Do expelled Oklahoma U. students deserve forgiveness?

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has a history of racism.

Parker Rice, one of two students expelled from Oklahoma University today, and an ex-member of the now-disbanded OU chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, issued a statement tonight apologizing for the incident and denying he’s a racist.

Rice described the incident as “fueled by alcohol,” but admitted “that’s not an excuse.” He said, “I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless.” He called the incident “a horrible mistake” and “a devastating lesson” for which he is “seeking guidance on how I can learn from this and make sure it never happens again. Yes, the song was taught to us, but that too doesn’t work as an explanation. … I didn’t say no.”

The parents of the other expelled student, Levi Pettit, released a statement that said, “he made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever. [He] is a good boy, but what we saw in those videos is disgusting. 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.” As his parents, they said, they have a “responsibility to apologize, and also to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.”

B_oWegwUgAEdNCxThe fraternity’s national organization has closed the OU chapter, and someone sprayed graffiti on the frat house saying, “Tear it down.”

Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded in 1856, and most of its founders served the Confederacy during the Civil War; it’s believed that some of its early members were involved in the Ku Klux Klan. In the modern era, the OU chapter has had black members, but none since 14 years ago. Several other SAE chapters have recently gotten in trouble for racist behavior; for example, in 2014 several Arizona U. members were suspended for harassing Jewish students and using the Hitler salute. (Source)

levipettit3150310-parker-rice-jsw-1045p_13f63ddec16e3c7319e9995b138260b6Photos: (Above) Will this be the fate of OU’s SAE house? Parker Rice (l), Levi Pettit (r).

So, readers, how about it? Do these foolish, but contrite, young men deserve a second chance? Or is it necessary to make an example of them? They’re young, stupid, and made a mistake. Probably what’s most important is whether they learn from it, and it’s hard to see how they won’t. I think the real issue is the fraternity system, the values it promotes and the behavior it fosters, and its corrosive influence on the educational environment that college campuses are supposed to foster. In a sense, they’re victims of that system. But then, they chose to join it and participate in it.


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