US student who led racist chant apologises

2015-03-26 05:00
Levi Pettit (Elisabeth Dillon, AP)

Levi Pettit (Elisabeth Dillon, AP)

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Oklahoma City - A former University of Oklahoma student who led a racist chant apologised personally to the leader of the state's Legislative Black Caucus and plans to meet with more civic leaders before speaking publicly about the incident for the first time, a state senator said on Wednesday.

The incident caused a national uproar and threw an unwelcome spotlight on fraternities - male social clubs that are a fixture at many American universities - that have recently been under fire over issues like sexual assault and race issues.

Senator Anastasia Pittman said the student, Levi Pettit, called her personally to apologise after he and another fraternity member were caught on video earlier this month leading a chant that referenced lynching and used a racial slur to say black students would never be admitted to the university's Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter.

Pittman said she has arranged for Pettit to meet with black students, elected officials, local pastors and civil rights leaders in Oklahoma.

"I wanted him to be educated on some of the struggles they've endured," Pittman said. "I think that will enlighten him and give him a new perspective on a culture that he is completely unaware of."

After the meeting, Pittman said Pettit also will speak at an afternoon press conference at a Baptist church on the city's predominantly black northeast side.

Pettit's parents issued an apology on his behalf two weeks ago after the video's release. A second student from the Parker Rice, also issued a statement apologising for his role in the chant.

University President David Boren severed ties with the fraternity, ordered its members to vacate the fraternity house and expelled two students for leading the chant. The university also launched an investigation into the role other fraternity members may have had in the chant, and Boren says further disciplinary action is possible.

On Wednesday, Stephen Jones, a lawyer for a now-disbanded fraternity, says an agreement has been reached that calls for no further student expulsions, but declined to comment further about the details. He confirmed no additional members of the university's chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity will be expelled under the agreement.

The national Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity also disbanded its OU chapter and announced it is taking steps to become more inclusive, including requiring all of its members nationwide to go through diversity training and setting up a confidential hotline for people to report inappropriate behaviour.

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