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Legislative Black Caucus calls for reform following racist incidents at OU



The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus on Friday called for the University of Oklahoma to take steps to promote diversity and tolerance after two recent racist incidents on campus.

Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, said he and other members of the caucus met with OU President Jim Gallogly and other university officials Thursday to discuss reforms.

During a news conference Friday, Young released a list of reforms the caucus is requesting, including a zero-tolerance policy regarding hate speech, financial support for African American programs and more multicultural faculty, staff and administrators.

In a statement, OU officials said Gallogly agreed to continue the conversations and provide lawmakers with updates on the university's efforts to address racism on campus.

Young said the caucus would also ask Gov. Kevin Stitt to appoint a member to the OU Board of Regents "who will hold the concerns and the cares of students of color in high regard and give their concerns high priority."

Clay Bennett resigned from the board Wednesday for health reasons, leaving two vacant seats on the board.

"We need someone who can relate to the issues of the students in that position, and particularly the students of color," Young said.

Last month, a video surfaced on Snapchat of two white female OU students laughing as one wore blackface and used a racial epithet about herself. The incident led to campus protests and rallies, and the two students voluntarily withdrew from the university.

The next week, video was posted on social media of a man in blackface walking on and near campus.

The Legislative Black Caucus also requested the creation of a senior vice president position with the authority to address racial and cultural issues on campus. Young said the caucus also asked Gallogly to give the office the funding it needs to be successful.

Currently, Jane Irungu, OU's interim associate vice president of the Office of University Community, serves as the university's chief diversity officer. The position was created in response to a 2016 incident in which a video surfaced online of members of the OU chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity singing a racist chant.

Elevating that role to a senior vice president position would "give it some more teeth," Young said.

Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›