University of Oklahoma President David Boren on Tuesday expelled two students identified as playing a leadership role in the singing of a racist chant in connection with an SAE fraternity event this past weekend.
Boren said that the students who were not identified by OU but who have since then identified themselves as Dallas residents played a leadership role had created a hostile learning environment for others. The chant was not only heard by those on a bus, but also impacted the entire university community as it was also distributed through social media.
“I have emphasized that there is zero tolerance for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma. I hope that the entire nation will join us in having zero tolerance of such racism when it raises its ugly head in other situations across our country," Boren said. "I am extremely proud of the reaction and response expressed by our entire university family - students,faculty, staff, and alumni about this incident. They are “Real Sooners” who believe in mutual respect for all.
"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. We will continue our investigation of all the students engaged in the singing of this chant. Once their identities have been confirmed, they will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.”
The parents of student Levi Pettit, from Highland Park in Dallas, released a statement to the Dallas Morning News.
“As parents of Levi, we love him and care for him deeply. 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. While it may be difficult for those who only know Levi from the video to understand, we know his heart, and he is not a racist. We raised him to be loving and inclusive and we all remain surrounded by a diverse, close-knit group of friends.
“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.
“We ask that the media and public please respect our family’s privacy as we come together to heal and determine next steps.”
The second student, Parker Rice, of Dallas, also released a statement.
“I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless. I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same. On Monday, I withdrew from the university, and sadly, at this moment our family is not able to be in our home because of threatening calls as well as frightening talk on social media.
“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. 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.
“For me, this is a devastating lesson and I am seeking guidance on how I can learn from this and make sure it never happens again. My goal for the long-term is to be a man who has the heart and the courage to reject racism wherever I see or experience it in the future.
“Thank you for your consideration of my deepest apologies for what I did.”
After the OU Regents meeting Tuesday, Boren defended his quick action to expel the students and close the chapter house. He said the university's image was at stake.
"What we stand for and what we don’t stand for has come through loud and clear. These kinds of unfortunate incidents are happening at colleges and universities throughout the country. They’re happening with police forces throughout the country. They’re happening at other institutions throughout the country."
"What we tried to do was set an example of quick and forceful action that was clear about our values. We have zero tolerance for racism — zero! none! We’re not going to do a study on it or talk about it or dialogue about it, we’re going to do something about it. We did and we have."
Boren said he expelled two students but others would face disciplinary action.
"I think in a way, it’s positive to say to other students that you can come to university where this is not tolerated. Do you want to come to university where racism is not tolerated? Where the whole student body comes together as one body and says we won’t have it here. I don’t think it’s necessarily all negative. It’s negative when something like this happens. It’s heartbreaking. We’ve worked so hard to create a sense of community for this group to do what they did. We’ll continue to stop it once we know about it."
"Nobody is perfect and we’re not perfect. We have a school that has clearly expressed it’s values about this. We wish it had never happened. I think all of us do. On the other hand, if it’s going to happen, we couldn’t be any more clear about what we stand for and what we won’t put up with."
Boren said if he could have his choice, it would never have happened.
"I don’t want it to happen on our campus or anywhere. Hopefully, our action has been appropriate and inspire others to be decisive and not put up things. I hope when people really think about it, it will be a positive factor in terms of reputation."
"I wouldn’t do it again just so we can show what are values are. I would not have it happen again. It’s been very painful. It’s inflicted pain on a lot of our students, which is a terrible thing. It’s one of the reasons we won’t put up with it.
All of us face these situations and we have to work through them. We all as individuals have choices about that. We sit around here and jokes made or comments made and rarely do we speak up. Rarely do we say don’t say that in front of me. I don’t subscribe to it."
"I hope it will cause us all to do that more. I’m sure everyone on that bus right now wishes they stood up and said, ‘Stop this right now. I don’t put up with this. I don’t subscribe to this.’ How many would love to have that moment back and people to do that? Hopefully, this action will say next time you better be the one who stands up and says no, stop it.
"I bet all the kids on that bus — I certainly hope they are — are think about the fact they should’ve stood up and stopped it and protested against it."
Boren said the students had the right to appeal the decision to the university's Equal Opportunity Officer. That appeal must be filed by 5 p.m. Friday, he said.
Although the students were not identified, one apparently graduated from Dallas Jesuit High School.
Jesuit President Mike Earsing released a statement.
"In the recent video regarding OU and the SAE fraternity it appears that a graduate from Jesuit Dallas is leading the racist chant. I am appalled by the actions in the video and extremely hurt by the pain this has caused our community. It is unconscionable and very sad that in 2015 we still live in a society where this type of bigotry and racism takes place. All of us at Jesuit Dallas are deeply committed to create a culture of justice and equality for all. This was certainly true when the School became the first in Dallas to integrate and it is true today..
"Unfortunately, isolated incidents throughout our society remind us that there is still much work to be done. Jesuit Dallas calls on all men and women of good will, God’s will, to fight against a culture of racism, bigotry and of death, including that of the unborn."
Boren said others could be disciplined to various degrees.
"It’s going to take weeks to go through all of the details because there are variations as to what we can do. I would it say it would be safe to say there will be lesser punishments. This will take some time. We have to very careful when we are handling individual cases so that we’re not being unfair."
"Those we felt played a leadership role and were identifiable on video because you could see their faces very clearly, I think that by taking swift action on those we’ve indicated what our policies are. We’ll evaluate all of them as time goes on and take proper action.
"It will take a while. We go on spring break next week — the students and myself. I think it will take a little while. We’ll deal appropriately with all of them. Even those that just sang the song — they weren’t playing a leadership role and they didn’t instigate it — but they didn’t stand up and say stop. Every one of them should have stood up and said stop and refused to sing this. They didn’t, obviously. They need to learn from this and have some discipline against them."
"We’re an educational institution and you truly use everything that happens — good and bad — as a teaching moment. We learn from mistakes we make in our own lives no matter how old we are. My hope is these students will learn from this mistake and think again before they use words carelessly or hurt other people and create an atmosphere of exclusion. I hope they’ll really learn from that. We’ll give them an opportunity, but there will be a price exacted for what they’ve done. We’ll try to find an appropriate level of discipline in regard to them. That will take us some time."
"I wanted to move swiftly to demonstrate we were not going to ignore taking individual action when it is appropriate. That’s why we did what we did today. Once the lawyers gave me a green light this morning, I moved against those two identifiable individuals."