The Oklahoma Hall of Shame rapid expansion week

The Oklahoma Hall of Shame rapid expansion week

OUWaterTower

Since the late evening hours of this past Sunday when the infamous OU Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity racist chant video went viral, I have had to stop myself multiple times from making this post.  There have been other news items this week worthy of admission to this expansion of the Hall of Shame.  They include the passage of HB 1125 by the State House of Representatives which would eliminate state issued marriage licenses thereby not recognizing same-sex marriages and Governor Mary Fallin publicly demanding the benefit of federal subsidies for her constituents under the Affordable Care Act while still rooting for its overturning by the pending Supreme Court ruling.  However, with the amount of fallout that is raining down over the SAE video and public reaction to it, it will be my focus for the here and now.

ParringtonOval

I thought it proper to wait for the story to evolve and let as many facts emerge as possible before voicing my opinion.  In the course of my work week I was able to speak with a parent of an SAE member, one who was not in the video or even on the bus on which it was captured.  Also during this past week I have been able to review legal arguments, opinions and concerns for and against the swift and decisive action taken by OU President David Boren in response to it.  This has given me an adequate amount of time to take inventory of my own values and feelings and how they have evolved on the issue since my youth which was rife with confusion caused by flaws in my upbringing by unenlightened Baptist parents in a segregated city.  The news of this video broke on the heels of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, a time we were reflecting and measuring how far we had come as a nation in terms of equality and if we had permanently let go of anachronistic prejudices and social attitudes in light of so many police shootings of unarmed minorities and the egregiously disproportionate incarceration rate of African American men.  The SAE video in no uncertain terms answered that query like a loud speaker at full volume proclaiming “NOT VERY FAR!!!” 

NorthOval

I am a now a 50-something white male who was a 7th grader when Tulsa Public Schools desegregated in 1971.  I enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 18, an organization that has about the strongest equal opportunity policy in existence.   It was there that I overcame a lot of the aforementioned flaws of my upbringing.  I am an alumnus of and a donor to the University of Oklahoma.  Attending OU was an educational experience that forever molded my character.  When young people associated with OU interface with the John and Jane Q. Public they represent me.  As OU alum and former OK CD 4 Congressman J.C. Watts once said, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking.”  Speaking for myself I will say that those frat members could not have done worse by me and most of the rest of the OU collective with their racist chant if they had broke into Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium with a can of spray paint and wrote FUCK YOU across the OU logo in the center of Owen Field!

Did President Boren get too carried away in his harsh response to the video?  Was  perhaps a teaching moment missed in the rush to judgment?  Was free speech too severely penalized?  The Supreme Court sided with Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church for their vile picketing of military funerals upholding their speech and actions as constitutional.  Westboro Baptist Church is an organization which does not share my values or is subject to any sort of EEO policy.  The University of Oklahoma is the state’s flagship public university and receives federal funding for many programs.  There are many laws and regulations with which it must comply.  OU in fact has an Institutional Equity Office to manage compliance issues.  A fraternity is a social club.  Association with a public entity like OU is a privilege contingent on upholding the same values of the institution.  In light of this, President Boren was well within his duty to safeguard the interests of the institution.  I am curious as to how the brewing legal case will play out.  In the meantime the OU community is saddled with dealing with the damage to the university’s and the state’s image caused by a group of privileged individuals.  Sadly, there is no substitute for true candor.  I have a sick feeling we will all be paying for this one for some time.

OUSeedSower

1 Comment

  1. Mark Collins
    Mar 14, 2015

    Am not an Oklahoman, but I share your pain and fully agree with your sentiments and commentary.
    Evil & bigotry flourish when good people say and do nothing.
    President Boren’s swift and appropriate sanctions were the right thing to do, whatever the courts decide.
    How any of these stupid young people could show their faces on campus ever again is a mystery. Shame to them (“Honi soit qui
    mal y pense!”).
    OU is and will always be a great school in a great state.