A board representing Oklahoma University’s disbanded Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter retained high-profile lawyer Stephen Jones “to assist them in evaluating” legal matters, Jones said at a Friday afternoon press conference.
The SAE chapter was closed and kicked off campus this week after a student group published a video depicting some of the frat’s members participating in a racist chant. Two of its members were also expelled for what university president David Boren called their “leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant.” Boren condemned the actions of the fraternity brothers in a lengthy Monday press conference.
Although the fraternity seeks “to have some other resolution to this matter,” Jones said, the lawyer said he is “not ruling out a lawsuit.” Jones did not elaborate, but he said he was hired by the SAE board “to protect the due process rights, the first amendment rights, and the 14th Amendment rights” of the fraternity’s members.
“Above all else, the board of the local chapter that I represent is concerned about the physical safety” of its members, Jones said. Some of them, Jones added, “have frankly been afraid to go to class.”
Jones, who served as Timothy McVeigh’s lead defense attorney during the Oklahoma City Bombing trial, said he believes the university’s response to the video was a “premature rush to judgement,” and one that implicitly painted all members of the fraternity “with a tar brush” as bigots or racists. Jones thought the university should have taken a more “measured” response.
“There are a number of issues here that we have to review,” Jones added, “I’m new to the case.” The alumni board hired Jones to advise them on Thursday.
The university responded severely to the racist video after it emerged online last weekend. Once the school closed the fraternity, SAE students had two days to remove their belongings from the now-closed SAE house on campus this week. “We don’t provide student services for bigots,” Boren declared.
Two expelled students from the fraternity later apologized. The national SAE organization said on Tuesday that it had initiated proceedings to expel all suspended members of the closed SAE chapter from the fraternity.
SAE, one of the country’s largest frats, also disputed the expelled students’ statements, in which the students indicated that they were taught the chant by other fraternity members.
Earlier on Friday, Jones told KTUL that the fraternity could eventually consider legal action against Boren himself.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Abby Ohlheiser