Racist chant from Oklahoma fraternity exposes college prejudice

Racist chant from Oklahoma fraternity exposes college prejudice

Max Bibicoff, Staff Writer

Hailing from a well to do community like Westport, I think it’s safe to say that people here are often disconnected from the burning issues that are taking place across the globe. I often lapse into a state of unconsciousness when it comes to the issue of national racism. Despite the controversy surrounding the protests held in response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the end of last year, it often seems like our society has surpassed the racial division of the 19th and 20th centuries.

However, when a recent video was leaked chronicling the racist chants of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members from the University of Oklahoma, I was appalled at the idea that such ignorance would be rife within a young generation. Of course there are Americans who are still prejudice, but the fact that such hateful behavior was manifested by college kids is a bit alarming.

On Fox News last week, Sean Hannity hosted two guests who suggested that expelling the students might be a violation of their first amendment rights, since the college is a public school. Hannity felt differently than his guests, and claimed that the college has the right to set its own standards, and therefore, an expulsion is warranted for any display of bigotry like this. It is indisputably a complicated issue, but I feel that this behavior does in fact warrant retribution. These students can cry freedom of speech, but it is crucial that this incident is taken seriously as there is clear danger in letting such a racist display go unpunished. I’m all for schools upholding first amendment rights for their students, but previous occurrences have proven that hateful propaganda can dominate the atmosphere of college campuses.

Just earlier this month, a Jewish student at University of California Los Angeles was denied a position on the Student Council after being questioned about how her faith would get in the way of fulfilling the job. Even more frightening is the fact that this is not an isolated incident: UCLA was ranked as a hotspot for anti-semitic behavior in a recent poll. The CNN writer who covered this student’s story compared the trending intolerance on U.S. college campuses to the situation that unfolded in France earlier this year. Writer Barry Kosmin shrewdly pointed out that, “Twenty years ago, complaints by Jewish students in Paris that they were subject to anti-Semitism from a strange coalition of Marxist, fascist and Islamist groups were ignored by complacent university and government officials.” I believe that Kosmin’s astute observation exemplifies the looming threat that such discriminatory behavior poses to the safety of schools.

Ultimately, the expulsion of the two SAE members from the University of Oklahoma should stand as an example for any future offenders. Coming in addition to the expulsions was the disbanding of the SAE fraternity chapter at the campus;  while this move upset many who felt like innocent fraternity members were also being punished, they will be provided the opportunity to defend themselves in front of the national fraternity.

The steps that have been taken are the first in the right direction. If we don’t want to see colleges turn into full on breeding grounds for extremism and prejudice, we need to permit schools to exercise stringent standards for the way that students represent them.