Legislative Black Caucus Joins OU Students Demanding Change
Senator George Young said the Legislative Black Caucus met Thursday with University of Oklahoma President James Gallogly to discuss recent racial incidents on campus. Young, a Democrat from Oklahoma City, chairs the caucus.
“I had some concerns after leaving our meeting,” Young said. “He’s [Gallogly] trying, but I see some room for a lot of work with what he needs to understand about social issues and how to go about addressing them.”
Young said the caucus will ask Gov. Stitt to fill one of two open positions on the OU Board of Regents with “someone who will hold the concerns and the cares of students of color in high regard” and increase the board’s diversity. The caucus is also advocating that OU create another senior vice president position to handle racial and cultural issues specifically. And the lawmakers are looking into OU’s affirmative action policy, which Young said is not currently “in effect.”
Gallogly also met with students Thursday to discuss their demands. The OU Black Student Association wants a “zero-tolerance policy of hate speech” added to the university’s student code, among other things. But Gallogly has expressed concerns about the legality of such a policy.
“We wanted to know the progress on a zero-tolerance policy that we asked about,” said Joshua Davis, an OU BSA member who attended the meeting. “President Gallogly said that he talked to a lot of lawyers, and they [OU] can't do much to punish somebody for using the First Amendment rights.”
Speaking for himself, Davis said he is satisfied with Gallogly’s response so far. Davis said he believes the only way to create lasting change at the university is to increase diversity on campus, perhaps through need-based scholarships, and to require university coursework that fosters inclusion.
The university announced the formation of the Student Code of Conduct Review Committee on Jan 25 tasked with reviewing “best practices from across the country in student affairs as well as legal developments that can inform updates to the university’s code in response to the recent racist event.”
David Surratt, OU’s newly appointed dean of students, will lead the committee. Surratt previously worked at University of California, Berkeley. On his personal website, Surratt describes himself as someone with over 16 years experience in higher education student affairs and a first-generation college student of Korean and African American heritage.
Davis and Young said further meetings with Gallogly are in the works.