March 10, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY – Following this weekend’s news of members of the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity chanting about lynching African Americans, the investigative and disciplinary actions in progress, and breaking news of the expulsion of at least two students involved in this incident the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has released the following statements:

The following is attributable to Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director:

While the facts continue to unfold regarding the recent expulsions and continued investigations, we are closely monitoring the situation and urge the University to keep its attention focused on the larger issues of racism on the University of Oklahoma campus.

Universities are one of the primary battlegrounds for learning about free speech and understanding how to combat bigotry. The best antidote to hateful speech is the exercise of peaceful speech in return. We have seen remarkable examples of students, faculty, administrators, and Oklahomans from all over the state join together in rallies, prayer vigils, and online forums to express their disgust at the racist chant and to call for a meaningful conversation about race and prejudice in all areas of campus life. We applaud their many voices and encourage them to continue the necessary and promising conversation about fighting prejudice and racism.

The following is attributable to Brady Henderson, ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director:

It is critical that any disciplinary actions by the University of Oklahoma are not viewed as magic bullets to cure the deeply embedded problems of racism and bigotry that this scandal has brought to light. Punishment alone does not change the hearts and minds of those we punish, or others like them. This is a teaching moment that requires a consistent commitment to honest and open dialogue that does not stop at simply punishing those who spew hate and prejudice on video, but rather, combats the core of that hate and prejudice. The University of Oklahoma has an opportunity to engage in just such a dialogue, and we need to ensure that we don’t miss that opportunity in the rush to punish racist speech.

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