Alumni launch fundraising campaign to help black cook at shuttered University of Oklahoma fraternity

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Some University of Oklahoma alumni are worried the closing of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house after a video surfaced of its members singing a racist chant could leave an African-American employee at the fraternity without a job.


When Blake Burkhart heard the news, he said he thought of the fraternity house's cook, Howard, and whether he would have still have a job.

"He is going to learn who he has been working for," Burkhart wrote on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site. "And through some cruel twist of fate, he has to lose the job that he has held for over a decade. He is going to lose his job because of a bus full of racist kids."


On Monday, Burkhart launched a crowdfunding page to help Howard, and donations started pouring in. By midday Tuesday, more than 1,000 people had contributed nearly $40,000 to the campaign.

A separate campaign on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe that says it was started by a former Sigma Alpha Epsilon member has collected pledges of more than $12,000.

"Howard has been a hard-working and loyal employee for over 15 years, always making it in through rain, sleet and snow," the campaign’s page reads. "He was one of my best friends during my time in the house, and my first thoughts are for him and his family. He has always been there for us and my heart is broken for him tonight. Please help Howard and his family."

A university spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The university shuttered the fraternity house after Unheard, a black student association, posted video of Sigma Alpha Epsilon members chanting "There will never be a n——r at SAE." The fraternity's national office suspended the chapter members. The video sparked a campus protest attended by hundreds on Monday. The university's newspaper reported that the fraternity house was vandalized and that several fraternity members had received death threats to their Facebook and email accounts.


University President David Boren said fraternity members had until Tuesday evening to remove their belongings. He said the school is investigating the incident.

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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