OKLAHOMA CITY – The actions of some fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma caught engaging in a racist chant are inexcusable, but student members still have rights that must be protected amid concerns for their safety, a lawyer said Friday.
Stephen Jones, who was retained by the fraternity's local chapter, said members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and their parents are concerned about the students' safety after some received death threats and were physically and verbally assaulted.
Jones, who gained national prominence as the attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, said he has not been retained to initiate any litigation, but to ensure that the due process rights of members are protected from actions by the university and national chapter. He said there also are some legal questions about the fraternity house that university President David Boren ordered closed after the release of the video, which showed some members engaging in a racist chant that referenced lynching and said African-Americans would never be allowed to become members.
He said the bus on which the students were caught making the chant was one of five charter buses that were taking members to a Founder's Day party at a country club in Oklahoma City on Saturday.
"We're talking about one incident with nine seconds of video, on one of five buses," Jones said.
Jones said he does not represent two fraternity members who Boren ordered expelled on Tuesday for creating a hostile learning environment after they were identified as leading the chant, but Jones said both young men withdrew from the university on Monday before they were expelled. A spokeswoman for OU would not confirm that, citing student privacy laws.
A spokesman for the fraternity's national headquarters said Friday that officials with the Oklahoma chapter have stopped communicating with them.
Associated Press writer Teresa Crawford in Chicago contributed to this report.