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Syracuse University fraternity suspended over racist video apologizes

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Syracuse University fraternity chapter suspended Wednesday after a racist video surfaced apologized Thursday. The video showed a group of men laughing uproariously at performances punctuated by racist language against blacks, Jews and Hispanics, as well as simulated sex acts.

Chancellor Ken Syverud said the school suspended Theta Tau, a professional engineering fraternity, for videos he described as racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist and hostile to people with disabilities.

Theta Tau's national organization said it was investigating and that the behaviors described weren't representative of its "very diverse organization."

In a statement, Theta Tau's Syracuse University chapter said, "First and foremost, every single member of Theta Tau would like to apologize to everyone affected by the racist video that was recorded as a part of our new member process. Theta Tau is made up of a diverse group of engineering students from a variety of nationalities, beliefs, and backgrounds, and we strongly believe that racism has no place on a university campus. ... Anyone of color or of any marginalized group who has seen this video has every right to be angry and upset with the despicable contents of that video." 

Some students claim the videos illustrate larger issues of racism and sexism at Syracuse.

The chancellor said the videos were turned over to the school's Department of Public Safety for possible disciplinary or legal action.

"I am appalled by this and deeply concerned for all members of our community," Syverud wrote in an email Wednesday. "The conduct is deeply harmful and contrary to the values and community standards we expect of our students"

The Daily Orange student newspaper posted a six-minute recording it said was one of several videos it had obtained. The newspaper said the recording was of a video made in the fraternity house and posted to a private Facebook group called "Tau of Theta Tau."

The university held a gathering Wednesday to promote "community dialogue" and about 100 people marched through the campus carrying signs and chanting. About 400 attended a three-hour discussion, venting frustrations over what they view as systemic racism and sexism at the school.

"We really can't have this kind of culture on campus, it's 2018 and everyone should be loving each other, and respecting each other," on student told CBS Syracuse affiliate WTVH-TV. "This is a university."

The topics included a 2014 video that showed an SU women's soccer player directing racial and homophobic slurs at another person.

Students recommended leading by example, making certain African-American Studies courses mandatory and finding a better way to organize.

"This gives me a reason to stay here until they fix things," junior Saumya Melwani said, according to Syracuse.com.

The controversy in Syracuse erupted a day after California Polytechnic State University suspended all fraternities and sororities after photos surfaced showing fraternity members in blackface.