The University of Oklahoma expelled two students on Tuesday for “playing a leadership role” in racially-charged chants on a school bus during a Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity event, according to a university release.
“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,” the school’s president David Boren said in a statement.
The expulsions come as new allegations of racism within SAE emerged on Monday, fueling the outrage and the ongoing investigation into the fraternity’s discriminatory behavior. Later Tuesday night, dozens of students joined together to protest in front of the fraternity, following earlier demonstrations on campus Monday.
“Several other incidents with chapters or members have been brought to the attention of the headquarters staff and leaders, and each of those instances will be investigated for further action,” the national headquarters of SAE said late Monday night in a statement. They added that they would “sanction” those involved.
A video that surfaced Monday night allegedly shows a woman identified by the national chapter of SAE as “former house mother” Beauton Gilbow making comments the organization described as “racist, deplorable behavior.” She appears to be rapping in the video, but the circumstances and context of the event purportedly captured in the footage are also currently unclear.
She released a statement explaining that she was singing along to a song. “I have been made aware of a video of me that is circulating on social media and in the news. I am heartbroken by the portrayal that I am in some way racist. I have friends of all race and do not tolerate any form of discrimination in my life,” she said. “I was singing along to a Trinidad song, but completely understand how the video must appear in the context of the events that occurred this week.”
The revelation came in the wake of a video allegedly showing University of Oklahoma SAE members singing a song vowing to prohibit black students from the fraternity and suggesting lynching.
Both the national fraternity and the school shut down the chapter and are investigating the video, which shows students in formal wear chanting “There will never be a n***** in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me, there will never be a n***** at SAE” to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Members have until tonight to finish moving out.
“We don’t have any room for racists and bigots at this university,” University of Oklahoma President David Boren said on Monday, vowing a zero tolerance policy for the racist sentiment expressed by the “bus load” of students. He said there would be no assistance in helping fraternity members find new housing. “We don’t provide student services for bigots,” he added.
The parents of one of the students seen in the video apologized for their son’s actions in a statement Tuesday night. “He made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever,” Brody and Susan Pettit said, while asking for privacy. “He is a good boy, but what we saw in those videos is disgusting.”
SAE is the largest fraternity in the country and the only one founded in the antebellum South. It also has the distinction of being the most deadly: A Bloomberg Business report from December of 2013 noted that “Since 2006, nine people, mostly students, have died in events related to SAE — more than any other fraternity.”
The national fraternity has been working to do damage control since the video was posted on Sunday night. Fraternity President Brad Cohen in the statement listed the “good and positive” sides of the fraternity, including raising funds for charity and supporting each other. He rallied members to “live by our ideals, be tolerant of all mankind, regardless of race, religion or sexuality.”
“We still have much work to do,” he added.