Boren and Bullhorn Send Clear Message to Oklahoma SAE Chapter

University of Oklahoma president David Boren at a March 9 rally with university students.

David Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma, didn't waste much time deferring to professional spokespeople when a video of members of the school's Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter singing a racist pep song leaked on Sunday, March 8. In the video, university students riding on a bus use a racial slur as they sing that African-Americans will never be allowed in SAE.

Speaking through a bullhorn at an early-morning student rally on March 9, Boren, a former U.S. senator and governor of Oklahoma, said, "I have a message for those who have misused their free speech in this way. My message to them is you are disgraceful...Effective immediately, all ties between the university and the SAE chapter on the University of Oklahoma campus are severed. The house will be closed."

Later that day, at a press conference, Boren said, "These people...don't deserve to be called Sooners. They're misusing our name. Sooners are not racists and bigots. Sooners are people that believe in respecting each other and helping each other and caring for each other."

The New York Times reported that in an interview the same day, Boren said that the university is looking into taking action "against the students individually, the ringleaders especially."

Boren used his own Twitter handle as well, starting on March 8.

Putting aside questions of previous similar behavior on the University of Oklahoma campus, in this case the top leader of an organization proved himself up to the task of being the face and voice in a crisis response across all channels. This is just the beginning of a response that will likely occupy the rest of Boren's tenure as university president.

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