Four more Theta Tau members sue Syracuse University over controversial videos

Theta Tau (CNYCentral file photo)

Four more members of the Theta Thau fraternity at Syracuse University who appear in a controversial video that led to the fraternity's expulsion have joined a lawsuit against the university, bringing the total number of students suing the school to nine.

According to court documents obtained by CNYCentral, the students in the suit have all been suspended in connection to the videos that surfaced this spring that Chancellor Kent Syverud has called “extremely racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and hostile to people with disabilities." The lawsuit names Syracuse University, Chancellor Kent Syverud, Assistant Dean of Student Rights and Affairs Pamela Peter, Dean of Students Robert Hradsky, and College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg as defendants.

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Syverud announced the expulsion of the Syracuse chapter of Theta Tau in a video sent to students, faculty, and staff on April 21. The expulsion came just days after The Daily Orange, an independent student-run newspaper, published the first of two controversial videos involving the fraternity, which Syverud described as "disturbing." Syverud said the university suspended the fraternity within two hours of receiving and authenticating the first video.

A second video was published a few days later by The Daily Orange, which Svyerud responded to by saying, "I believe the second video depicts egregious behavior, including sexual assault, violence and discriminatory mockery and hostility toward people with disabilities that is unacceptable and deeply harmful in many ways. I ask all of us who care about our community and its values to reaffirm them by emphatically rejecting all this video represents. There is absolutely no place at Syracuse University for tolerance of this behavior."

Five students sued the university back in April.

The nine students claim SU rushed to label them as "criminals" in an attempt to "malign them personally" to salvage its reputation, according to court documents. They also claim they “have suffered economic damages, past and future mental anguish and distress, irreparable damage to their reputation, and humiliation.”

They say the actions captured in the videos, which Syverud has described as "racist, anti-semitic, homophobic, ableist and sexist," were a satirical "roast."

"The Roast is a time-honored Chapter tradition that builds unity by satirically and hyperbolically depicting brothers," the complaint reads. It adds that the plaintiffs, along with other chapter members, were performing "skits" for the roast, which were then recorded and shared on a private Facebook page. The complaint says the video was intended to be for private use only before "two unauthorized, decontextualized clips of the Roast" were captured and shared by an unknown party.

They are each seeking $1 million in damages, court documents show. The students are residents of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, New Hampshire, California and Central America, and were all scheduled to graduate in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

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