Conversation of the Week LXXX: A National Fraternity Closes Chapter at the University of Mississippi After Noose Incident

April 21, 2014
Written by Jeff Amy in
National Collegiate Dialogue
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Sigma Phi Epsilon closed its chapter at Ole Miss after three of its members were accused of racist behavior.
Sigma Phi Epsilon closed its chapter at Ole Miss after three of its members were accused of racist behavior. Photo Credit:

A national fraternity group has closed its University of Mississippi chapter after three members were accused of tying a noose around the neck of a statue of the first black student to enroll in the Southern college that was all-white at the time.

The university announced Thursday that the national office of Sigma Phi Epsilon, based in Richmond, Va., had closed its Ole Miss chapter.

Besides the noose, someone draped a pre-2003 Georgia state flag with a Confederate battle emblem in its design on the face of the James Meredith statue in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 16. Meredith's enrollment in 1962 set off a violent attack by anti-integration protesters on federal authorities, leaving two people dead and scores injured.

The names of the three students from Georgia haven't been released. They were kicked out of the chapter, which itself had been suspended pending the review.

Ole Miss spokesman Tom Eppes said university disciplinary proceedings against the three students are ongoing. He also said the FBI is still investigating.

The Lafayette County district attorney has said state charges won't be brought because no state laws were broken. Mississippi's hate crime law requires an underlying crime for those additional charges. Because the statute itself wasn't marred or broken, prosecutors say typical vandalism charges don't apply.

After the noose was found, the university asked the national headquarters to review the 130-member chapter, which had been on campus since 1987.

"The closure is not a result of what happened with the Meredith statue, but the Meredith statue precipitated the intensive review of how they conduct business," Blanton said.

Ole Miss and fraternity officials said they found a pattern of underage drinking and hazing which broke both university and Sigma Phi Epsilon rules. University officials said the national office had previously intervened in 2010 to fix similar problems.

Besides the noose, someone draped a pre-2003 Georgia state flag with a Confederate battle emblem in its design on the face of the James Meredith statue in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 16. Meredith's enrollment in 1962 set off a violent attack by anti-integration protesters.

"We are disappointed that a pattern of bad behavior and serious, inexcusable hazing occurred within the chapter," Dean of Students Sparky Reardon said in a statement. "Periodic reports from and meetings with local alumni and national headquarters led us to believe that the chapter was improving."

Sigma Phi Epsilon CEO Brian Warren said the group had "no choice" but to close the unit.

"Though it's always painful to close a chapter, these students' actions clearly illustrate a determination to perpetuate an experience based on risky and unconstructive behavior," he said in a statement.

Blanton said students currently living in the Sigma Phi Epsilon house on campus would be allowed to stay and eat meals there through the end of the semester, but would not be allowed to have any social activities. After that, he said the university, which owns the land under the house, and the fraternity would discuss uses for the structure.

Sigma Phi officials said they would discuss a return to campus with the university. It's not clear how long that might take. Blanton said that several years ago, the university did not reinstate the closed chapter of another fraternity until all the members at the time of the closure had graduated.

Administrators have fought against the university's Old South image, banning Confederate battle flags from football games in 2003 and ditching its Colonel Reb mascot for a black bear in 2010. But those efforts have been undermined by unflattering incidents, such as an election night disturbance in November 2012 when some students used racial slurs and profanity to protest President Barack Obama's re-election, or an October 2013 performance of "The Laramie Project" where football players and other students used gay slurs to heckle the play about the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepherd, who was gay.

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

National Collegiate Dialogue


Entrenched Racial Patterns

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-35 on

Goodbye and good riddance to the national fraternity group that closed its doors recently, per the "noose" incident. I'm wondering why their faces and names are not on the front page of every newspaper in the country, that would be the proper first response after guilt has been established, not protection by the university. I'm a little confused by the district attorney's response. How could this event not fit into hate crime classifications of the state? I don't get it. No state laws were broken? Unfortunately, in my opinion, the actions of the three fools were not only the actions of three "crazies," but a reflection of the culture of racism that persists in many, if not all, institutions, and education is no exception.

