SAE: We foster 'role models,' not racists

Workers remove the letters from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house at the University of Oklahoma on March. 9, 2015, in Norman, Okla. (Photo by Nick Oxford/AP)
Workers remove the letters from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house at the University of Oklahoma on March. 9, 2015, in Norman, Okla.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) on Tuesday pushed back on claims that the embattled fraternity fostered a racist environment, blaming its University of Oklahoma chapter that has come under fire for a video showing some members singing an offensive song about excluding black members and suggesting lynching.

“We teach our members to serve as role models in their communities and to live up to our creed, 'The True Gentleman,'" the fraternity said in a statement late Tuesday that supported the expulsion of two University of Oklahoma students earlier in the day. The statement also challenged the expelled students' claim that the song was "taught to us."

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“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 its statement, adding that frat believed the song had been taught to the men by other members in the University of Oklahoma chapter. The fraternity also said it was beginning proceedings to expel all the involved SAE members from the national organization.

SAE, the largest fraternity in the country and the only one founded in the antebellum South, has been working furiously to try and save its reputation amid the national outrage over the racist rant in the video. The fraternity's leadership has distanced itself from the chapter and has repeatedly emphasized the organization's good work. But a number of incidents have been reported since Sunday that suggest the University of Oklahoma’s racially charged environment was not isolated.

A video of the local chapter’s “house mom,” Beauton Gilbow, circulated Tuesday showing her repeatedly using a racial slur and laughing; Gilbow later released a statement apologizing and explaining that she was signing along to a song. Social media users this week shared stories of other alleged incidents, claiming that the same racially charged song was used at other SAE chapters.

The two expelled students have been identified as Levi Pettit, 20, and Parker Rice, 19. They both hail from the Dallas area.

"He made a horrible mistake and will live with the consequences forever,” Pettit’s parents, Brody and Susan Pettit, said in a statement. “[W]e 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.''

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“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,” Rice said in a statement to The Dallas Morning News. “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.”

Rice said he withdrew from the university earlier this week.

"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. The fraternity was quickly shut down, and the Greek letters were removed from the side of the building that had housed it, which is owned by the university but was leased to the fraternity.