Officials at Syracuse University on Sunday removed 18 Theta Tau fraternity members from classes over a pair of videos the school’s president called “disgusting,” PEOPLE confirms.
School officials also permanently expelled the Syracuse chapter of the fraternity after the university’s independent newspaper, The Daily Orange, published footage showing the men engaging in what the University Chancellor branded “racist, anti-semitic, homophobic, ableist and sexist” activities at a Theta Tau-sponsored event.
The chapter, however, has argued that those involved were actually performing a “satirical sketch.”
In one NSFW video published last week, a person can be seen forcing another to his knees and telling him to repeat a racist oath featuring expletives. The men are then shown seemingly pretending to perform sex acts on each other.
Over the weekend, the student-run newspaper published a second NSFW video which allegedly showed members of the engineering fraternity pretending to sexually assault a person with disabilities. In the footage, one man is shown sitting in a rolling chair surrounded by three others who pretended to perform a sex act on him.
Addressing the second video in a public message, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud called “the words and behaviors” of the students “appalling and disgusting on many intersecting grounds.”
“They especially offend all Syracuse University holds dear about diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities,” said Syverud, adding, “I believe the second video depicts egregious behavior, including sexual assault, violence and discriminatory mockery and hostility toward people with disabilities that is unacceptable and deeply harmful in many ways.”
“I ask all of us who care about our community and its values to reaffirm them by emphatically rejecting all this video represents. There is absolutely no place at Syracuse University for tolerance of this behavior,” Syverud said.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, Syracuse Department of Public Safety Chief Bobby Maldonado said the office has filed complaints against the 18 Theta Tau members. Maldonado added that officials have made “alternative class and study arrangements” for the men.
The Syracuse chapter of Theta Tau released a statement on their website addressing the first video, claiming that the men were simply performing a “satirical sketch of an uneducated, racist, homophobic, misogynist, sexist, ableist and intolerant person” to mock a brother who is a “conservative Republican.”
“We would like to believe that the new members seen in the video laughing at the horrible things being said were not laughing in concurrence with these beliefs, but in fact the opposite — that racism, sexism and homophobia are so wrong that they are laughable,” the statement said. “None of the satire was said or done in malice.”
The statement contended that “many bright lines were obviously crossed,” and added “the language used in this sketch is disgraceful, and it made the active brothers very uncomfortable. Our organization would never demand, or even ask our new members to recite any of this. We spoke to the new members about their actual beliefs shortly after their parody and we all agreed that those words should never be spoken — in our house, or anywhere.”
The Tau chapter of Theta Tau did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment on the second video.
In the wake of the incident, students have protested what they called a discriminatory campus culture. On Friday, many sat in the school’s Schine Student Center with signs as they voiced their concerns to Syverud, according to The Daily Orange. Earlier that week, demonstrators held a student forum at Hendricks Chapel.