New York fraternity house suspended for racist, antisemitic video

Screengrab: YouTube / The Daily Orange
Screengrab: YouTube / The Daily Orange

On Wednesday this week, New York’s Syracuse University made the decision to suspend its Theta Tau fraternity after a sickening video of its members using a series of racist, antisemitic slurs began spreading online.

The clip, retrieved from the group’s official Facebook page and released by the institution’s independent newspaper The Daily Orange, depicts several role-play scenarios allegedly carried out as part of an initiation ceremony. According to The New York Times, the newspaper released the footage because the university itself declined to do so.

Warning: Some people may find the contents of this article disturbing.

Stretching across five minutes, the video features various skits.

In one segment, two members pretend to be a dog and its respective owner. They simulate anal sex while making dog noises and, then, the guy playing the dog “shits outside the window, on a white guy walking”.

It gets worse.

Next up is a fledgling frat boy who “wants to be the man” but must first undergo an initiation.

After a brief but somewhat predictable simulation of oral sex comes the repetition of a horrific oath which reads:

F**k black people, and f**k sp*cs, and f**k the f**king k*kes.

I swear to always have hatred in my heart for n****rs, and sp*cs, and the f**king k*kes.

They round off the celebrations, unsurprisingly at this point, by pretending to do lines of cocaine off of each others’ genitals as they all dry-hump makeshift glory holes.

The video was met with an official response from Chancellor Kent Syverud, who described the “offensive and unacceptable behaviour” as a “painful wake-up call”:

It has prompted, rightfully, much outrage and concern across our campus.

He states that all Theta Tau frat activity will remain suspended until a full investigation has been conducted. “Almost all of the individuals directly involved” are currently being interviewed, whereas “implicit bias training and inclusivity training” schemes – which, as Starbucks recently proved, are fast becoming the go-to response to racist scandals – will be introduced.

The fraternity has also released an apology. After opening by describing Theta Tau as a “diverse group” of students, all of whom “strongly believe that racism has no place on a university campus”, the lengthy document goes on to state that the house members are profoundly embarrassed and disappointed in themselves, and that anyone of any marginalised group has “every right to be angry and upset with the despicable contents of that video”.

They then continue by explaining the clip’s context – “not to make excuses for the content of the video”, of course.

To honour the beginning of the new semester, members were given the opportunity to write skits and “roast” the active brothers. One happened to be a conservative Republican, so the new members decided to play the role of an “uneducated, racist, homophobic, misogynist, sexist, ableist and intolerant person”.

They continue:

[Neither] the young man playing the part of this character nor the young man being roasted hold any of the horrible views espoused as part of that sketch.

In fact, they suggest that the reason everyone chuckled along so heartily was actually more pure than the video might lead us to think:

We would like to believe that the new members seen in the video laughing at the horrible things being said were not laughing in concurrence with those beliefs, but in fact the opposite – that racism, sexism and homophobia are so wrong that they are laughable.

Institutionalised discrimination might be a chuckle to some, but it’s unlikely this apology will succeed in killing the scandal for good.

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