Two students from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity, who had been expelled from the University of Oklahoma for singing a racist song, have issued statements of apology for the act. The families of the expelled students -- Levi Pettit and Parker Rice -- issued the statements on their behalf late Tuesday.
The statement was released by Pettit’s parents on a website named friendsandfamilyoflevipettit.com. The statement read: “As parents of Levi, we love him and care for him deeply. He made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever,” adding: “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," according to the statement.
Both the students were seen chanting a racist slur in unison with other SAE members on their way to an event in a video, which was put online by another student. The students and the fraternity were widely criticized for the video, leading to the fraternity announcing the shut down of its University of Oklahoma chapter. The chant reportedly said: "There will never be a n----- in SAE," and “You can hang them from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me."
On Monday, student organization Unheard held a march on the campus, protesting against racism. David L. Boren, the university's president, also severed ties with the SAE fraternity and ordered its inhabitants to vacate the university premises by midnight Tuesday.
Parker Rice issued his apology via his father Bob Rice. The statement read: “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,” adding: “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," the Dallas Morning News reported.
"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,” Parker said in the statement.
He did not elaborate on who taught them the song, but SAE said it was investigating the allegations made by Parker. "The national fraternity does not teach such a racist, hateful chant, and this chant is not part of any education or training," SAE said in a statement Tuesday night, according to NBC News, adding: "Our investigation has found very likely that the men learned the song from fellow chapter members."
The expulsion letter from the office of the university's president can be seen here.