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Yesterday, it emerged that the three freshmen at Ole Miss who vandalized a statue of James Meredith with a noose and a confederate flag had all recently joined the school's chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon.  When this came to light, SigEp struck fast and hard.  The Ole Miss chapter voted to expel all three freshmen, and the national organization has indefinitely suspended the chapter pending an internal investigation.

"We won’t allow the actions of a few men to undermine the more than five decades of leadership this fraternity has demonstrated in the fight for racial equality and diversity on our college campuses,” said SigEp CEO Brian C. Warren.

The fraternity expressed shock and embarrassment at the behavior of the three.
“It is embarrassing that these men had previously identified with our Fraternity. SigEp as a national Fraternity has championed racial equality and issues on diversity since 1959 when it became the first national fraternity to invite members of all races, creeds and religions to join its membership,” said Warren. “For this to occur in 2014 is an insult to the legacy of James Meredith, The University of Mississippi community, and the SigEp alumni who fought for racial equality in the late 1950s.”

When the three freshmen's involvement came to light, the chapter voted all three of them out in short order and turned over their identities to investigators.  Apparently they didn't help their cause by skipping out on a planned meeting with investigators on Thursday morning.  A patently stupid move in my view--all they had to do once they showed up was plead the Fifth.

It may seem like suspending the whole chapter is a bit harsh after it drummed these three out.  But what if someone else knew about it and didn't do anything?  You simply cannot tolerate that.  

School officials say that they have enough evidence to bring charges against them in the student judicial system.  Criminal charges are still possible, though it will be pretty difficult to prove that a threat was intended or implied.  Still, I'll be content with these three being booted off campus.

9:47 AM PT: Just to be clear--I think suspending the chapter was more than justified, if only because it's VERY likely someone else in the fraternity knew what these three were planning to do and didn't report it.

Originally posted to Southern Action on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:23 AM PST.

Also republished by Black Kos community.

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Comment Preferences

  •  First off, I don't approve of the Greek system. (16+ / 0-)

    It wasn't allowed at the university I attended by virtue of the university's charter (neither was football, by the way, but that has since changed). If a young man wants to join a real fraternity, I would suggest he become a Freemason or an Odd Fellow.

    That being said, I think the the response to this was swift and appropriate, and I think they were right to suspend the Ole Miss chapter. Someone put these kids up to what they did.

    It almost feels as if the clock has been turned back to the 50's when it comes to race. It disgusts me utterly.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:33:32 AM PST

    •  It is disturbing (9+ / 0-)

      how many fraternity chapters around the US have been suspended or expelled. A lot of it is for hazing but racism is a problem too. It's hard to see the national picture, you just see news reports here and there and once in a while there are state inquiries.

      Rebellious behavior is par for the course but that doesn't mean being abusive.

    •  My parents-in-law both came out (3+ / 0-)

      of the Greek system unscathed -- that was back in the 1950s. Likely they would never have met if it wasn't for the Greeks; my dad-in-law was a good friend of one of my mom's sorority sisters (they ended up both being baptized into the Episcopal Church at the same time) and she encouraged him to ask my mom-in-law out for a date...and the rest is history. No harm in it if you've got good folks in charge.

      That being said, I hope the national office finds out if anyone in the Old Miss chapter was involved and takes swift action -- then restores the chapter, perhaps under a period of probation. And hope those three assholes enjoy their dead-end jobs since I doubt there'll be many other colleges outside Bob Jones University or University of Phoenix that'll give them a chance for a college diploma.

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 11:21:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Considering Mississippi's history, (13+ / 0-)

    I don't think it's one bit harsh to suspend the chapter. In fact, I'd say shut it down indefinitely. These freshmen are well into their second semester, and it seems clear the fraternity hasn't taught them anything.


    "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

    by cotterperson on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:38:37 AM PST

    •  I disagree. (12+ / 0-)

      I'm thinking the frat taught them plenty.

      We're talking about some freshmen- I'm gonna play the odds and say that these kids are 18 or 19 years old. As freshmen, they're also gonna be at the bottom of whatever hierarchy the frat uses.

      This was done to impress somebody. I'd be surprised if it wasn't done on a dare. It's a pretty rare 18 year old boy who will hold a dissenting position on anything.

      I've got nothing against the greek system. I've got nothing against this fraternity on a whole. But I'm absolutely sure that the particular chapter, the particular house that these kids pledged is racist as hell.

      I'm betting that the national org agrees with me, as well as campus administration-or they wouldn't have slammed the chapter so hard. Chapters don't get suspended every time that a pledge commits a crime- There's gonna be some history there.

