Today’s American youth makes up quite possibly the most liberal and open-minded generation this nation has ever seen, but the recent transgressions of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma has the entire nation second-guessing the future of American society.
On Tuesday, March 10, the Washington Post published an article regarding the now-infamous SAE chapter and its distasteful, racist video that went viral earlier that week.
In the video, SAE brothers are shown in a coach bus singing a racist chant to the tune of the nursery rhyme “If You’re Happy and You Know it.” It warped the innocent prose of the children’s song into something incredibly insensitive that started like this: “There will never be a n****r in SAE.”
Eugene Volokh, the man responsible for the WaPo article, thinks the speech is a constitutional right and that the brothers should not have been expelled. While I agree that the SAE brothers are legally protected, their expulsion was well deserved and agreeable.
Volokh frames his argument as to why OU President, David Boren, expelling the men responsible for the racist chant is not justified on the premise that what they said is protected by the First Amendment.
The truth of the matter is that freedom of speech includes the right “to use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages,” according to the United States’ Official Court website. What the SAE brothers did was exactly that. They were offensive to express a political message. It does not matter if anybody agrees.
Believe it or not, you can say what the young men in the video said, record it and post it on the Internet, and there would be no legal basis to convict you of any crime.
The second argument Volokh presents is that the speech made by the SAE brothers can be equated to “students talking to each other about…how Hamas has it right,” or “black students talking…about how all whites are racist, and white cops…should get shot.”
He makes the argument that all of the aforementioned speeches make for a hostile environment for the parties involved. If Boren expelled the fraternity brothers for doing just that, why has he not expelled the students who express radical Islamic views or the black people who call for white people to get “a taste of their own medicine?”
This is where I have my qualms. Volokh seems to be ignoring the type of organization that we are dealing with here—a fraternity, not a cult, religious or activist group.
Fraternities, despite their recent bad publicity (most of it brought upon themselves), are organizations that were founded upon, or are maintained upon, the values of non-discrimination and social excellence. They are, in most universities, organizations that are subject to the rules of their respective universities.
Any chapter of any fraternity or sorority is permanently associated with its university, and vice versa. Thus, when it comes to expelling the SAE students, there is nothing wrong with what the OU president did.
The school has every right to defend the image that these fraternity men directly damaged.
An argument can be made along the lines of this: if the fraternity brothers get expelled, why don’t the members of the college campus that openly express their disapproval for the homosexual community or marginalized group receive the same treatment? It is because these discriminatory organizations represent themselves.
Although they can be part of an institution, they are not organizations that are associated with the university as a fraternity is.
What the Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers of the University of Oklahoma did was wrong. What the President did to them is completely justified. It is as simple as that. This is a classic example of a time when different rules apply to groups or people in different circumstances.
The gravity of the situation is so severe that SAE chapters across the country are staying mum and refusing to comment on the situation or those who were involved.
I am sure, however, that even many of the current brothers of SAE agree that the makers of the infamous video deserved the punishment they received.