JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A national fraternity group has closed its University of Mississippi chapter after three members were accused of tying a noose around the neck of a statue of the first black student to enroll in the Southern college that was all-white at the time.
The university announced Thursday that the national office of Sigma Phi Epsilon, based in Richmond, Va., had closed its Ole Miss chapter.
Besides the noose, someone draped a pre-2003 Georgia state flag with a Confederate battle emblem in its design on the face of the James Meredith statue in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 16. Meredith’s enrollment in 1962 set off a violent attack by anti-integration protesters on federal authorities, leaving two people dead and scores injured.
The names of the three students from Georgia haven’t been released. They were kicked out of the chapter, which itself had been suspended pending the review.
Ole Miss spokesman Tom Eppes said university disciplinary proceedings against the three students are ongoing. He also said the FBI is still investigating.
The Lafayette County district attorney has said state charges won’t be brought because no state laws were broken. Mississippi’s hate crime law requires an underlying crime for those additional charges. Because the statute itself wasn’t marred or broken, prosecutors say typical vandalism charges don’t apply.
After the noose was found, the university asked the national headquarters to review the 130-member chapter, which had been on campus since 1987.
“The closure is not a result of what happened with the Meredith statue, but the Meredith statue precipitated the intensive review of how they conduct business,” Blanton said.
Ole Miss and fraternity officials said they found a pattern of underage drinking and hazing which broke both university and Sigma Phi Epsilon rules. University officials said the national office had previously intervened in 2010 to fix similar problems.