      •  You may be right. (11+ / 0-)

        I have no inside information, nor was I ever an 18-year-old boy. I am old, though, and remember well the violence done to those who struggled for civil rights in Mississippi and the remarkable courage of James Meredith.

        Maybe because I was a minor activist for civil rights back in the late '60s in another southern sate -- when the worst of the violence was over -- I have strong feelings. Maybe because my dad was a racist alum of Ole Miss in '29 makes those feelings stronger.

        It absolutely sickens me to see us pushed back in that direction -- hard -- by the likes of the Koch Brothers, whose father was one of the founders of the hateful, ugly John Birch Society.

        The struggle continues, and I don't think we should give even an inch!

        "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

        by cotterperson on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:39:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sigma Pi Episilon was first national fraternity to (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson, texasmom, Woody

        desegregate, and the national chapter was right to suspend the Ole Miss Chapter.  

        Although the local chapter also did the right thing by immediately expelling the three, the fact remains that "at the time of the incident" they were brothers in good standing, and have brought disgrace upon SigEp at the local and national level.

        There will be a thorough investigation by the national frat before any lifting of the suspension, or possibly termination of the local charter, is considered.

        Dont Mourn, Organize !#konisurrender

        by cks175 on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 01:47:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A thorough investigation (3+ / 0-)

          might be the best thing that could happen.  Just to clear the air, you know.

          If I were the President or Chancellor at Ole Miss, I would expel those students permanently with no opportunity of readmission.  Let them go home to their parents and finish growing up.

          These boys need to learn that many good citizens DIED in order that James Meredith and others like him could be educated in public universities.  It is not ancient history - many of those involved are alive and thriving today.

          The truth always matters.

          by texasmom on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 02:59:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good for Sig Ep (9+ / 0-)

    They made the right statement by acting swiftly and severely.  It's a statement that they don't want any association with that kind of thing and won't tolerate it.  

    •  apologies are often quick (12+ / 0-)

      since frats are often suspended.

      SigEp nationally has had incidents of this type  most recently at UC Irvine

      Let’s start with Sigma Phi Epsilon, shall we? Some struggling “graphic designer” probably thought they were clever to deploy a Native American print for the visual collateral surrounding the event because they saw it in an Urban Outfitters catalog.

      Despite UCI’s Hip Hop Congress articulate response to the fraternity’s blatant cultural appropriation (read: robbery), the event unfolded without so much as an apology from the offending party. Photos with racist and sexist location tags such as “chachi nation” or “Snatchee Nation” (depicting Rainier Nanquil, the star of last spring’s blackface debacle, no less), with partygoers donning redface and wearing clothing historically associated to exoticized stereotypes of African peoples, cropped up on Instagram following the event. Oh and let’s not forget that the n-word was also thrown around in the captions.

      I must admit, congratulations are in order for the men of SigEp for throwing such a successful event; successful in contributing to a culture that commits violence against Black and Native people while robbing them of their culture. Hey, Macklemore called. He wanted to know how you guys appropriate so well.


      Sigma Phi Epsilon: “If you could rape someone, who would it be?”
        By Greg Laden | December 14, 2011 | Uncategorized

      The bad news: University of Vermont’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity sent around a survey asking “If you could rape someone, who would it be?”

      The good news, the fraternity was suspended from campus pending an investigation.

      The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education tracks campus incidents

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition." Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:47:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hmmm. (2+ / 0-)

        Is that something like what they call pattern of practice? If legal action against this kind of behavior is possible, I sure hope someone takes it on.

        Thanks for the great info.

        "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

        by cotterperson on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:29:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't know the answer to that (5+ / 0-)

          I pay attention to these incidents - because we've had a few on my SUNY campus - and also because I am clear that racism and sexism of this type are not only things practiced by old folks who are dying off - frat culture often perpetuates this among the young.

          I'm not against all fraternal organizations - I know of quite a few that do real good -especially community service oriented ones.

          But I am also very leery of frats (and sororities) who have  multiple incidents nationwide

          "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition." Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon

          by Denise Oliver Velez on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:37:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  What kind of legal action? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cotterperson, Woody

          A fraternity essentially is a private club.  Legally, private clubs can be as bigoted as they want.  I would hope that as a moral matter, the club would want to denounce that kind of thing, and I would hope that, if a fraternity recognized by a university did something like that, the university would pull their charter (not recognize them any more) but legally, you can't sue a private club for being bigots, and you can't bring criminal action against a private club for being bigots.  

          •  Good point (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cotterperson, ER Doc

            Especially considering that this is a state school we're talking about.  On the other hand, I would have no problem at all with these three, and any other individual  member who knew about this and didn't report it, being smacked down hard by the student judicial system.

