Oklahoma student who led racist chant to meet black leaders

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former University of Oklahoma student who led a racist chant apologized personally to the leader of Oklahoma’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 Wednesday.

Sen. Anastasia Pittman, an Oklahoma City Democrat, said the student, Levi Pettit, called her personally to apologize 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.

Stephen Jones, an attorney for the now-disbanded local fraternity, said Wednesday that an agreement has been reached with the university that calls for no members of the fraternity to be expelled. Jones declined to comment further about the details of the agreement, and OU officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the deal.

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.”

Among those scheduled to attend the private meeting is Marilyn Luper-Hildreth, the daughter of the late civil rights leader Clara Luper, an Oklahoma City schoolteacher who led sit-ins at segregated Oklahoma City drugstore counters in the late 1950s.

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, who live in the Dallas area, issued an apology on his behalf two weeks ago after the video’s release caused an uproar on the university’s campus in Norman, which is located about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City. A second student from the Dallas area, Parker Rice, also issued a statement apologizing for his role in the chant.

OU 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.

But Jones, who was hired by alumni of the local fraternity chapter, said that both of the young men who Boren ordered expelled actually withdrew from the university first. A spokeswoman for OU would not confirm that, citing student privacy laws.

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 behavior.

Boren also planned to meet later Wednesday with student leaders of the university’s fraternity and sorority system to discuss race relations and the reaction of students to the incident.

 

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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