9 Investigates: Emails To David Boren Related To OU Fraternity Incident
NORMAN, Oklahoma - It was one month ago that a racist song, chanted on a bus by members of an OU fraternity, first surfaced. It quickly went viral and swept the University and its SAE chapter into the national spotlight.
It's well documented how the incident brought a swift and decisive response from OU President David Boren. Mr. Boren immediately shut down the SAE house and, within days, expelled the two students seen most prominently in the videos showing the chant. Other students on the bus were also punished.
More recently, President Boren announced the creation of a new position, Vice President for University Community, intended to monitor and ensure campus diversity. Former State Senator Jabar Shumate, an OU alumnus, has been hired for the job,
Now, an open records request is revealing more about the public's response to the video and to Boren's actions. 9 Investigates requested all emails related to the SAE incident to and from President Boren, from March 8 through March 11.
The request produced a disc containing 278 pages of email.
The majority of the emails sent to Boren were positive in tone, and often congratulatory. One from OU alumnus Tom Thompson included this line: "Your actions will be used as a model to follow for entities in similar situations."
Professor Randy Hewes, on behalf of the OU Faculty Senate, wrote, "We thank you for your excellent leadership regarding these matters..."
A guy named Michael, referring to himself as a 'random dude', said "you did the right thing..."
There were emails from elected officials, like Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett ("Your actions were swift, justified, and appreciated."), and from business leaders like oilman Melvin Moran ("David, I commend you for your decisive action. You, once again, make us proud.").
In those few days, Boren heard from former college classmates, fellow Rhodes Scholars, as well as, from seemingly random students and parents across the country. Robert Terry, who lives in Atlanta, said he was so impressed with Boren's "progressive" actions ("in a state that's not known for being progressive") that, "I will find time to watch some OU football games this fall. I am a new fan."
Other emails, however, were quite critical. The parent of one SAE member, who was allegedly not on the bus where the chant was recorded, wrote, "To be blunt, you placed my son (and others) in danger. You have failed the innocent, who've been overshadowed by the guilty."
Boren also heard from the national SAE president, Brad Cohen, who praised Boren, in general, but felt the former U.S. Senator and governor went too far in banning the fraternity for good. "To say SAE will never be back on your campus implied the entire organization is racist. Yet you say Sooners are not. These SAEs were also Sooners..."
There were also numerous emails from people offering their services in diversity training. Perhaps those emails helped reinforce Boren's decision to create the new Vice President for Diversity post.