Oklahoma Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Blames Racist Video on 'Horrible Cancer'

Board apologized for video showing members reciting racist chant.

March 11, 2015, 10:11 PM

— -- The board of trustees and alumni of the University of Oklahoma Kappa chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon apologized for a video of its members reciting a racist chant and blamed it on a "horrible cancer" that entered the fraternity a few years ago.

A statement issued Wednesday by the board said it was "sincerely remorseful for the pain that this terrible chant has caused."

"For the safety of the students that were involved and the students who were not involved, our desire would be for all parties to begin the healing process," read the statement. "We hope that this despicable situation will forever change an atmosphere that would even allow an incident like this to take place."

Video shows fraternity members chanting, “There will never be a n***** at SAE.” The chant also referred to lynchings and keeping African-Americans out of the fraternity.

Parker Rice, one of the students identified in the video, said in a statement to the Dallas Morning News, “the song was taught to us, but that too doesn’t work as an explanation."

“I admit it likely was fueled by alcohol consumed at the house before the bus trip, but that’s not an excuse,” Rice, 19, said.

Former fraternity members have claimed the same language was used at other colleges, but the national headquarters denied being the source of the chant.

“In separate statements, the two men who have been expelled from the university have mentioned that the song was ‘taught to us,’” the fraternity said in a statement released late Tuesday. “However, as has been maintained in previous statements, the national fraternity does not teach such a racist, hateful chant, and this chant is not part of any education or training.

“Our investigation has found very likely that the men learned the song from fellow chapter members, which reiterates why Sigma Alpha Epsilon did not hesitate to close the chapter completely because of the culture that may have been fostered in the group.”

The fraternity was founded in 1856 at the University of Alabama and now features about 15,000 members across more than 200 chapters.

Another fraternity member, Levi Pettit, was also identified as a participant after the video appeared. His parents, Brody and Susan Pettit, released a statement Tuesday saying they were “shocked and saddened” by what they saw in the video.

"As parents of Levi, we love him and care for him deeply," they said. "He made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever. However, we also know the depth of our son's character. He is a good boy, but what we saw in those videos is disgusting.”

University of Oklahoma President David Boren said the students who played a leadership role in the "exclusionary" chant had created a hostile learning environment. He said the chant was heard not only by those on a bus, but also affected the entire university community because it was distributed through social media.

According to a letter written by Boren, if the expelled students disagree with the decision, they can contact the school's Equal Opportunity Office by Friday.

The university has not confirmed the identities of the expelled students.

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