The Syracuse University chapter of Theta Tau was suspended Wednesday morning after the university confirmed it was involved in the creation of online videos showing fraternity members engaging in behaviors that were “extremely racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and hostile to people with disabilities,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a campus-wide email.
In recordings obtained by The Daily Orange showing the videos, which were filmed in Theta Tau’s house, a person forces another person to his knees and asks him to repeat an “oath” including racial slurs.
“I solemnly swear to always have hatred in my heart for n*ggers, sp*cs and most importantly the f*ckin’ k*kes,” the person on his knees repeats.
The videos were posted in a secret Facebook group called “Tau of Theta Tau” by a user named David Yankowy III, the recordings show. Yankowy was listed as a member of Theta Tau on the SU fraternity chapter’s website before the site was made inaccessible Wednesday afternoon. Yankowy, who is listed in SU’s directory as a senior in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Several videos filmed in the house were uploaded in the secret Facebook group. In one recording, a person, using anti-Semitic language, yells at two other people.
“You f*ckin’ k*kes, get in the f*ckin’ showers,” he says, and the two people run out of the room as others laugh.
In another recording, a person sits down in a rolling chair and a different person yells, “He’s drooling out of his mouth because he’s retarded in a wheelchair.”
At one point, one person tells others to “… Get together and (talk) about their significant others while drinking different wines and talking in gay girly accents.”
The following recording is one of several obtained by The Daily Orange. The D.O. could not publish every video as it could not confirm that each video was posted on the “Tau of Theta Tau” page.
“I am appalled and shaken by this and deeply concerned for all members of our community,” Syverud said in the email.
The chancellor said that, upon confirming Theta Tau’s involvement in the videos, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities immediately suspended the fraternity.
SU’s Department of Public Safety has launched an investigation into the incident to identify individuals and to take additional legal and disciplinary action, Syverud said.
Theta Tau is a professional engineering fraternity at 1105 Harrison St. The fraternity’s national office did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Alexander Fox, who was listed on the SU chapter’s website as the fraternity’s regent, also did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Fox was listed as an administrator or moderator in the secret Facebook group.
I am appalled and shaken by this and deeply concerned for all members of our community.
Kent Syverud, Syracuse University Chancellor
A protest erupted on campus Wednesday evening as students demanded that the university release the videos. Protesters gathered outside Syverud’s house, which is across the street from Theta Tau. Some students on Twitter started posting the hashtag “#WheresTheVideoSU.”
“We are not (Theta Tau),” said Liam McMonagle, a protest organizer and sophomore broadcast and digital journalism major. “They are not us. And they do not represent this community.”
Tayla Myree, a sophomore studying political science and history, spoke and chanted in a megaphone as she held up a sign that read, “Apathy is complicity.” She said most of the students protesting were people of color, despite SU having a predominantly white population.
Zach Hammond, a senior mechanical engineering major who was listed as a member of Theta Tau on the fraternity’s website, said “there were certainly some things I disapproved of, but I certainly didn’t realize that bad of things were being said. It’s just disgusting.”
Hammond’s name was mentioned in the video published by The D.O. on Wednesday night. Hammond said he was not at the event shown in the recordings and was rarely active in the chapter.
Several other students who were listed as members of Theta Tau on the fraternity’s website did not respond to requests for comment.
Syverud, during a forum at Hendricks Chapel on Wednesday afternoon organized after his campus-wide email, said he watched “parts of the videos from Theta Tau.”
“The thing I have been asked most frequently is, ‘I’d like to see them myself.’ I don’t particularly want to be the person who disseminates those videos for complicated reasons, but I’m sure that will happen,” Syverud said. “I want to say that I am shaken and deeply disturbed by what is on them, as I would hope anyone in the community would be.”
In his email, Syverud said SU is committed to “fostering a community where all our students feel welcome and are treated with dignity and respect. This behavior is unacceptable and contradicts our moral standards.”
Student Association President James Franco said Wednesday afternoon the fraternity’s conduct was antithetical to his personal values and the values of the university.
“I think we also, too, should have an audit of Greek life on campus to re-evaluate its impact on the campus community and its value,” Franco said.
Student Association President James Franco (center) spoke during the public forum Wednesday night at Hendricks Chapel. MOLLY GIBBS | ASST. PHOTO EDITOR
During a public forum at Hendricks Chapel on Wednesday night, which lasted more than three hours, students demanded action from SU in response to the videos. More than 400 students packed into the chapel.
“The one thing I want to say … is that there are faculty members that have you guys’ backs in ways that you all have no clue,” said Biko Gray, an assistant professor of religion. “So, I just really want to tell you if you all want me to be (in) a strategizing session, let a n*gga know.”
Charity Luster, vice president of SU’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, said she hopes the suspension of Theta Tau does not just spark a conversation about videos, but sparks a conversation about how people of color and underrepresented people are treated at SU.
In response to Theta Tau’s suspension, Hendricks Chapel Dean Brian Konkol held an event at 2:30 p.m. in Hendricks for “thoughtful, constructive dialogue about our campus community,” acknowledging the “troubling and disturbing conduct that has come to light,” he added in an email.
DPS has assembled detectives from its investigative team and is in the process of interviewing students who are believed to be involved in the videos, Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado said during the afternoon event at Hendricks.
Maldonado added that DPS is working with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs to determine possible Code of Student Conduct violations.
“We also work in partnership with the Syracuse Police Department, and we’ve been in contact with them as well,” Maldonado said. “At this point in time, (SPD) has deferred to us while we review the code of conduct violations.”
Maldonado said members of the campus community “should all be concerned” about the fraternity’s “offensive comments.”
Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado addressed the SU community at the Wednesday afternoon meeting in Hendricks Chapel. KAI NGUYEN | PHOTO EDITOR
Theta Tau is the fourth fraternity suspended from SU during the 2017-18 academic year. SU announced the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity’s suspension last week after a months-long investigation into hazing. SU suspended Alpha Epsilon Pi in February for conduct that threatened the safety of a student participating in the new member process. The SU chapter of Delta Tau Delta was suspended in fall 2017 for conduct violations that included hazing.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!