Thanks Very Much


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-12 on

I share your disappointment regarding the lack of prosecuting this action as a hate crime and the protection of the guilty parties. However, I would avoid such language as "crazies" for two reasons: 1) it is ableist language and discriminates against people with mental disabilities, and 2) it hides the reality that these three individuals were most likely average college students, who are completely sane, and whose actions are in line with much of the rhetoric of their local peer group. They certainly took it to the next level by their actions, but they were simply traveling down the same road that many others do verbally.

The sad part, in my opinion, is that it took an action of this nature for the organization to launch a real investigation into the chapter's behaviors. This is a product of capitalism, and the racism entrenched in the US's brand of it. As long as profits are being made, social justice takes a backseat.

Thank You

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-35 on

As I often do, I spoke too quickly and let my emotions about the topic get the best of me. You could not be more correct in your assertion of the topic, and your critique of my response. Thank you for the learning experience, you have changed my mind and brought a very important point about language that we use to the forefront - it matters and I was wrong!


I understand your views but

Submitted by PARKS2014-29 on

I understand your views but are you not discriminating in the same way that was happening on campus? I agree that the fraternity should be shut down and the students reprimanded but until officials find out whether hazing was happening, I think everything should remain as it is. Rape crimes happen every day on college campuses but rapists' names and pictures are not typically in national newspapers. Hate crimes happen often as well and this one involved no violence so it should be considered a minor one.

I think it is not bad that

Submitted by PARKS2014-32 on

I think it is not bad that the names how not been released. Otherwise, they would have been on everyone's lips and this wouldn't have made it any better. It would have only increased the hate people have against the perpetrators of the noose crime. Thus, we would have faced them with the hate they faced the African-American society by hanging a noose around Meredith's neck.

I completely agree with you.

Submitted by PARKS2014-29 on

I completely agree with you. It is worse to fight hate with hate. We should leave the names of the fraternity members unreleased so that the trend of hate can end peacefully rather than with more hate.

It is okay of all of u guys

Submitted by PARKS2014-17 on

It is okay of all of u guys have said, but I don't thin if it is fighting tooth by tooth or an eye by an eye. I don't think if it is that case but I think what should be better is to take some measure for those who associated on that noose, because we have to remember that there are people who died there, The fact of not taking any measure and end it normally people wont get the lesson and the same thing can happen later on.

It is okay for what you have

Submitted by PARKS2014-17 on

It is okay for what you have said but we have to remember that this is not a revenge or something like that. What is needed to be done is some serious measures should be taken for those who are responsible for that noose because if some measures wont be taken people wont take a lesson and the same thing can happen again.

Something is going on.

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-22 on

I feel like they did not release names because there is something going on within the school systems in a sense of hierarchy. They probably have connections or rich parents keeping them from the news. This story is like some of the shows you see on TV where their parent is part of the alumni and is a very powerful person paying for their child to keep them from getting in trouble. It is crazy! I hope those three fools get punished because they do not even realize that this is a hate crime and they are color blind to see this.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-04 on

I agree with you completely. This kind of behavior has been allowed to go on for far too long in our country, and it is about time that people stood up and advocated a change. I am also glad that they closed the chapter on campus, because honestly I would not have expected them to do that, and I believe it will help in sending a message that this kind of behavior cannot go on. I am on the fence, however, about releasing the names of the students who did this. On one side, I see how doing so can help the cause as well, but on the other hand I support the thought of acknowledging that it happened, and moving on while taking steps to ensure that this does not happen again.

Noose incident

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-31 on

I am glad they finally closed. It should of been done when the first incident occurred, but I am guessing they were given a second chance. They stated they closed from reasons other than what occurred, I am assuming its from the backlash that occurred from people who were disgusted by their behavior.

