Two Students Expelled From University Of Oklahoma Over Racist Video

Updated 8:05 p.m.: Apologies from two students involved

Two students involved in the video where a bus full of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members participated in a chant with racial slurs and derogatory language against African-Americans apologized in separate statements Tuesday evening.

The Dallas Morning News reports both teens are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The former University of Oklahoma student identified as Parker Rice, a 19-year-old freshman from North Dallas.
Credit YouTube

The family of Parker Rice confirmed he withdrew from the university Monday, and his father issued a statement on his behalf.

“I know everyone wants to know why or how this happened. I admit it likely was fueled by alcohol consumed at the house before the bus trip, but that’s not an excuse. Yes, the song was taught to us, but that too doesn’t work as an explanation. It’s more important to acknowledge what I did and what I didn’t do. I didn’t say no, and I clearly dismissed an important value I learned at my beloved high school, Dallas Jesuit [College Preparatory School]. We were taught to be ‘Men for Others.’ I failed in that regard, and in those moments, I also completely ignored the core values and ethics I learned from my parents and others.

“At this point, all I can do is be thoughtful and prayerful about my next steps, but I am also concerned about the fraternity friends still on campus. Apparently, they are feeling unsafe and some have been harassed by others. Hopefully, the university will protect them.

Mike Earsing, the president of Jesuit Dallas, issued a statement on Twitter Tuesday morning.

A statement attributed to Brody and Susan Pettit, the parents of Levi Pettit, says their son made a horrible mistake, and will live with it forever. It did not indicate whether Pettit was one of the two students expelled Tuesday by University of Oklahoma president David Boren.

We were as shocked and saddened by this news as anyone. Of course, we are sad for our son – but more importantly, we apologize to the community he has hurt. We would also like to apologize to the – entire African American community, University of Oklahoma student body and administration. Our family has the responsibility to apologize, and also to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Our words will only go so far  – as a family, we commit to following our words with deeds.

To our friends and family, thank you for your kind comments and prayers. They are very comforting in this difficult time.

Both families say they do not plan to grant media interviews.

Updated 3:23 p.m.: Deadline approaches for members to move out of SAE house

Workers wheeled boxes of food out of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house Tuesday morning. The parking lot was almost empty. The SAE letters had already been removed from the building.

The quiet house is a stark contrast to the short video clip that ricocheted around social media and gained national attention. The response was swift – the SAE national fraternity closed the OU chapter, and the university condemned the video and promised strong action.

On campus Tuesday, students like junior Chris White are still talking about the recording.

“I'm really just glad that it was exposed because there's a lot of naive people here on campus who think that it doesn't exist, and I think it just opened a lot of eyes,” White said.

The University of Oklahoma did not respond to interview requests about the expulsion. OU President David Boren released a statement saying he hopes students involved would learn from the experience.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren during Monday's press conference in Holmberg Hall addressing the racist video.
Credit Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Questions had swirled what would happen to the fraternity members. St. Louis University Law Professor Justin Hansford says constitutional free speech issues don’t apply in this case.

“Nobody has the right to college, or even the right to education, in the United States, so more often than not, when you're looking at a decision to expel a student, you're looking at the violation of the terms of a contract that they signed when they agreed to attend the university,” Hansford said.

Russell Bouyer is an advisor of Unheard, the black student group at OU that received a copy of the video and posted it online. He says there are bigger issues that need to be talked about beyond what was on the tape.

“I think we need to open up and talk about it and have a conversation,” Bouyer said. “These things are extremely uncomfortable, no matter if you're the aggressor or the victim of the situation such as this.”

Bouyer says minority students may wonder how inclusive the university really is. Just five percent of the student body is black. White hopes change will happen, but he isn’t optimistic it will be soon.

I think it's going to take a long time for it to actually progress into something that can actually be big,” White said. 

It’s unclear what might happen to the other students shown in the racially-charged video. A town hall meeting on the OU campus takes place Wednesday night to discuss “diversity.”

Updated 2:37 p.m.: Legal groups questioning OU's right to expel students.

The expulsion of two University of Oklahoma students over a racist video that went viral Sunday night has raised questions about whether OU has violated the students' First Amendment rights.

During a Monday press conference, OU President David Boren said the university's legal team was looking into whether the students could be punished under the "hostile environment" under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Peter Bonilla with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education condemned the video, but says in this instance, context matters.

"There's a difference between a recording like this on video that you have the choice to watch or not watch, and having that same group of men outside your window at 3 a.m. chanting it at you," Bonilla said.

He called the message "repugnant," but argued the message alone doesn't give OU the basis for punishment.

"The Supreme Court has routinely held that the government, and government institutions, including public universities like the University of Oklahoma, can't punish citizens simply because of the content of their expression or how others respond to it," Bonilla said.

Updated 11:36 a.m.: Boren expels two students

University of Oklahoma President David Boren moved to expel two students Tuesday morning who led a racist chant on a charter bus during a fraternity event that was caught on video and widely released Sunday.

Boren said the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members created a "hostile learning environment" for fellow students that spread to the entire University community after the video went viral.

University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie told The Oklahoma Daily the university could possibly punish the leaders of the chant under the Civil Rights Act. Boren alluded to the 1964 landmark legislation during a press conference Monday.

“…The question is have these people created an intimidating or hostile environment on the basis of race? And in so doing so, does that create a violation of the individual code of conduct for a student at the university which can lead to expulsion? That’s what has to be determined,” Gaddie said.

But Foundation for Individual Rights in Education executive director Robert Shibley told the paper he's not sure there's a constitutional basis for expulsion based on what he saw in the video.

“It suggests that they would not allow black people into SAE fraternity or SAE chapter. If that indicates they might be engaged in unlawful discrimination, you can investigate the unlawful discrimination angle of it,” Shibley said. “But actually just saying that isn’t the offense. The offense would actually be engaging in discrimination.”

. . . 

According to Shibley, what showed up on the video is not enough to legally qualify as hostile.

“The harassment has to be based on a protected class and so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively keeps the targets of discrimination from getting an education,” Shibley said.

Original Post

The University of Oklahoma and Norman community is trying to move forward Tuesday morning after a video surfaced over the weekend showing fraternity members leading a racist chant.

In the video, members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon recited a chant that mentioned lynching, and said no African-Americans would ever be members of the fraternity.

University president David Boren quickly called the students' behavior reprehensible and ordered the frat off campus. The national fraternity shut down the chapter’s house.

Members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon piled their belongings into family cars and rental trucks, while other students continued college life.

Edmond native and engineering physics major Ryan Griffith says he thinks the punishment was a bit extreme.

"It was only a few individuals that, in my opinion, were responsible. So it does suck for the other men that had to suffer because of them and lose their house,” Griffith said. “But I can understand where the SAE nationals and president Boren are coming from."

Jenna Smith is a senior public relations major from Oklahoma City, and a member of the Black Student Association. She wasn’t surprised by the video, but she is disappointed people have sympathy for the fraternity members.

"Some people feeling sorry for them that they got kicked out of their house, that they’re going to be homeless. I thought that was kind of, like … sad,” Smith says. “They are worried about them and their well-being when, you know, if you watch the video, it’s clear what their beliefs are and what they stand for."

Smith said she was optimistic after seeing a mix of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian demonstrators during Monday morning’s protest.

“More diversity will come from this and more people willing to listen to black experiences,” Smith said.

All Sigma Alpha Epsilon members have to be out of their house by midnightt. The university is not helping them find new housing - Boren said the university does not provide services for bigots.

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