A University of Mississippi fraternity chapter was suspended Friday and three freshman members kicked out because of their suspected involvement in hanging a noose on a statue of James Meredith, the first black student to enroll in the then all-white college.
Sigma Phi Epsilon said it indefinitely suspended the Alpha Chapter, which voted to expel all three men and give their names to investigators. Last Sunday, cops found a noose tied around the Meredith statue’s neck, along with an old Georgia flag bearing a since-eliminated Confederate battle emblem.
“It is embarrassing that these men had previously identified with our fraternity,” said Brian C. Warren Jr., CEO of Sigma Phi Epsilon. “SigEp as a national fraternity has championed racial equality and issues on diversity since 1959 when it became the first national fraternity to invite members of all races, creeds and religions to join its membership.”
Warren said the fraternity will conduct a review to ensure that members’ values align with those espoused by the organization. “We won’t allow the actions of a few men to undermine the more than five decades of leadership this fraternity has demonstrated in the fight for racial equality and diversity on our college campuses,” he said.
The university wants to question the white students in connection with the vandalism of the statue, but attorneys for the three students aren’t allowing them to be questioned without arrest warrants. The university said their police department has enough evidence to bring charges against two of the three teens through a student-faculty judicial panel, which could choose sanctions including dismissal and barring the students from campus.
University spokesman Danny Blanton said Friday the school’s findings have been turned over to the district attorney’s office. Blanton said the university will also proceed with internal disciplinary action through a judicial panel that consists of both faculty and students.
Ole Miss will move forward “as soon as possible” with discipline through the university’s student judicial process. That panel, which consists of both faculty and students, could choose sanctions including dismissal and barring the three from campus, Blanton said.
The fact that the students won’t talk to administrators is disappointing, he added.
“We certainly wish they would be forthright and discuss this matter so that we can get to the bottom of it. We want to hear their side. We want to know not just what happened, but why they did it. We want to open a dialogue,” he said.