Two University of Oklahoma students expelled over racist video
Updated: 2015-03-11 14:33
Oklahoma City Pastor John A. Reed, (C), flanked by NAACP leaders and pastors of Oklahoma City African-American churches speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, March 10, 2015. The University of Oklahoma has expelled two students for playing a leadership role in singing a racist song at a fraternity-linked event that was captured on video and viewed worldwide, the school's president said on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]
NORMAN, Oklahoma - The University of Oklahoma's president expelled two students Tuesday after he said they were identified as leaders of a racist chant captured on video during a fraternity event.
University President David Boren said in a statement the two students were dismissed for creating a "hostile learning environment for others." Their names were not released.
The video posted online shows several people on a bus participating in a chant that included a racial slur, referenced lynching and indicated black students would never be admitted to the university's chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. A fraternity is an organization of male college students in the US.
Boren acted swiftly after the video surfaced late Sunday, severing ties with the fraternity and ordering its house shuttered Monday and announcing the expulsions Tuesday.
"I hope that students involved in this incident will learn from this experience and realize that it is wrong to use words to hurt, threaten, and exclude other people," he said.
Boren said the university is working to identify other students involved in the chant, who may also face discipline.
The video was taken on a bus going to an event at a country club. The person who recorded it has cooperated with the investigation, Boren said Tuesday ahead of a Board of Regents meeting.
On Tuesday, one fraternity member seen on the video and the parents of another issued statements apologizing.
In a statement emailed by his father, Parker Rice said the incident "likely was fueled by alcohol," but "that's not an excuse." He said he was "deeply sorry" for the performance, calling it "wrong and reckless," "a horrible mistake" and "a devastating lesson" for which he is "seeking guidance."
He said he withdrew from the university Monday and that threatening calls to his family prompted them to leave their North Dallas home.
The parents of Levi Pettit posted a statement online saying they were shocked by their son's actions, that he "made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever."
Also on Tuesday, Beauton Gilbow, the fraternity's "house mom," issued a statement that addressed a second online video from 2013 that had surfaced, showing her repeating a racial slur against blacks as music plays in the background. Gilbow said she was singing along to a song. She said she was "heartbroken" by the portrayal that she was racist but understood how the video must appear in the context of the week's events.
A "house mom" is a housing director who might oversee staff and finances at a sorority or fraternity house.
Windows at the fraternity were boarded up and moving vans were parked outside Tuesday. Members have until midnight to remove their belongings. The Greek letters have already been removed from the side of the sprawling, sand-colored brick house on a street lined with fraternity and sorority houses just west of the center of campus.
Markeshia Lyon, one of about 1,400 black students who attend the university's Norman location, said the mostly segregated Greek culture on campus is partly to blame for creating an environment where racism can thrive.
"That's something that's passed down, and that's something that needs to change," Lyon said.
She also said the video has sparked intense interest in addressing racial tensions on campus.
The university, located in the southern Oklahoma City suburb of Norman, has about 27,000 students, about 5 percent of whom are black.
On Monday, a top high school football recruit withdrew his commitment to attend the university after seeing the video.
National leaders of Sigma Alpha Epsilon said an investigation confirmed members took part in the chant and announced they would close the local chapter. The national group said it was "embarrassed" by the "unacceptable and racist" behavior.
Boren said members of the fraternity were "not totally forthcoming." It's unclear who recorded the video, when it was recorded and who initially posted it online. Boren suggested it was likely taken by another student who didn't agree with what was being chanted.