237 groups.

Ayers said SAE's investigation is ongoing and they are looking at each of the fraternity's local chapters.

"Our current findings at the University of Oklahoma are similar to those announced on Friday by University of Oklahoma President David Boren," Ayers said. "But our investigation to date shows no evidence the song was widely shared across the broader organization.”

Updated 12:50 p.m.: Boren announces findings of SAE investigation

University of Oklahoma president David Boren says two dozen students were disciplined for their role in a racist chant on a fraternity charter bus that was captured on video earlier this month.

Boren released the findings of OU's investigation into the Sigma Alpha Epsilon incident Friday afternoon. It found OU SAE members learned the racist chant on a national leadership cruise sponsored by the fraternity four years ago.

Listen to OU President David Boren's entire press conference held Friday on the north steps of Evans Hall.

"Over time, the chant was formalized by the local chapter, and was taught to pledges as part of the formal and informal pledgeship process," Boren said. "It is clear that during the four years since the chant was brought to the university campus, its existence by recent members, that it became part of the institutionalized culture of the chapter."

The video was recorded March 7 as the students were on their way to a Founder's Day event in Oklahoma City.

Through more than 160 interviews, the university learned alcohol was readily available at the fraternity house prior to the bus trip, in violation of OU's student code and university regulations.

"The chapter had invited approximately one dozen high school students who were present at the house, and were somewhat exposed to the chant on the bus," Boren said.

Boren sent a letter to the executive director of SAE in Chicago, acknowledging there was no evidence the chant was formally taught by the national organization.

"We recognize that the national SAE organization has taken certain steps to condemn the actions of those individuals engaged in this specific act of racism, has disbanded the local chapter and is taking steps to expel individual members of the chapter," the letter reads. "The matter cannot be closed in our view, however, until the culture at the national level has also been addressed."

The letter states OU wants to know whether or not other chapters around the country are distributing the chant, and what the national organization has done to remedy it.

Boren also announced all current and incoming University of Oklahoma students would undergo sensitivity and diversity training. He said George Henderson, a professor emeritus of human relations and one of the first African American faculty members at OU in the late 1960s, would lead the individual training for several of the disciplined students.

"He's a great civil rights pioneer in the state," Boren said. "He's made a tremendous difference in the fabric of our society. And he has counseled me as well during this crisis."

Boren said federal law prevents him from naming the disciplined individuals and the specific action taken against them.

He also delivered very passionate remarks about racism and society in America.

Listen to President Boren's remarks on the current culture of racism in America.

"We've had an epidemic of racism all across our country. Ferguson, Missouri might be the best-known case, but it's all across our country, every day, every week, there seems to be another one," Boren said. "We can stop it if all of us, in the institutions and the organizations we belong to, and all of us as individuals say, 'We have zero tolerance for racism in America. That's not who we are as an American people. We're the greatest melting pot in the world, an example to the rest of the world, a place where we respect everybody in this country."


Original Post

University of Oklahoma President David Boren plans to announce the results of an investigation into OU’s chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity after a video went viral showing members singing a racist chant.

The news conference will take place at noon Friday on the north steps of Evans Hall, the main administration building on campus that houses Boren’s office.

On Wednesday, Boren met with members of all of OU’s fraternities, and spoke briefly to the journalism college’s newscast OU Nightly.

“There will be some additional disciplinary actions taken,” Boren said. “But I think they’re fair, and I think that they’re balanced, and they track our student code. So then we can put this behind us. We can move on.”

Stephen Jones, the attorney who represents the local chapter of SAE, said Wednesday an agreement had been reached with university officials that would keep other fraternity members from facing expulsion.

Boren also said starting next year all incoming freshman would be required to undergo sensitivity training for diversity.

“We want our students to all come in being sensitive to how other people feel, other people’s needs, so people can reach out to each other,” Boren said.

During that same interview, Boren also said the person he described as the “outstanding African American candidate” for the university’s newly created Vice President of Diversity had accepted the position.

“We’ll announce in about two weeks, after all of that person’s present employers have been informed,” Boren said. “[He’ll] be coming back home to our campus. He’s been here before. And he’ll be working directly with me, not with anybody else, directly with me. He’ll have an office in Evans Hall.”

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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