            "Leave us alone!" -Mike Capuano

            by Christian Dem in NC on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 11:04:12 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  schools have the right to kick frats off (7+ / 0-)

            of the campus if they violate standards.

            Racism counts as a violation - here's a recent example

            Fraternity Kicked Off Campus After Watermelon and Gangbanger MLK Party

            Tau Kappa Epsilon was informed on Thursday night that it is no longer a recognized fraternity at ASU. This means that the group can no longer gather on campus and every mention of the group in ASU’s promotional material will be removed.

            ASU President Michael Crow says the fraternity violated behavioral standards. “At ASU, students who violate these standards will be subject to disciplinary sanctions in order to promote their own personal development, to protect the university community, and to maintain order and stability on our campuses,” he said.

            Which standards did the fraternity violate? According to USA Today, “engaging in discriminatory activities, violating alcohol rules, violating the terms of earlier disciplinary sanctions and off-campus conduct that may present a risk or danger” were all violations of the school’s code of conduct.

            "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition." Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon

            by Denise Oliver Velez on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 12:08:40 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Your tender concern for bigots' rights ... (3+ / 0-)

            is once again noted.

            It'd be such a refreshing change to see you stand up for the rights of marginalized communities to be free from discrimination and oppression. But clearly, that's not where your heart lies.

            "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

            by FogCityJohn on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 12:50:50 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Standing up for the Constitutional rights of the (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              texasmom, Woody

              people we hate is the difficult part.  It's easy to support constitutional rights of people we agree with.  Most people here do a good job of that.  It's very hard to stand up for the constitutional rights of people we find odious, like, say, the Westboro Baptist Church.  But we must do that; if we don't respect, and support, constitutional rights for people we do not like, we cannot expect that our constitutional rights will be respected.  What's the quote -- "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."  It's easy to "defend to the death your right to say it" if I agree with what you say.  And when people here agree with someone, their constitutional rights are usually not under attack here.  It's when people disagree with what someone says, or their beliefs, that it becomes all the more important to "defend to the death" their right to say it.  

              •  You sound just like my husband (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                We've had these discussions over the last 35+ years.  He's also an attorney and I am probably the only music major at my university to take two semesters of constitutional law as electives.  Still have the textbooks and reference case books, too.  ;)

                After all these years, I understand completely with my mind what you are saying and the principles involved.  I do believe it, although I'll admit it still raises the hackles of my heart.  

                It is all or nothing on this one.  Sometimes principles are not easy to uphold.  

                The truth always matters.

                by texasmom on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 03:07:35 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry, I'm not buying your story. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Danali, YucatanMan

                I've told you before that I can see through all your highfalutin rationalizations for your defense of bigotry.  This is no different.

                You show up in almost every diary having to do with some kind of prejudice and you write multiple lengthy, discursive comments about why the bigots need to be protected.  (You engaged vigorously in a diary the other day about Arizona's new antigay law and claimed that (in your view) the government is not free to regulate conduct like racial and sexual orientation discrimination.)  Your consistent defense of the rights of bigots to discriminate is not some kind of strange coincidence, nor does it proceed from the claimed high-minded principles you describe above.  

                I'm a gay man who's been around long enough to recognize homophobia when I see it.  I'm quite certain the same is true with African-American users of this site when it comes to racism.  While those who lack our particularly sensitive antennae for bigotry may be deceived by your veil of legal justifications for the unjustifiable, we're not so gullible.

                So please spare me the verbal gymnastics.  They don't work on me.  Save them for the people who, like you, need some superficially neutral explanation to hide behind.

                "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

                by FogCityJohn on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:15:16 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Greek organizations are not private clubs. (2+ / 0-)

            They exist as a part of the campus communtiy, and must abide by community standards.

            You are right that private clubs can't be sued just for being bigoted, but a fraternity is more than just a private club.

            Dont Mourn, Organize !#konisurrender

            by cks175 on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 01:52:38 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, they are, but they are allowed on campus (0+ / 0-)

              that's why I said a school can revoke the charter of a particular fraternity on their campus.  That only affects one chapter of the fraternity.  The fraternity itself, like Sig Ep, is a national organization.  That national organization is a private club.  

  •  Not too harsh at all imho (8+ / 0-)

    I don't know anything about this fraternity but an investigation is clearly in order. How is it that three different students with the same fraternity all thought this was an ok thing to do? Perhaps the fraternity isn't as much if a leader in fighting for racial equality as it thinks it is.

    This also goes against the statements from university officials right after the incident who tried to strongly imply that it wasn't students who engaged in this horrendous act. Perhaps Ole Miss has more problems with racism than it wants to admit.

  •  Racism is taught. (3+ / 0-)

      The idea that this is new or novel or unknown by the frat requires a really large broom.

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