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SAE Fraternity Deadly Hazing of Haitian-American George Desdunes Resurfaced After Racist Chant Video Released

If you were online this weekend, by now you’ve seen or heard of the nine-second racist video uploaded by an anonymous user on YouTube, which shows a group of party-bound Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon Frat members in formal attire, clapping and chanting  while they sing racist lyrics to the tune of “If You’re Happy And You Know It,”

“There will never be a ni**** in SAE.
There will never be a ni**** in SAE.
You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me
There will never be a ni**** in SAE.”

Warning: This video contains offensive language.  

On Sunday the organization validated the video and released a statement on Twitter apologizing for the chapter’s actions.

“We apologize for the unacceptable and racist behavior of the individuals in the video, and we are disgusted that any member would act in such a way. Furthermore, we are embarrassed by this video and offer our empathy not only to anyone outside of the organization who is offended but also to our brothers who come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities,” the statement read.

Sunday afternoon, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national headquarters closed its chapter at the University of Oklahoma and suspended the members from the school.  Read more about it here and here and here.

But this is not the first time this Fraternity has been in trouble or had one of their chapters close down. In 2011 a Cornell University Frat House was sued by Marie Lourdes Andre, for $25 Million over house hazing death of her 19-year-old Haitian-American sophomore son George Desdunes after members from the frat allegedly kidnapped, blindfolded, bound his hands and feet, and forced him to drink so much alcohol that he passed out and died.

According to ABC News,

The heartbroken mother of a Cornell University sophomore is suing a fraternity for $25 million after members allegedly kidnapped her son, blindfolded him, bound his hands and feet, and forced him to drink so much alcohol that he passed out and died.

George Desdunes, the son of a Haitian immigrant, was pronounced dead on Feb. 25 from alcohol poisoning at Cayuga Medical Center. Desdunes’ blood alcohol level was .409 – more than five times the legal limit, according to the family’s lawsuit.

Desdunes’ mother, Marie Lourdes Andre, is suing Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity for $25 million in the wrongful death of her only son.

The aspiring doctor was captured by freshmen “pledges” of the fraternity who allegedly devised a horrific set of tasks and punishments for Desdunes and one other frat member.

“I call it inmates running the institution,” said Andre’s lawyer, William Friedlander, referring to the SAE hazing. “This is a terrible tragic case. He was a really great kid.”

Desdunes, 19, a member of the SAE fraternity, was grabbed by the freshmen pledges who tied him up with zip ties and duct tape.

The pledges are alleged to have asked him trivia questions about the fraternity. If he answered incorrectly he reportedly had to do exercises such as sit-ups, or consume various foods and drinks including sugar, flavored syrups and vodka.

Desdunes reportedly passed out, but instead of being brought to a hospital he was allegedly taken to the fraternity house while still bound, and left on a couch in the library.

A housekeeper discovered Desdunes and called 911, and Desdunes was later pronounced dead at Cayuga Medical Center.

Another SAE member, Gregory Wyler, had been kidnapped the same night, and Desdunes’ roommate had locked their bedroom door to avoid his own kidnapping.

Andre said in her lawsuit that her son hoped to be a doctor, and was a former altar boy who played varsity soccer and the trumpet.

She said in a statement, “With the death of my son, I find some comfort in knowing that this lawsuit may bring about changes in fraternities that will prevent other families from suffering as I have.”

In the past year Friedlander and his co-counsel have prosecuted more than 15 hazing cases and most of them, he said, involved deaths from drinking.

Friedlander said at least five other deaths have occurred at SAE chapters since 1997.

SAE has more than 240 chapters and nearly 300,000 initiates.

The fraternity released a statement in response to the lawsuit, referencing SAE’s “zero-tolerance policy” for members who don’t comply with regulations: “Members are expected to adhere to our fraternity policies and to uphold behavior consistent with our creed, ‘The True Gentleman.'”

SAE also made note that it sponsors an anonymous hazing hotline at 1-888-NOT-HAZE FREE.

“There’s absolutely nothing this organization endorses or publishes that would be an endorsement for hazing,” Sigma Alpha Epsilon spokesman Brandon Weghorst told ABCNews.com. “Our leadership won’t hesitate to take action against individuals who do not follow our regulations or who breech our risk management.”

In response to Desdunes’ death, Cornell withdrew recognition of SAE for the next five years which means the fraternity will not operate on Cornell’s campus during that time.

In a statement Cornell University spokesman Tommy Bruce said the school would be following the litigation closely, and “Cornell University neither condones nor tolerates hazing or the type of activities that we understand contributed to George’s death.”

The Cornell Fraternity pledges  Max Haskin, Ben Mann, Edward Williams were later acquitted of the hazing charges in connection to death of George Desdunes,

After a four-day bench trial, according to WJAC-TV, a judge cleared Max abc_cornell_hazing_nt_110628_wmainHaskin, Ben Mann and Edward Williams of charges accusing them of participating in the hazing ritual that allegedly led to Desdunes’ death by alcohol poisoning. The former studentswere charged with misdemeanor hazing, which could have resulted in imprisonment of up to a year.

“They did not haze George Desdunes or cause his death,” said Raymond Schlather, the former Cornell students’ attorney, to the Ithaca Journal. “The family of George Desdunes has lost a son, and these young pledges were unnecessarily scapegoated, and their lives have been irreparably damaged.” – Continue Reading Here

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  • This kind of thing happens in black frats too and it’s just as tragic. It all comes back to black people imitating white people to validate their own humanity. Why would a black person want to join a white fraternity? Why do black fraternities and sororities humiliate and inflict physical and emotional torture on pledges in order to gain admittance? Have some pride about yourselves and stop trying to do what white people do. They are barbarians.

  • Victoria Carter, Briana Latrice Gather, Joseph T Green, Kristin High, Kanitha Saarir, Donnie Wade, Gregory Batipps, Leslie Ware, Michael Davis…is that enough research for you? We gonna act like black orgs use those paddles for decoration? Child please, you musta thought I wasn’t black.

    • no it’s obvious that you are a black chick because you are angry for no reason. you fit the stereo type.

      by the way, i’m a black man

  • everyone wants to have frieds. this is a heartfelt story because blacks don’t have this type of attitude towards whites….. the teen just wanted to have friends man for christ’s sake

  • This is a very sad fact. But quite honestly, I am not sure why the fact that he is Haitian matter more than he was a victim to senseless hazing? Whether he was black, white or yellow it is senseless. My prayers for his family.

    • The fact of him being Haitian matters because not only was it senseless hazing but it was senseless racist hazing. The chant at the beginning says it all “There will never be a “ni***”in SAE” and by that alone we can assume what their definition of the word is,and now they made sure there isn’t one. This article isn’t just about the hazing happening in college Frats, it is about the fact that this Chapter (and I hope it truly is only this chapter) of this Frat has in issue with other races and cultures and feel as though they hold the right to penalize for such issues.

    • It mattered for all the reasons you said but since this is a Haitian american focused blog site the title is listed whenever we are speaking of any one of Haitian decent.

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