Syracuse University Suspends 15 Students Over Racist Video

Syracuse University has suspended 15 members of the engineering fraternity Theta Tau, including an Indian American student, over racist and homophobic videos.


Syracuse University recently suspended 15 members of a fraternity over two racist and homophobic videos in which they appeared earlier this year.

The members of the engineering fraternity Theta Tau, including an Indian American student, were suspended indefinitely for one to two years, after they were seen in a video in April that Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud had then called “extremely racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and hostile to people with disabilities.”

The university “does not have any obligation to readmit them once the suspension is over. It is up to their discretion,” Karen Felter, the attorney representing the 15 students said, CNN reported. The students will lose their financial aid benefits during the suspension period, Felter added, according to the report.

Dean of Students Robert Hradsky wrote to the campus community about the decision on June 8. “The student conduct process for the students involved in the Theta Tau videos has been ongoing since the alleged behavior first came to light in April,” the statement read. “I am writing today to report that the hearing and deliberations, overseen by the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, have concluded, and the students were notified of their respective outcomes and subsequent sanctions.”

The affected students will carry a notation on their academic transcripts that they were “involuntarily withdrawn” from the university, the publication cited Gregory Germain, a Syracuse law professor who acted as a “procedural adviser” for many of the students, as saying.

The decision came after an investigation was launched by the university on April 19, 2018 to identify the participants and determine any legal and disciplinary actions that could be taken against Theta Tau.

The video showed the students using derogatory terms for Blacks, Jews and Hispanics, and featured an Indian-American man portraying a dog that woofs while coming onstage as he is slapped by his owner. The actor then simulates a sex act with his master, who repeatedly shouts: “I’m an untouchable.”

In Indian society, Dalits were once considered “untouchables” for being born in what was believed to be a lower caste.

Later in the video, another member said, “I solemnly swear to always have hatred in my heart for niggers, spics, and most importantly the fucking kikes.”

The fraternity then apologized for the video and said that it was done as a roast of one of the active members.

“Each semester our new members are given the opportunity to write and act out a skit, in order to roast the active brothers. This event was never intended to be centered around racism or hate. This year, one of these brothers is a conservative Republican, and the new members roasted him by playing the part of a racist conservative character. It was a satirical sketch of an uneducated, racist, homophobic, misogynist, sexist, ableist and intolerant person,” the fraternity said in a statement.

A second video, released after the first one went viral, showed the actors mimicking the bullying of a disabled man, India-West reported.

While the individual students have been suspended now, the fraternity was expelled from the Syracuse campus after the videos were released. Five boys had then filed a lawsuit against the university in April. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit said, “All that defendants have done is overreact, speed to judgment, and portray the students as ‘criminals’.” They added that they were suspended during the critical final weeks of the semester, which would affect their grades and college careers.

Out of the 18 students who faced charges under the university’s code of conduct, three accepted the university-proposed sanctions after an informal resolution process, according to India-West. The remaining 15 underwent a formal student conduct investigation process, reported.

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