Recent racist behavior by a University of Oklahoma fraternity has drawn comment from frat-boy idol Will Ferrell, but his comments to the New York Times aren’t what Greek system defenders may have been hoping for. Ferrell, a brother of Delta Tau Delta, called the incident a “real argument for getting rid of the system altogether.”
The video of members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at University of Oklahoma was revealed by OU Unheard, a student group pledging to expose racism in the United States. It was reportedly shot on March 7, and since then the university’s SAE chapter has been closed and two students have been expelled. SAE members elsewhere have since admitted that the chant has been present at a number of other chapters, Huffington Post reports.
At the SXSW Film Festival for the premiere of his film Get Hard with Kevin Hart (which coincidentally has been called racist and homophobic by critics), Ferrell responded to a New York Times Q&A at South by Southwest in Austin on March 17. Here’s the full exchange:
Q: Will, we are fraternity brothers of Delta Tau Delta, albeit different chapters and years. The recent awful situation with SAE has brought out the "frat haters" in droves. Could you comment on your own fraternity experience and why (or why not) fraternity membership is still a worthy consideration for a college student? —Stephen Browning, Seattle
A: The incident in Oklahoma, that is a real argument for getting rid of the system altogether, in my opinion, even having been through a fraternity. Because when you break it down, it really is about creating cliques and clubs and being exclusionary. Fraternities were started as academic societies that were supposed to have a philanthropic arm to them. And when it's governed by those kind of rules, then they're still beneficial. But you gotta be careful. I was lucky in that the one I was in, we were really kind of the anti-fraternity fraternity. We were considered good enough to get the exchanges with the good sororities. We couldn't get anyone to vote on anything, but if you needed 40 guys to show up and build a 20-foot-tall papier-mâché version of the Matterhorn, we were there and ready. But we didn't take it too seriously. It was just about having fun. But I think it's an interesting dilemma for universities these days.
The controversy comes at a bad time for fraternities, which are already under fire for fostering an environment of racism, misogyny, and entitlement. Further criticism (and even suggestion of elimination) by a figurehead of the system itself is yet another blow, aligning with increasing accusations of rape, hazing, and alcohol-related deaths.
Ferrell was a member of Delta Tau Delta as an undergraduate at University of Southern California.