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Racist Video Chant Was Learned|at National Meeting, OU Prez Says

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) - A racist chant sung by fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma on a viral video was learned four years ago during a leadership meeting held by the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, school officials said Friday.

President David Boren announced the findings of the school's investigation into the video at a news conference Friday afternoon.

The 9-second video was posted on YouTube on March 8, showing members of the local SAE chapter on a bus singing , "there will never be a nigger in SAE."

The school quickly expelled two fraternity members and evicted the rest from the SAE house. Boren said an additional 25 students have been disciplined for their role in the chant and 160 interviews were conducted to determine the chant's origins.

The racist chant was taken back from the national fraternity's event and "formalized" by the OU chapter, becoming a "part of the institutionalized culture of the chapter," Boren said.

Boren said it was "extremely important" for the school to learn from what happened and that the country must be mindful that racism still exists.

"This is a problem in America," Boren said. "We've had an epidemic of racism all across our country. Ferguson, Missouri, may be the best example. I have asked myself why, why is this happening?"

Boren pounded the podium with his fist as he said, "We can stop it, if all of us and the institutions and organizations we belong to and all of us as individuals say we have zero tolerance for racism in America. That's not who we are as an American people. We are the greatest melting pot in the world and we are an example to the rest of the world as a place of respect."

Boren said the investigation concluded that approximately a dozen high school students were also on the bus headed to an Oklahoma City country club on March 7 for a Founder's Day party, and that alcohol was made available to them at the SAE house beforehand.

One of the expelled students, Levi Pettit of Dallas, publicly apologized Wednesday for his role in the video.

"I'm so sorry for all the pain that I've caused," he said at a news conference while flanked by Oklahoma officials and black leaders. "There are no excuses for my behavior. I never thought of myself as a racist, I never considered it a possibility. The bottom line is that the words that were said in that chant were mean, hurtful, and racist."

Pettit declined to answer questions about where he learned the chant.

Boren said the leadership of the now-suspended local SAE chapter had an "emotional" meeting with black students in his office before his news conference. He said he was moved by the offering and accepting of face-to-face apologies.

Attorney Stephen Jones, with Jones Otjen & Davis in Oklahoma City, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon. He was hired on March 16 to represented members of the local SAE chapter's board of directors. Jones said at the time that the fraternity had been unfairly "painted" with a "tar brush as bigots" and urged school officials to be mindful of the students' free speech and due process rights.

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