I believe that the university

Submitted by PARKF2014-16 on

I believe that the university has been covering up these events for far too long. I also agree that the chapter should have been closed after the first incident. Being in a fraternity or a sorority does not make one invincible. I think some people forget that. People are correct to be disgusted by this behavior. I certainly am.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-07 on

It's unfortunate that such racial behavior is passed down from generation to generation, and even through peer pressure. That being said, I'm glad that they closed a chapter that took part in such activities, although I'm surprised that it took this long to investigate the chapter.

For real I am even suprised

Submitted by PARKS2014-17 on

For real I am even suprised about this, how comes these racial behaviors and racism is still passing through one generation to another? i think there is a bad seed planted from the adults to the youths. Because despite of that all of this could not keep on happen we could not even talk about racial matters now days. Also i don't know why they prolong the investigation of this chapter because the source of all the incidence has to be found and the people responsible for that, and the reason why they did that.

My initial response was

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-08 on

My initial response was hesitant that the way they decided to punish the action was to shut down the entire fraternity. It seemed to me that the actions of three people should not ruin the college experience of 100+ students. However, since they did extensive research on the group and found that this malicious behavior occurred across the board, the decision makes sense. I am disgusted by the actions that included the statue, and, having grown up in the south and moved to Colorado, I am disappointed that the reputation of the South continues to be perpetuated by stories such as this. Clearly, the history of this region of the United States has not yet ironed itself out. For now, punishments like those received by Sigma Phi are justified and encouraged in my eyes.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-31 on

I don't know if you also saw, but when this issue first became known, the fraternity had pictures online showing how they were dressed for the party. They also had a menu for the party which were foods that were considered racist such as fried chicken, and watermelon.

A Good Response

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-18 on

The actions that were taken are completely acceptable and I encourage it. On an individual level, we are encouraged (by Joe Feagin and others) to confront racism just as it happens. It only exacerbates racism when we sit passively or use double-speak. This is a scenario in which, on an institutional level, racism was directly confronted and abated. That is a major success for this nation.

I mus say the rules for hate

Submitted by PARKS2014-32 on

I mus say the rules for hate crimes seems to be pretty loose in Virginia because it is a clear sign of discrimination against African-American and it neglects their and America's history from segregation to segregation. What happened in February is, in my opinion, a hate crime and not just a minor one. Especially since it happened on a campus and since it has been present in the news, it is apparent that such an 'incident' can be described and understand as hate against a particular group as American citizens.

I agree with what the school

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-28 on

I agree with what the school did by shutting down the chapter because what the studnets did was completely wrong. The three kids that were involved in the incident should have been prosecuted by someone for they understand what they did was wrong. They have only got kicked out of the chapter, the school as not even disciplined them even though there are proceedings going on. Its seems as though it is taking a long time for them to do anything to the three students. It was not okay for the students to do any of these things and I would have no idea that would make them do it in the first place. It was right what the school did I just wish that there could have been more discipline to the three students who did these things.

I appreciate the steps the

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-25 on

I appreciate the steps the university took in fulfilling an equal future. Perhaps it is upsetting because of three peoples action, the whole chapter was shut down but I think this was rightful in proving a point. The student body needs to be aware that the university doesn't stand for racist behavior. With that being said, there should have been more actions taken toward the three people involved in a hate crime, rather then their fraternity. I understand they did it when related to this fraternity but it may not be fair to punish the fraternity instead of the boys involved. I do like that the university is setting a good example in proving that they won't stand for racism or a hate crime.

I agree

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-29 on

I also agree that it may not be fair to punish the whole fraternit but it could also be a bit difficult to determine who besides the 3 pledges should actually be punished. They did say that a chapter may be brought back at a later time after talks with the school so maybe things will go better.

I second that..

