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Oklahoma fraternity closed following racist allegation

March 19th, 2015

 

 

The University of Oklahoma disbanded the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter last week following a viral video showing its members partaking in a racist chat.

 

NBC reported over 100 students at the university were suspended after the school’s administration viewed the video, featuring members using slurs against African-Americans- one of which referenced lynching.

 

Two of the fraternity leaders who were identified in the video, Levi Pettit and Parker Rice, were expelled from the University of Oklahoma.

 

According to The Washington Post, Pettit’s parents said in a statement that he “made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever.

 

“While it may be difficult for those who only know Levi from the video to understand,” the statement continued, “We know his heart, and he is not a racist.”

 

Rice also made a statement, which says the chant was taught to the members of the fraternity by its leaders.

 

“It’s more important to acknowledge what I did and what I didn’t do,” he said.

 

“I didn’t say no,” Rice continued. “And I clearly dismissed an important value I learned at my beloved high school, Dallas Jesuit. We were taught to be ‘Men for Others.’ I failed in that regard.”

 

The national Sigma Alpha Epsilon headquarters denied condoning racism in response to Rice’s remarks that the chant was taught to members.

 

“The chant is in no way endorsed by the organization nor part of any education whatsoever,” a spokesperson for the national headquarters said in a statement.

 

According to NBC, each of the suspended students will be subject to hearings with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon national fraternity and will have the opportunity to defend themselves and their alleged actions. The students will be judged by a board of alumni.

Oklahoma Fraternity Racist Video

However, the University of Oklahoma chapter of the fraternity hired Stephen Jones, a lawyer known for defending Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing trial.

 

The Washington Post reported that Jones is “not ruling out a lawsuit,” as he cited possible violations of the first and 14th amendments, as well as due process rights.

 

Jones is not defending Rice and Pettit, but rather the University of Oklahoma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon on behalf of its alumni board.

 

Other chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon are also facing racist allegations. Students at the University of Washington in Seattle are accusing fraternity members of using racial slurs during a protest condemning racism in February, according to CNN.

 

Additionally, The Los Angeles Times reported that Sigma Alpha Epsilon members at the University of Texas are accused of using the same chant that incriminated students are the University of Oklahoma.

 

Aside from racist allegations, multiple Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapters in California have faced controversy in recent years in response to a hazing death and several disciplinary sanctions for drinking and conduct problems.

 

Since 2010, 14 of California’s 18 Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapters have faced discipline from the national headquarters for conduct violations.

 

Editor’s Note: Information from NBC, The Washington Post, CNN and The Lost Angeles Times was used in this report.