NORMAN, Okla., March 13 (UPI) -- The fraternity at the University of Oklahoma that was forced to shut down this week over allegations of racism stemming from a controversial video may file a lawsuit against the school.
Members and alumni of the university's Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter have hired attorney Stephen Jones, KFOR-TV reported Friday, in what may be the opening salvo to legal action against the school -- and possibly even President David Boren.
Jones' hiring followed a week of criticism and scrutiny of the fraternity, which drew global outrage for a web video that shows two members leading a busload of people in a racist chant -- sung to the tune of, "If You're Happy and You Know It."
Both students were expelled from the university and subsequently apologized, and the group suspended its chapter on the Norman campus. Boren also announced that the school had severed all ties with the fraternity.
However, while many current and former members of the fraternity say they agree with the students' expulsion and the chapter's suspension, they say they are upset that fraternity members are stereotypically being branded as racists and further exploited by the university.
Jones said there was "no justification for what occurred. Zero."
KFOR-TV reported that Jones' hiring was the direct result of an emergency meeting among SAE leaders. However, plans to file a lawsuit have not been confirmed.
Jones, a high-profile attorney who represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, has said the students filmed in the video clearly used poor judgment for participating or accepting the discriminatory chant. But, he said, that does not mean all SAE members should be condemned as racists.
News of the video this week set off global outrage, leading some of the Oklahoma chapter's members to receive death threats, Jones said.
There are presently no plans to sue the university, Jones said, but he and the fraternity's leaders are considering all legal options. Jones noted that he is not representing the two students who were expelled.
SAE leaders have said they are investigating the matter to see if further action against the students is warranted. The fraternity is also looking into reports of similar behavior occurring at other chapters.
"Several other incidents with chapters or members have been brought to the attention of the headquarters," the national office said. "Each of those instances will be investigated."
Among the other reports is an incident involving SAE members at the University of Washington in Seattle, CNN reported. The fraternity there is under fire for allegations that members shouted racial slurs during a racism awareness rally last month. SAE, however, said an investigation determined that those who shouted the epithets were not members of the fraternity. The university is now looking into the incident.
About five years ago, SAE was among 10 fraternities suspended for a week at the University of Memphis for engaging in inappropriate behavior, the school said at the time.