April 6, 2015
In response to news of the racist chant by the Oklahoma University fraternity chapter, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a mass email was sent out to UCCS clubs and organizations on March 13.
The email, written by Homer Wesley, vice chancellor for Student Success and Enrollment Management, acted as a reiteration of UCCS’ anti-discrimination policies.
“Basically what the message said was that this incident involving this fraternity was a racist, hurtful song and it was beyond horrible … and completely something that is not acceptable,” said Brad Bayer, executive director of Student Life and Leadership.
“What we’ve been talking to some of these groups about is that, you know, are we a campus where we’re willing to step up and voice objection to racist, homophobic, sexist and otherwise discriminatory actions,” said Bayer. “So our message is let’s continue to build that here.”
UCCS clubs and organizations are required to be open to all students, regardless of age, gender, sex, race, social status or other factors.
“The message is that student leaders play a critical role in the leadership and continue to provide an inclusive campus environment,” Bayer said.
He said that as far as he is aware, UCCS has not had a similar issue to the Oklahoma incident in the past.
“I’ve heard some positive feedback too from individuals that they feel safe here and included,” Bayer said.
Although the email went out to all clubs and organizations, Bayer said that there will be follow-up specifically with the presidents of campus Greek organizations.
“We’re not associated with [OU SAE’s] actions,” said Travis Tafoya, president of the UCCS chapter of SAE. “We stand against that; we’re making moves to make sure our chapter is not like that and will never be like that.”
“The OU president said that it was taught, and that is definitely not true,” he said.
The UCCS SAE social fraternity has been on campus for five years and has 38 active members that perform community service, co-sponsor events with the Office of Student Activities and participate in many other events on campus.
Members must have a 2.5 GPA and be involved in another organization on campus. According to Tafoya, about 25 percent of SAE members work on campus.
“Our main goal is having a social place of brotherhood for college men and also having a place where people are able to grow and better themselves during their college career,” he said.
Tafoya said that the only relation the chapter has to the OU SAE is their name.
“After all this happened, our chapter kind of came together and … we kind of got proud of ourselves because we’re not like that. Our chapter is extremely diverse,” he said.
“We have not heard, seen or have been a part of anything related to that incident or related to any incident regarding racial issues or misconduct like that.”
Following the incident, UCCS SAE’s regional director spoke to the fraternity about how to move forward.
Tafoya is working with MOSAIC and the Office of Discrimination and Harassment to set up trainings for members of SAE and have a Greek-wide event for them to speak to the Greek organizations on campus to ensure that a similar incident will not occur at UCCS.
Additionally, the national organization of SAE has mandated that all members complete online training between now and April 30.
Tafoya said the UCCS SAE has never had to deal with this sort of issue before.
“It kind of put us in an awkward position that you know, it’s 2015, we’re in Colorado, we’ve never seen racial issues and now we’re having to address this to our chapter,” he said.
“I think that it’s an ongoing opportunity for us to define who we are and this is a campus that respects all and gives equal voice to all,” Bayer said.