“Do you know what you signed up for today?” a fraternity member says in the video as he stands in front of a young man kneeling on the floor.
The young man on his knees then proceeds to make sexually explicit gestures as laughter erupts around him. Asked to recite “the oath,” he says: “f‑‑‑ black people” and uses a racial slur to describe a person of Hispanic descent.
“I solemnly swear,” he says, repeating after the standing fraternity member, “to always have hatred in my heart for …” He then says several racial slurs to describe African Americans, Hispanics and Jews.
The six-minute video was originally posted on a secret Facebook group associated with Theta Tau, an engineering fraternity at Syracuse University, according to the Daily Orange, the student newspaper, which made the video public on Wednesday.
Earlier that day, the Syracuse chapter of Theta Tau was suspended after university officials learned of “extremely troubling and disturbing conduct” at the fraternity, Kent Syverud, chancellor and president of Syracuse University, said in an email to students.
Multiple videos captured at the fraternity “include words and behaviors that are extremely racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and hostile to people with disabilities,” Syverud said. “I am appalled and shaken by this and deeply concerned for all members of our community.”
In one of the videos, a fraternity member yells at other members to “get in the f‑‑‑in’ showers,” a reference to Nazis’ gas chambers. In other recordings, according to the Daily Orange, students can be heard mocking women, gay people and people with disabilities. All the while, several other students watch and laugh.
The university’s Department of Public Safety has begun an investigation to identify the people involved, “and to take additional legal and disciplinary action,” Syverud said.
“What happened at Theta Tau serves as a reminder that violations of codes of honor, behavior and values will be met with swift and appropriate consequences,” he said.
Before the Daily Orange published some of the videos Wednesday, students across campus demanded the release of the recordings. Protesters gathered outside Syverud’s house, across the street from Theta Tau, and hundreds of students packed into a public forum at a three-hour-long forum at a campus chapel, according to the Daily Orange.
Many students expressed that the offensive video was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a larger cultural problem at the university.
“Theta Tau video is the tipping point in a cultural epidemic at SU,” an editorial in the Daily Orange read.
While Syverud attended a related university meeting earlier that day, he was not present at the Wednesday evening forum attended by hundreds of students. The Daily Orange editorial criticized the chancellor’s absence.
“As the leader of the university, it’s time for Syverud to address a campus that is reflecting on a deeper, pervasive cultural issue that reached a tipping point after The Daily Orange released the video.”
“The video isn’t surprising — it’s a manifestation of microaggressions, rumors, whispers and outright acts of hatred marginalized students encounter in their time at SU,” the Daily Orange editorial also said. “The only difference between this display of prejudice and so many others that go unnoticed at the university is that someone recorded it, and it got out.”
According to its national website, Theta Tau is the “oldest, largest, and foremost Fraternity for Engineers.” It promotes an “inviting, safe, and social environment” and aims to “develop and nurture engineers with strong communication, problem-solving, collaboration, and leadership skills that we demonstrate in our profession, our community, and in our lives.”
The chapter is the fourth fraternity to be suspended from Syracuse University this academic year, according to the Daily Orange. Two others have been suspended in recent weeks and months for conduct violations including hazing. A third was suspended for threatening the safety of a student participating in the new member process, according to the Daily Orange.
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