The Fall of SAE: What Would You Do?

Imagine you are the president of a university. You oversee thousands and thousands of 18-23 year olds each and every day. Some days, everything goes smoothly. Other times, anything but. Now imagine you are David Boren, president of The University of Oklahoma. It's Sunday, March 8, 2015. A video has just gone viral. In it, Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members are chanting, "Racism is alive at the University of Oklahoma" and "There will never be a n*gger in SAE" and "You can hang them from a tree, but they'll never sign with me." How do you respond?

Following the release of the video, President Boren immediately addressed the issue. He told members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) he had a message for them: "You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves 'Sooners' (the OU mascot). Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity." Throughout Boren's statements, he promised justice, and he kept his word. 

Boren went on to shut down the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter and to sever all ties between OU and SAE. He said he would be glad if the students in the video left campus because "we don't provide student services to bigots." The next day, he expelled two students who were identified in the video. He also informed the fraternity members that they would have until midnight to leave the house and get off campus.

University of Oklahoma students march to the former SAE house during a rally in Norman, OK on Tuesday, March 10, 2015.

Like the racist video, Boren's actions have resonated throughout the country. People are simply shocked; shocked at the incredibly offensive chanting by fraternity men and shocked that a university president has handled a situation with such little regard (or care) for the perpetrators. The majority of social media users agree: Boren absolutely did the right thing.

Here, an opportunity arises to lead by example. Boren can now examine his institution and ask how and why these attitudes could infiltrate the minds of those as young as freshmen. He can now ask the community to face the inequities of history and race. You don't have to be a college president to make positive change.

University of Oklahoma students protest the racist comments made in the video on Monday, March 9, 2015.

Start a conversation on and off campus. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for hate. Stand up when there is injustice. Establish a voice that turns growls of hate into flippant whispers. Ask what it would take to truly be inclusive. Find solutions, not just answers.

We can all do that. The time is now.