OU hires ex-federal judge amid fraternity racism probe

Sean Murphy
Associated Press

Oklahoma City — The University of Oklahoma announced Monday the hiring of a prominent Oklahoma attorney and former U.S. district judge to assist school officials with an investigation into a racist chant by some fraternity members.

Oklahoma City attorney Michael Burrage said in a statement released by OU that he will advise the university on a “range of legal matters.” Burrage says he’s been fully briefed on the university’s investigation, which is focused on potential violations of the school’s Student Code.

OU President David Boren severed ties with the local chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and ordered two members expelled after video surfaced last week of fraternity members engaging in a chant that referenced lynching and used racial slurs to describe how African-Americans would never be allowed as members.

“President Boren has made clear that this will be a fair and thorough investigative process,” Burrage said. “The investigation by Student Affairs is focused on possible violations of the OU Student Code and proceeding under the OU Student Code. Students on the bus and those students who may have knowledge of the origins of the chant will be asked for information.”

OU’s Student Rights and Responsibilities Code prohibits conduct if it creates an environment “that a reasonable person would find intimidating, harassing or humiliating.”

Burrage served as a U.S. district judge in all three federal districts in the state, including as chief judge for the Eastern District in Muskogee from 1996 to 2001. He is the co-founder and managing partner of Whitten Burrage law firm.

Alumni members of the SAE chapter at OU last week hired high-profile Enid attorney Stephen Jones, who gained national prominence as the attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Jones said last week he has not been retained to initiate any litigation, but to ensure that the due process rights of the fraternity’s student members are protected from actions by the university and the fraternity’s national chapter.