AUSTIN (KXAN) — Shortly after the University of Oklahoma President David Boren shutdown the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in wake of a racially insensitive viral video, social media users were comparing the discipline to the lack of discipline given to University of Texas at Austin’s Phi Gamma Delta.
Last month, Texas “Fiji” was criticized for holding a “border patrol” themed party. The University of Texas did not punish the frat. The Dean of Students explained why the two cases are different.
“Rules and regulations can limit us in terms of free speech, they can also limit us in terms of on-campus, off-campus,” said Dr. Soncia Reagins-Lilly. Because the frat is off-campus and the theme was a use of 1st amendment rights, Dr. Lilly said the university was limited in the amount of punitive measures they could take, but instead opted for a dialogue about understanding, diversity and the core values held by the University of Texas.
“Even though there are matters with free speech that influence punitive measures, it does not limit our ongoing work with those students.”
The SAE home at OU is off-campus, but owned by the University’s Board of Regents. Boren ordered the home be closed and forced all students living there to move out. He said OU would also pursue avenues to hold individuals in the video accountable.
Dr. Lilly said shortly after last month’s Phi Gamma Delta party, members of the frat partnered with Latino Community Affairs at a community service event. Such events and partnerships are preferred alternatives, according to Lilly.
“Due to off-campus jurisdiction, due to freedom of expression, we believe peer-to-peer accountability and working very closely with student organizations is the better route to go.”
The UT-Austin SAE Chapter declined to comment on the situation at OU, but did say they “certainly do not” have similar chants or songs.Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Chapter at UT
The Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Texas has been the subject of a number of investigations.
In 2006, one of its pledges fell from a fifth floor balcony at University Towers in West Campus. His blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, police ruled it was an accident.
But, the Travis County Attorney’s Office started investigating the fraternity for hazing and discovered evidence that pledges were shocked with cattle prods and their faces were burned with hot clothes irons.
Four SAE members were prosecuted for hazing. SAE members also had to attend a class on hazing and alcohol awareness.
The fraternity house was also subject to unannounced police visits and several other requirements.