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Update: Five Students Connected to Racist Fraternity Video Sue Syracuse University

Photo: Jordan Muller | Asst. News Editor

Photo: Jordan Muller | Asst. News Editor, Daily Orange

(Update, April 25) – Five unamed students, among 18 who have been facing disciplinary action in connection to a racist Theta Thau fraternity video at Syracuse University, have recently filed a lawsuit against the school.

The lawsuit alleges the videos, which the students said were meant to be part of a satirical roast, were taken out of context by the university.

“The Roast is a time-honored Chapter tradition that builds unity by satirically and hyperbolically depicting brothers,” the complaint states. ” …Two unauthorized, decontextualized clips of the Roast” were released by an anonymous party.

The university has suspended the fraternity, and threatened to expel the students as a result of the videos.

“Several times, University officials have described the conduct as criminal despite District Attorney William Fitzpatrick stating that there was “nothing” criminal about the videos,” the lawsuit stated. “In point of fact, District Attorney William Fitzpatrick repeatedly denied that the conduct constituted crimes. Reviewing the videos in context, he drew the reasonable conclusion that the University continues to ignore: while the video may depict “rank stupidity, . . . luckily stupidity is not a crime.” Upon information and belief, the University either did not perform any evaluation or investigation into the context of the Roast recordings or has willfully ignored the context to further its goals.”

SU has declined to comment on the matter, citing the fact that the litigation is currently pending.

A court hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday, April 27.

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(From April 20) – Syracuse University has suspended the Syracuse chapter of national engineering fraternity Theta Tau after footage from a private Facebook group showed members of the chapter using hate speech.

The six-minute footage depicts members of the fraternity pledging (using slurs) to hate black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Jewish people. Throughout the video, members laugh and use hostile references to the Holocaust and mock people with disabilities and LGBTQ people.

According to The New York Times, the footage had first been sent to University officials, and they declined to release it due to the continuing investigation. The footage was later obtained and published by Syracuse independent student newspaper The Daily Orange.

National officials of Theta Tau called the video “truly disgraceful” and contradicted Syracuse University’s initial claim that the footage was showing the chapter hazing its members. Clark said the footage was allegedly a “roasting” of a pledge class.

In an email to students and faculty, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud said, “There is absolutely no place at Syracuse University for behavior or language that degrades any individual or group’s race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, disability or religious beliefs.”

Theta Tau isn’t the first fraternity to be involved in a scandal. The fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha was only recently suspended from California Polytechnic State University after one of its members was in blackface.

Fraternities are also known for problems with binge drinking and drug abuse. Up to 14% of Americans drink beer once a week, but college students (especially fraternities and sororities) have been shown to drink excessively.

For instance, a hard liquor ban will go into effect this May at Auburn University fraternity events in the wake of a pledge’s death during a hazing event in September 2017.

After Syracuse University initially declined to release the offensive footage of Theta Tau, student protests erupted across the campus. Student organizers of the protest said the hate speech involved in the video isn’t limited only to Theta Tau.

“I hope this event does not just spark a conversation on one video,” said Charity Luster, vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers, Syracuse chapter. “[I hope] that it sparks a conversation around how people of color and underrepresented people are treated on this campus.”

According to the receptionist at the Theta Tau national office, the fraternity’s executive director and other officers will be flying to Syracuse to join the University’s investigation into the members’ behavior.

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