“There will never be a n*gger at SAE,” sang members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity Inc. to the tune “If Your Happy and You Know It.” A video that surfaced on Sunday showed the Oklahoma Chapter of SAE singing this, along with other lyrics describing things such as lynching, and how an African-Americans will never be a part of their fraternity.
The video of the song ignited a national flurry in which both the school and national headquarters quickly took action to punish the students and fraternity alike. SAE’s national headquarters has suspended all students from the chapter, but OU’s president, David Boren, took it a step further by saying that the university’s affiliation with the fraternity is permanently done.
A day after the incident took place, OU’s president expelled two students for their leadership role in the racial chant. Both Parker Rice and Levi Pettit, the two students expelled from OU and also seen leading the chant in the video, issued an apology on Tuesday explaining their actions.
Rice, a nineteen year old from Dallas, explained his actions as “wrong and reckless.” He then goes on to say, “I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same. I know everyone wants to know why or how this happened. I admit it likely was fueled by alcohol consumed at the not an excuse.”
Rice claims that the racial song was taught to him, as do other former SAE members claiming that the same language was used at other colleges. National headquarters denied being the source of the chant.
“I think the incident highlights the beginning of institutionalized racism because those students are the future business leaders, politicians, and educators of the nation,” said Darian Gladney, a Dallas grad student from Louisiana Tech University.
As of Tuesday morning, the SAE chapter’s fraternity house was closed indefinitely, as Boren ordered all student residents to move out by midnight.
Dozens of black and white students held a march to the fraternity house Tuesday evening hours before the midnight closure.
As shocked as some might be, this is not the first time that SAE has been in the news for racial affiliated actions.
According to insidehighered.com, in 2009, the Valdosta State University chapter caused outrage on campus after flying a Confederate flag on its front lawn.
On Sunday, the OU chapter also drew attention on social media when a Confederate flag could be seen through one of its windows just hours after the controversy emerged.
In 2013, the Washington University in St. Louis chapter of SAE was suspended after some of its pledges were instructed to direct racial slurs at a group of black students.
In December of that same year, Clemson University’s SAE chapter was suspended after the fraternity hosted a “cripmas” party at which students dressed up as gang members.
The incident has also affected things outside of the school, like one of the nation’s most sought-after high school football recruits, Jean Delance of Mesquite, Tex., who is black, withdrawing his commitment to play for Oklahoma.
“There shouldn’t be any ‘whites only’ or ‘black only’ labels on anything, a racial stigma doesn’t only make the university and organization look bad, but the actual members, because that’s what they are standing for,” said Debrielle Browder, a junior criminal justice major from Compton.
“You’re taught hate, you’re not born a racist, it’s disgusting that members are saying that’s what they were taught, if it’s not right, you’re supposed to stand up and make a change, not conform.”