A decision has been made about the April video that showed Syracuse University’s Theta Tau fraternity performing a sketch that included racial slurs and simulated sexual assault of a disabled person. Fifteen members of the fraternity have been suspended as a result, the students’ lawyers recently announced. The Theta Tau fraternity was told that the members in the video would face indefinite suspensions of one or two years.
In the initial video, which the campus publication the Daily Orange published, the fraternity members used offensive language, with a second video showing the members simulating the assault of a person with disabilities. One person is heard saying: “He’s drooling out of his mouth, because he’s retarded in a wheelchair. So the hole is already very lubricated.”
18 pledges took part in the sketch and were found guilty of harassment, but not guilty of charges of causing physical harm, threatening violence, or possession of alcohol, Syracuse.com reports.
Three of the 18 students accepted the university punishment, while the other 15 went through the school’s judicial process. They faced suspension as a result, with the university unable to comment on specifics because of federal privacy laws.
The fraternity was expelled from campus and apologized for the video, but claimed it was a “satirical sketch” done at a private event. The fraternity chapter wrote on its website: “Nothing like this will ever again be tolerated. Not in private, not as part of a joke — not ever.”
Syracuse University law professor Gregory Germain, who was an adviser for some students during the disciplinary process, explained: “I think all of the students are willing to leave and want to go to another school. I think the question is whether they’re going to be able to get into another school when they have on their transcript the scarlet letter of being suspended for harassment.”
The university’s dean of students, Robert Hradsky, explained in a letter to students and staff: “It is now time for our community to focus on the important work of advancing a more inclusive campus community.”
The university’s Department of Public Safety issued a statement as well, explaining:
“Dear Campus Community,
I’m writing to provide an update on the investigation of the Theta Tau fraternity and its members.
Since Wednesday my office, in conjunction with Student Affairs, investigated and filed complaints against 18 individuals, all of whom were present at the sponsored event. Our investigation is ongoing and others may be implicated in the coming days.
Out of an abundance of caution and ongoing concern for our campus community, Provost Michele Wheatly and Dean of Students Rob Hradsky notified the 18 students of their removal from academic participation, effective immediately. Alternative class and study arrangements will be made for these students as the judicial process moves forward.
We have not and will not release the videos that are a part of our investigation. It is imperative that we preserve the evidence to be used in individual conduct cases. In addition, my office will not be party to the distribution of this hateful and hurtful content.”