Monday, March 9, 2015

We Need Change at The University of Oklahoma **UPDATE**

**Update is at the end**

Hi Friends:

If you're used to my usual mild discussions and observations about life, you may want to skip this post. Because something happened which touched a nerve for me; dealing with racism is part of my life's work. 

Yesterday, a video went viral showing  fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma chanting a racist chant. I won't link to it, I won't tell you what the words are. But it's not good. It makes me feel a little sick to think of. If you want to see, google SAE or Sigma Alpha Epsilon and University of Oklahoma. The national SAE chapter revoked their membership and the university cut ties with them. But that's all. A quick fix for a national embarrassment. Perhaps this will blow over. 

But I hope that this is where we begin a constructive conversation about race and racism and institutional change. OU doesn't even have a diversity officer. Nor do they have a diverse faculty or staff or student body.

I have been told that letter writing is still a thing and that it's effective in bringing about change. What happened with SAE is not an isolated occurrence. It's part of a systematic problem. But we can we do about it? 
I wrote a letter to President Boren this morning, calling for creation of a Diversity Officer (and office!) at OU. Please write him too. The email address is There is a diversity enrichment program at OU, but it's really insufficient. 

Strike while the iron is hot; this is our best opportunity to fight back against racism and oppression in the OU community!

Dear President Boren: 
As an alum of the University of Oklahoma (Ph.D., Education, 2011), I have always been proud to call myself a Sooner. My fellow graduates and I always boast of our attendance at the flagship university, an oasis of tolerance and academic excellence in Oklahoma.

But not today. Today I feel ashamed. I felt nauseous when I viewed the SAE video.

I expect better of our campus, our greek life, and the culture at OU. We can do better, and we must.

Here are two suggestions I have.  First, please read the introduction to my dissertation. It details my observations of the systemic racism seen in my classroom at OU which became the impetus for my research topic. The dissertation itself deals with racism and white privilege in the college composition classroom. 

More importantly, I hope that you will open a diversity office with a chief diversity officer to educate students, faculty, and staff about systematic oppression and to attract more diverse employees and students to the institution. The diversity officer should be supported financially and ideologically by the university. 

Punishing one branch of one group is effective for a day. Educating, enlightening, and demanding equality for everyone is preferable if you want to improve a part of the culture. 

The university's home page claims that "OU students benefit from a diverse, vibrant campus and community, and an exciting global heritage". Please remove this mark on our university.
If I can be of service, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Dr. Mindie Dieu
Class of 2005 and 2011

Since I posted this, I have learned that President Boren kicked the SAE off campus. They had until midnight to vacate premises. Their sign was taken down and many of the young men were recorded by local reporters saying how embarrassed they were. Somehow, I just don't think that's enough. 

Football coach Bob Stoops and his players walked off of the field yesterday as a protest, and the group OU Unheard staged a silent protest. I think this has put some pressure on the administration.

President Boren took it a step further. He told Wolf Blitzer that this was not an "isolated incident", but that he can't just expel students for this unless he can prove they have created a hostile environment for others.  You can read the news report here

Additionally, the house mother- who went on with Boren- reported never hearing such things from the students' mouths. Yet the Lost Ogle shows a vine with her....well, maybe you don't want to know what she's singing. This seems to be indicative of a culture of oppression. 

I don't think President Boren is amused or even surprised. The ball is in his court and I look forward to his next actions. I feel a bit hopeful, because once you shed light on the dark parts of things, you can correct the injustice. 

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