Su suspends theta tau fraternity after video of ‘extremely racist’ behavior surfaces

The Syracuse University chapter of Theta Tau was suspended Wednesday morning after the university confirmed it was involved in the creation of online videos showing fraternity members engaging in behaviors that were “extremely racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and hostile to people with disabilities,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a campus-wide email.

The videos were posted in a secret Facebook group called “Tau of Theta Tau” by a user named David Yankowy III, the recordings show. Yankowy was listed as a member of Theta Tau on the SU fraternity chapter’s website before the site was made inaccessible Wednesday afternoon. Yankowy, who is listed in SU’s directory as a senior in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.


Theta Tau is a professional engineering fraternity at 1105 Harrison St. The fraternity’s national office did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Alexander Fox, who was listed on the SU chapter’s website as the fraternity’s regent, also did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Fox was listed as an administrator or moderator in the secret Facebook group.

A protest erupted on campus Wednesday evening as students demanded that the university release the videos. Protesters gathered outside Syverud’s house, which is across the street from Theta Tau. Some students on Twitter started posting the hashtag “#WheresTheVideoSU.”

Tayla Myree, a sophomore studying political science and history, spoke and chanted in a megaphone as she held up a sign that read, “Apathy is complicity.” She said most of the students protesting were people of color, despite SU having a predominantly white population.

Zach Hammond, a senior mechanical engineering major who was listed as a member of Theta Tau on the fraternity’s website, said “there were certainly some things I disapproved of, but I certainly didn’t realize that bad of things were being said. It’s just disgusting.”

“The thing I have been asked most frequently is, ‘I’d like to see them myself.’ I don’t particularly want to be the person who disseminates those videos for complicated reasons, but I’m sure that will happen,” Syverud said. “I want to say that I am shaken and deeply disturbed by what is on them, as I would hope anyone in the community would be.”

“The one thing I want to say … is that there are faculty members that have you guys’ backs in ways that you all have no clue,” said Biko Gray, an assistant professor of religion. “So, I just really want to tell you if you all want me to be (in) a strategizing session, let a n*gga know.”

Charity Luster, vice president of SU’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, said she hopes the suspension of Theta Tau does not just spark a conversation about videos, but sparks a conversation about how people of color and underrepresented people are treated at SU.

In response to Theta Tau’s suspension, Hendricks Chapel Dean Brian Konkol held an event at 2:30 p.m. in Hendricks for “thoughtful, constructive dialogue about our campus community,” acknowledging the “troubling and disturbing conduct that has come to light,” he added in an email.

DPS has assembled detectives from its investigative team and is in the process of interviewing students who are believed to be involved in the videos, Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado said during the afternoon event at Hendricks.

Theta Tau is the fourth fraternity suspended from SU during the 2017-18 academic year. SU announced the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity’s suspension last week after a months-long investigation into hazing. SU suspended Alpha Epsilon Pi in February for conduct that threatened the safety of a student participating in the new member process. The SU chapter of Delta Tau Delta was suspended in fall 2017 for conduct violations that included hazing.