A student at the University of Oklahoma has been temporarily suspended as the school investigates racist messaging — which included images of people hanging from trees, racial slurs and a “daily lynching” calendar — sent to several black freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania on Friday.
University of Pennsylvania officials released a statement early Saturday on social media:
— Penn (@Penn) November 12, 2016
David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma, released a statement late Friday night.
The University of Oklahoma has made it clear that we will not tolerate racism or hate speech that constitutes a threat to our campus or others. We have a record of taking swift action once all of the facts are known.
I have ordered the appropriate officials at our university to open immediate inquiry to determine the extent of involvement by a University of Oklahoma student in this matter. The university has already determined from its preliminary inquiry that there’s a basis for a temporary suspension of the student under our student code while we continue to gather all of the facts.
That suspension is effective immediately.
It would appear this matter did not originate at the University of Oklahoma, but started elsewhere. This matter originally surfaced from messages to students at the University of Pennsylvania. We are notifying the University of Pennsylvania of our finding.
Some University of Pennsylvania students posted images of the Group Me and Facebook pages, writing that they felt sick or had spent the day in tears, or urging their classmates to stand together. There were slurs, a photo of a lynching, and this statement: “Never be a [slur] in SAE.”
The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity’s chapter at the University of Oklahoma was shut down after a video surfaced of fraternity members chanting a song about never allowing black members, with a reference to lynching, went viral in 2015.
Students involved apologized. The international headquarters of SAE launched a sweeping initiative to promote diversity and eradicate racism at its chapters, including requiring all new members to undergo training before they are initiated into the group.
“SAE is not currently recognized at OU and we are unaware of any connection between this incident and the former OU SAE chapter, ” Corbin Wallace, a spokesman for the University of Oklahoma, said in an email.
The Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at UPenn denounced the messages with a statement:
Our chapter rejects any association whatsoever with the GroupMe messages, Facebook groups, and the unacceptable and intolerable racism that is associated with those groups. Racism has no place in our chapter or in the Penn community. We are shocked, horrified and enraged by these attacks on members of our community.
Our chapter remains committed to diversity and inclusion, and we will do anything we can to support the African-American members in our chapter and the broader African-American community at Penn. We will continue to stand up against these threats to our brothers and fellow students.
Asked whether there were any connections between the student at Oklahoma and the former chapter of SAE on that campus, a spokesman for the international headquarters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Brandon Weghorst, responded by email Saturday morning:
All that I know regarding the former chapter at the University of Oklahoma is that we closed the chapter immediately following the incident in March of 2015 and expelled all of the members.
My understanding about the inappropriate and unacceptable social-media groups that have targeted Penn students is that they appear to be from someone not affiliated with Penn and not affiliated with SAE.
It is a bad and disgusting hoax for anyone trying to make it seem as if our members are responsible for the reference to the chant that was used by Oklahoma students.
SAE has been implicated falsely in the Penn posts, which is unfortunate.
The story was first reported by the campus newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, which said that University of Pennsylvania students gathered to protest the messages Friday, and some handed out safety pins to express solidarity. Several students at the University of Pennsylvania were not immediately available to talk with the The Washington Post.