March 30, 2015

SAE controversy sparks discussion at U of L

The Louisville Cardinal News

By Adeline Wilson and TC Klusman — 

U of L students gathered Friday afternoon for a discussion of the controversy surrounding the racist chant video that surfaced from the University of Oklahoma’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. The video, described by students as “disturbing,” prompted the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice to begin a conversation about racism on college campuses.

The interactive session followed five student presentations relating to their own social justice research. Mahogany Mayfield, a sophomore Muhammad Ali Scholar who presented her creative writing project, says the discussion about OU’s SAE was added to the end of the regularly scheduled presentations.

To begin their discussion, Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice Director Enid Trucios-Haynes presented the facts of the incident. She highlighted a recent article in “The Huffington Post,” which reported OU’s SAE members learned the racist chant at the fraternity’s national leadership conference four years earlier, according to a report from the University of Oklahoma.

The students viewed a clip from “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, which Trucios-Haynes used because it brought together clips about how different media outlets reported the incident. Muhammad Ali Scholars then presented their thoughts about the incident, and discussion was opened to the room afterwards.

Mordean Taylor-Archer, the vice provost for diversity and international affairs, also attended the discussion, which was sponsored by the Office of Vice Provost for Diversity and International Affairs and the Commission on Diversity and Racial Equality.

“What I get concerned about as an administrator here is what can we do, and what should we be doing, so it this doesn’t happen,” said Taylor-Archer.

Students asked what could be done here at U of L to shed some light on the current events.

“I think it would take some intensive training,” said Mayfield.  “We see those divides there, but it is just a matter of acknowledging them and caring to even talk about it.”

Graduate student Alexis Johnson wondered whether the issue should be confronted at an individual level or from an institutionalized standpoint.

On a separate occasion, reporter TC Klusman reached out to Jeffrey Cross, program coordinator for the National Pan-Hellenic Council, or NPHC. Cross discussed how the Greek community at U of L will work together in the future.

Greek life at U of L has three branches: the NPHC, the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council. Although these three branches have traditionally worked independently of each other, Cross says that the groups will begin working “to show a unified front.”

Before the Oklahoma incident took place, a survey was sent out to all three branches of U of L Greek life, all to get a sense about what was going on within each individual organization. Cross calls the Greek student leadership “proactive rather than reactive.”

Cross also noted that not all Greek life at U of L is associated with NPHC, Panhellenic Council and the IFC. He said the Multi-Cultural Greek Council will soon take root at U of L.

Multiple requests for comment from U of L’s SAE President and Vice President were unanswered.

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