-- An attorney for alumni of the University of Oklahoma's Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter said he hopes to speak with university officials to address "a premature rush to judgment" over a racist video allegedly involving SAE members.
University officials have expelled two students over the incident, severed ties to the fraternity chapter and ordered its members out of their fraternity house. The national SAE organization is in the process of attempting to expel members of the Oklahoma SAE chapter after previously suspending them, an official with the national group said today, according to The Associated Press.
“We need to avoid a rush to judgment, we need to lower our voices, and we need to take a breath,” said the SAE chapter lawyer, Stephen Jones, who previously has represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Jones said he has been hired by alumni members who served on the board of the university's local SAE chapter, but does not represent the two suspended fraternity members who allegedly were shown on a video leading a racist chant.
He had only recently been hired and still was getting fully up to speed on the case, he said, but, "obviously, there are issues about First Amendment rights, due process and real estate issues, but we're still gathering documents."
Jones said university officials, including the university president, David Boren, should have deployed "a more measured response" to the video, but declined to cite a specific example of what he thought the university did wrong in its handling of the case.
He also objected to a general atmosphere that, he said, has resulted in “the painting of a fraternity ... with a tar brush as bigots.”
Boren has said the students who played a leadership role in the "exclusionary" chant had created a hostile learning environment. He said the chant was heard not only by those on a bus, but also affected the entire university community because it was distributed through social media.
As of now, Jones hopes to reach a "non-litigation" solution with officials in the SAE case, he said.
“We believe that working together in a positive manner, we can find a solution that is acceptable to everyone to make this a teachable moment,” Jones added.
After Jones spoke, the national SAE organization put out a statement noting it was “not involved in retaining Mr. Jones and, as of now, we have no further information about his intentions.
"Our priority now remains squarely focused on making sure we continue to proactively address this issue in a way that reflects our zero-tolerance for any kind of discrimination and upholds the values of our fraternity," the statement added, in part. "We teach our members to serve as role models in their communities and to live up to our creed, 'The True Gentleman.' As such, when members fail to do so -- as they did at the University of Oklahoma -- we do not hesitate to take corrective action, starting with closing the chapter and initiating a process to take action against any members who were involved."