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-26 on

I agree, I think it was upsetting for the rest of the fraternity that did not participate in the hate crime. However it was something that must have been done to prove to the rest of the campus that racial hate crimes are not tolerated. Especially, when the school has worked so hard to define their campus as a diverse, integrated school. I also agree that more should have been done to the three that actually committed the crime. This was indeed a hate crime and not a joke. I find it interesting that their names have not been released as well. Why not?

I am so happy!

Submitted by PARKS2014-02 on

I am thrilled to read the follow-up to the story that was posted here earlier. It makes me feel really good that they actually did something to not just the students who committed this act but also the organization that made it possible for this attitude to grow and take on a behavior. On a side note, I am very confused about the name Sparky for a Dean of students and feel like it kind of reflects the lack of seriousness that the school seems to have. I am glad that they close this fraternity house and showed they could stand up and actually do something

I agree! I am also excited to

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-25 on

I agree! I am also excited to see that some action was taken after we read the story of it happening. I hope people take a lesson from this and it will perhaps teach the college students about equity and what actions will be taken to get there. I'm sad to see that this hate crime even happened in the first place but there is justice being served.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-29 on

I am so glad to see an update for this incident. I am glad that a message is being sent that this will not be tolerated. It is interesting to me that the officials have just now found evidence of the underage drinking and hazing. This chapter maybe should have been watched more closely since the school already had to intervine not more than 4 years ago.

I agree, I too had wondered

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-17 on

I agree, I too had wondered what had happened with this event. I am glad the school can have closer. I agree that is was smart of them to looking into fraternity and while they had a negative incident 4 years ago, and with a closer look for out that there was underage drinking but it wasn't the officials that found it and made that decision it was that of the fraternity. They basically did an internal audit and didn't like what they saw and decided it was best for all those involved just to close up shop. Glad they did that instead of just sweeping it under the rug as it appears the school has perviously done.

It is a good thing that the

Submitted by PARKF2014-16 on

It is a good thing that the school officials closed down the fraternity due to the underage drinking and hazing but that goes on in several fraternities and they are not shut down. I believe that the hate act alone was enough for the chapter to be closed. Also, I have a feeling that the officials might have "swept it under the rug" if the hateful act had not been so publicly known. Sounds like they had to take action in order to please those who had heard about the crime...And yes, I believe this was a crime. If placing a noose around a school statue is not vandalism to this university, then I would like to know what their definition of vandalism is. I also feel that the students from the fraternity should have had to publicly apologize. They need to be punished for what they did. Closing down the chapter is not enough.


Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-22 on

I am very happy to see that the chapter has closed down for what the three people have done, but I feel as if they have committed a hate crime. I also feel like that these people would have made headlines by now and it is a shame to see that the state is not taking actions for what they have done. I feel like this is a statement that should be investigated because it could cause further problematic happenings in the future. I just don't understand why their were no names or faces that were no illustrated because if it were a black person doing it, for a fact they would most certainly have made the front page of the news paper. There needs to be more facts and more evidence. In my opinion though, this is a hate crime not a joke!

One step closer

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-26 on

I think the solution to remove the fraternity from campus was the right choice, although it is unfair for the rest of the group that did not participate in these actions. A school that has fought so hard to be integrated and racially diverse, has quickly lost their stance with this stunt. I think these actions had a lot to do with their decision rather than the excuse of finding of 'bad behavior'. No matter their excuses this was a hate crime in every way, and not a joke or something to shrug off. I question why names or photos of the individuals committing this crime have not been released. I think there is a lot that officials are keeping under wraps that the public should know.

Good bye

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-17 on

I am glad someone stepped in and closed the fraternity. Regardless of the fact that the students probably acted alone, the fact that they looked into it anyways and did like what they were seeing and took it upon themselves to close it down shows they are taking responsibility for their organization. Most places would have just swept it under the rug but I am glad they didn't do that. We need to be stricter on what we allow, racial and gay slurs shouldn't never be allowed and it us up to everyone from stopping that from continuing.