Greek Life at the University of Minnesota spent Tuesday working to assure the community it does not condone the actions of fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma after a video was released over the weekend showing OU fraternity members on a party bus chanting racially offensive phrases.
The 10-second video clip shows members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) at OU chanting and using the n-word, alluding to the fact that African Americans would never be allowed into their fraternity. The video went viral on Twitter over the weekend and induced public outrage, prompting the university and national chapter to shut down the OU chapter Monday.
The Minnesota chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon expressed repulsion at the incident.
“The members of the Minnesota Alpha chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon are saddened, disgusted and embarrassed by the recent events,” U SAE President Timothy Carr said. “We apologize for the sickening behavior of those in the video, and are disappointed that the values and ideals of so many can be diminished by the sad actions of so few. The event does not represent what Sigma Alpha Epsilon is as a whole.”
Carr said the U chapter of SAE, which is overwhelmingly white, according to its 2013-2014 composite photos, teaches “sincerity, sympathy, honor and virtue,” and that the U chapter supports the closure of OU’s house.
“Minnesota Alpha … is proud of our leadership for taking prompt and appropriate action regarding the revolting video,” Carr said.
The University of Oklahoma promptly shut down the fraternity house, giving members until Tuesday night to move out, and severed all ties with SAE.
“To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you,” a statement issued by OU President David Boren read. “You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves ‘Sooners.’ Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity.”
SAE national headquarters closed the OU chapter and suspended all members Monday.
“We apologize for the unacceptable and racist behavior of the individuals in the video, and we are disgusted that any member would act in such a way,” SAE’s national statement said. “Furthermore, we are embarrassed by this video and offer our empathy not only to anyone outside the organization who is offended but also to our brothers who come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.”
SAE National President Brad Cohen reaffirmed the organization’s statement.
“I was not only shocked and disappointed, but disgusted by the outright display of racism displayed in the video,” Cohen said. “When we learned about this incident, I called an immediate board meeting and we determined with no mental reservation whatsoever that this chapter needed to be closed immediately.”
The University of Oklahoma as a whole has experienced the effects of the viral video.
Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops stood united with some of his players at a protest on campus Monday and the entire team stood together with linked arms at practice.
Four-star 2016 football recruit Jean Delance announced his de-commitment to the Sooners football team on Twitter Monday after the video surfaced.
“It was very disturbing. I didn’t like what was going on,” Delance told Fox 4 News Dallas-Fort Worth, “I’m glad the way they handled it, but that’s still a downside to me.”
Rapper Waka Flocka Flame used Instagram to announce the cancellation of his upcoming April concert for SAE on OU’s campus due to the actions of the fraternity members.
“When I first started doing shows it was all ‘hood spots and all Black people. Then I had some mainstream success … and it was all white people at my shows for a while. Now it’s White, Black and Brown people at my shows,” the rapper wrote, “For that reason, I must say I’m disgusted and disappointed … I will be cancelling my scheduled performance for them [SAE] next month. Racism is something I will not tolerate.”
Two of the fraternity members seen in the video have since issued apologies.
“He made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever,” the parents of Levi Pettit said, “We were as shocked and saddened by this news as anyone … We would also like to apologize to the — entire African American community, University of Oklahoma student body and administration.”
A second member seen in the video, Parker Rice, also issued a statement through his father to the Dallas Morning News.
“I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless,” Rice said. “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 … 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.”
SAE national headquarters expressed hope that it will be able to reopen the OU chapter in the future “with a group of men who exemplify our beliefs and who serve as leaders on campus and in the community.”
Reporter Kaitlin Merkel is studying journalism and Spanish at the University of Minnesota. Thanks to Murphy News Service for sharing this story with us.