This week, a furor erupted over what Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud called an “extremely racist” video that surfaced on a private Facebook page. The video showed members of the Theta Tau engineering fraternity using racial slurs and vowing, “I solemnly swear to always have hatred in my heart for n****** and s****.” The fraternity was suspended, and the brothers have now posted an apology to their chapter’s website — in doing so, they claim that the members shown in the video were only being satiric.
That is to say, the Tau Theta Tau letter claims that new fraternity members were participating in a tradition, whereby they “roast” the senior brothers. And they say that one such sketch was aimed toward a Republican member, who was satirized through a “racist conservative character” with no offense intended:
“It was a satirical sketch of an uneducated, racist, homophobic, misogynist, sexist, ableist and intolerant person. The young man playing the part of this character nor the young man being roasted do not hold any of the horrible views espoused as a part of that sketch. We would like to believe that the new members seen in the video laughing at the horrible things being said were not laughing in concurrence with these beliefs, but in fact the opposite — that racism, sexism and homophobia are so wrong that they are laughable. None of the satire was said or done in malice.”
The letter continues while acknowledging that lines were crossed, and the sketch — which apparently began with a member simulating sex with a dog before the mocking of disabled and LGBT people, along with several races — apparently “made the active brothers very uncomfortable.” The group further apologizes and says that the new members agreed (after the sketch) that such attitudes weren’t welcome in the house. The Theta Tau chapter argues that “context” is important when evaluating the video, but they still insist that in no way are they trying to excuse this mess.
Clearly, the brothers never intended for this video to see the light of day, but when one records anything, one had best be prepared for it to be made public. There’s been no further word on whether this apology letter will result in Tau Theta Tau’s suspension being lifted, but according to the university’s status page for fraternities, it hasn’t happened yet.