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University Of Oklahoma Expels 2 Students Seen As Leading Racist Chant

Updated at 8:28 p.m. ET

One of the students seen in a video in which fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma chant a racist song has apologized for his actions, as have the parents of another student seen in the video.

Parker Rice, one of the students, apologized in a statement published by the Dallas Morning News. He called his actions "wrong and reckless."

"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," he said. "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."

The parents of Levi Pettit, another student seen in the video, called his actions a "horrible mistake." They add:

"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. Our family has the responsibility to apologize, and also to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Our words will only go so far – as a family, we commit to following our words with deeds."

It's unclear if Rice and Pettit are the same students expelled by the university.

Our original post continues:

Saying they had "created a hostile learning environment for others," University of Oklahoma President David Boren expelled two students who have been identified as the leaders of a racist chant during a fraternity event.

The incident was filmed and posted to YouTube, where it created a storm of criticism and resulted in the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization closing the Oklahoma chapter. The school also formally severed its ties with the organization, imposing a deadline of midnight tonight for the fraternity's members to remove their belongings from the house.

The fraternity members were filmed chanting about never allowing a black man to join SAE; the chant also mentioned lynching, as we reported Monday.

"We will continue our investigation of all the students engaged in the singing of this chant," Boren said Tuesday. "Once their identities have been confirmed, they will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action."

After the video surfaced, a rally was held Monday that drew thousands of people. Boren thanked them today, saying, "I am extremely proud of the reaction and response expressed by our entire university family."

Other responses included a decision by the school's famed Sooners football team to suspend practice Monday. And it seems the video also played a role in the decision by a prized football recruit, Jean Delance, to withdraw his commitment to the school. Later Monday, Delance announced that he'll be going to the University of Alabama.

As member station KGOU reports, the range of reactions within the university's community has included some who are expressing sympathy for fraternity members caught up in the scandal.

The complexity of the situation was evident in the station's conversation with Jenna Smith, a senior public relations major who is also a member of the Black Student Association.

"Some people feeling sorry for them that they got kicked out of their house, that they're going to be homeless. I thought that was kind of, like ... sad," Smith said. "They are worried about them and their well-being when, you know, if you watch the video, it's clear what their beliefs are and what they stand for."

Smith added that the mix of people at Monday's rally made her optimistic that "More diversity will come from this and more people willing to listen to black experiences."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.