Syracuse University Students Demand Action After Racist Theta Tau Frat Video Is Leaked

Photo: debra millet/Alamy Stock Photo.
Students at Syracuse University are calling for the school and their peers to "do better" after a video surfaced in which members of the Theta Tau fraternity display behavior that's hostile to just about every marginalized group.
The school suspended the engineering fraternity on Wednesday. In the video, its members seem to be partaking in some type of initiation ceremony, in which they make sexist and homophobic jokes, and say, "I solemnly swear to always have hatred in my heart for n------, s----, and most importantly the fucking k----."
The administration refused to release the video despite students protesting and calling for it with #WheresTheVideoSU, but university newspaper the Daily Orange obtained it and posted it on YouTube Wednesday night. What followed is quite possibly the start of a reckoning about race and identity at the upstate New York school.
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"The video itself isn’t the issue. It’s bigger than the video, bigger than this one frat — because, believe me, this is not an isolated incident at 'cuse — and it’s honestly bigger than Syracuse University," Elen Pease, who graduated from SU in 2017, told Refinery29. "It totally is a national issue. It’s all related to these big private schools that profit from minority students but won’t take time to fully embrace and provide resources for those same students."
During both the protest and a several-hours-long forum on Wednesday night, students from marginalized communities said the majority-white campus is still very much segregated and that the administration must make more strides to care about their safety. Many blamed the university for protecting the predominantly white fraternity rather than students of color. A university police car was spotted parked outside of the Theta Tau house on Thursday morning, with a few officers standing watch outside.
During the protest, junior Courtney Jiggetts said the university uses students of color in its promotional brochures to call attention to "diversity," but doesn't actually stand up for them when it matters. "So at this point in time, we are no longer going to let them utilize our melanin and utilize our ethnicities and backgrounds," Jiggetts said, according to the Daily Orange.
Students are also mad at university chancellor Kent Syverud for being largely silent on the issue, save for some emailed statements, and not showing up at the forum. Some posted with the hashtag #WheresKent, and chanted, "Where you at, Kent?" during the public gatherings.
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"People are mad and hurt," graduate student Alison Caliguire told Refinery29. It was obvious from the forum that people want to see concrete action and change, she said, adding, "Something that was repeated a few times is a request for mandatory classes on racial and social issues. Another thing that students said a lot last night was that this video is representative of how they're treated regularly; it's not a unique issue."
"I'm sick of being asked if I went to school on an elephant," an international student from Mumbai who called for mandatory racial-bias training, said at the forum. Another member of the audience said that as students marched in front of the Theta Tau house, a group of white men in a car shouted, "Hey s----" at them.
The crowd reportedly went wild when an international student from Kenya said: "This shit is far, it's expensive, and it's cold as a bitch. If you don't give us the video, the next time I see a frat guy I'm gonna go, 'Well, that person thinks I'm a baboon.'" He called for expelling the students in the frat.
Students began to flesh out proposals for how the university could do better to protect those from marginalized groups. A woman brought in a poster titled, "In the interest of minority students at Syracuse University," and shared that as a woman of color, she had a negative experience at the university counseling center. She called for mandatory classes and conversations on race and social issues for all students, minority therapists in the counseling center, and more transparency from the administration.
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Now that students have taken the reins and spoken out about their needs, the ball is in the university's court. Chancellor Syverud said that the administration has launched an investigation into the video to identify the people involved. "This behavior is unacceptable and contradicts our moral standards," he said in a statement. But students are waiting for action.
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