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Black Seniors Reply to President Hargis' Response to the List of Urgencies

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OSU students and Stillwater Residents gather at the March for Black Lives on June 27, 2020 on Library Lawn in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Oklahoma State University officials, including President Burns Hargis, have been having ongoing conversations with Black seniors at OSU about racial justice on campus.

This discussion started with a list of 11 urgencies -- which was crafted by OSU students Destinee Adams, Payton Dougherty, Brenden Determen, Sean Tolbert and Gregory Samuel -- and then continued with OSU's response and went further on Tuesday when the students responded to OSU's responses. 

The contents of the conversation is listed below:

Urgency No. 1:

Prioritize diverse and equitable hiring practices and retention of minority faculty and staff on all levels and in all areas of campus in order to better serve students from marginalized groups.

Hire more mental health professionals from marginalized groups who are specifically equipped to aid students experiencing mental health issues unique to marginalized communities

Hire more African-American professors and academic advisors throughout the different colleges on campus

Hire more African American coaches and staff for OSU athletics

Publish race-specific (but still anonymous) data regarding the annual salaries of OSU staff and faculty to ensure equal pay and retention of staff and faculty of color 

OSU response:

OSU, like most institutions across the nation, unfortunately struggles with many of the items identified here, including and especially, the mental health and well-being support we are able to provide to all OSU students. One specific effort we have and continue to offer is through the OSU Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). OMA has an ongoing partnership with University Counseling Services to provide individual, as well as group counseling services.

Student response to OSU:

Lack of access to adequate mental health services is now disproportionately affecting college-aged adults, and especially BIPOC, even more than it has been. We are in the middle of (1) a pandemic in which Black and Latinx Americans are nearly 3 times as likely to contract COVID-19 than their white peers and twice as likely to die from it and (2) a worldwide movement for Black lives in which many people of color have mobilized to do free anti-racist work, often signifcantly straining their mental health. University counseling services only has one counselor of color and no LGBTQ+ counselors. Evidently, this partnership between UCS and OMA is insufficient, and during a time in which universities should be striving to provide mental health services to Black and brown students more than ever. Student response to OSU: There must be a specific effort to recruit minority counselors who focus on the health of marginalized communities.

 

OSU response:

We continue to struggle with the challenge of hiring faculty and staff of color, as well as individuals from all underserved, underrepresented and marginalized groups.

 

Student response to OSU:

Less than 2% of OSU faculty are Black. 

In addition to providing an “increased number of role models for students of Color, faculty of Color provide a set of classroom experiences that is valuable to the development of students intercultural competence.” The experiences that shape the journey’s of “African-American scholars currently teaching at predominantly White institutions can advantage all students, and especially White students, by equipping them with a more sophisticated ability to understand realities across cultures and apply their new knowledge to the intercultural relationships necessary to thrive in the 21st century.”

 

OSU response:

The OSU Office of Equal Opportunity posts open faculty and staff positions in several diversity-focused publications, including Diverse Issues in Higher Ed, Hispanic Outlook, and Insight Into Diversity magazines and job posting websites. The OSU Human Resources website includes an EEO/AA tab on its main page to inform prospective applicants of OSU’s federal compliance obligations, as well as the institutions’ overall commitments to diversity and inclusion.

 

Student response to OSU:

OSU needs a significantly more effective and action-oriented strategy for recruiting a diverse workforce than posting job openings in “diversity-focused publications,” the reach of which is unknown. If the university were to prioritize diverse and equitable hiring practices, OSU would have the opportunity to fulfil its land-grant mission and set a leading example for other institutions that continue to struggle in this regard.

  

OSU response:

Also, since October 2013, Dr. Jovette Dew, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Diversity, has attended the annual Compact for Minority Diversity hosted by the Southern Regional Education Board to recruit diverse faculty and graduate students on behalf of OSU. The Compact is the largest gathering of minority PhDs in the nation, and it is intended to offer higher educational institutions the opportunity to recruit potential faculty, as well as graduate students, to apply for open positions and graduate programs at their respective colleges and universities. The CVs and resumes we collect at the Compact are then shared with academic departments, administrative areas, and the Graduate College. We would certainly welcome any additional thoughts and ideas you or anyone else might have regarding additional ways for OSU to attract diverse faculty to the university. Since 2010, the total number of African American faculty teaching courses in OSU classrooms has increased from 21 to 44. This is a 110% increase. These numbers include all faculty rather than solely tenured or tenure-track faculty primarily because some of our faculty hold instructor or clinical faculty titles.

 

Student response to OSU:

Attending the annual Compact for Minority Diversity hosted by the Southern Regional Education Board to recruit diverse faculty is only useful to the extent that OSU actually hires the minority graduate students and participants who attend.

 

When hiring faculty and staff, employ a diverse search committee charged with (1) searching for BIPOC educators, (2) reaching out to them directly, and (3) ensuring they are offered competitive wages. Additional key ways to mitigate this issue can be found here under “Best Practices for Ensuring a Diverse Candidate Pool.”

OSU response:

Over the past couple weeks, the administration of OSU Athletics has proactively reached out to Dr. Jason Kirksey, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer and asked him to engage more directly with some of their programs and initiatives, including the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Council. The Council will be housed under the Division of Institutional Diversity rather than OSU Athletics, and will include students, as well as a number of individuals without a reporting line to Athletics. The council will also include several OSU African American alumni.

 

Student response to OSU:

The decision of OSU Athletics administrators to reach out to the Chief Diversity Officer is not “proactive” if it has just occurred over the past couple of weeks, because racism has always been an issue.

 

It is critical that this council includes multiple students and alumni who are active in anti-racist work and activism (which is different than diversity and inclusion work) in the political and social spheres, as these are the kinds of individuals equipt to evaluate racial issues and develop solutions.

 

OSU response:

As a state institution, the salary data of all OSU employees is publicly available in the Edmond Low Library.   

Student response to OSU:

“Easily accessible” is not the same thing as “publically available” (e.g., this salary data is publically available, while information on purchasing tickets to OSU athletic games is easily accessible).

 

 

Urgency No. 2:

Create more substantive and stringent diversity credit requirements in order to compel all OSU students to examine their own biases and thoroughly teach them about America’s history and means of oppressing racial minorities.  

Make relevant diversity classes more widely available, specifically, classes that examine race as a construct in American society and how that construct has been used to oppress people of color 

Reevaluate the criteria determining which courses count as a “diversity” credit requirement so that each course actively challenges students’ deeply held assumptions and subconscious biases

Remove workarounds for the diversity credit (study abroad, etc.) 

 

OSU response:

Since 2008, OSU has served as one of a small number of higher educational institutions around the nation to have and require a “D” (Diversity) designated course requirement on every undergraduate degree sheet. Additionally, the university has an “I” (International Dimension) designated course requirement on every undergraduate degree sheet. This past fall and spring the General Education Advisory Council (GEAC) heightened the stringency for proposed courses to receive the diversity designation. Additionally, throughout this year, GEAC had a number of discussions regarding section 6.03 of OSU policy 2-0212, which is for the approval of General Education courses and related items, such as the waiver requirement you are referencing. The GEAC members voted in favor of recommending abolishment of the international dimension waiver policy, however, because it is an established official policy, there are a couple additional levels of approval required prior to the change being implemented. 

 

Student response to OSU:

As seniors at OSU, we are aware that these courses are required and have taken them ourselves, which is partly how we know that they need to be significantly reevaluated and reformed. We can not stress enough the extent to which OSU’s “D” credit courses are not successful at actively challenging students’ deeply held assumptions and subconscious biases. Rather, they merely deal with subject matter generally related to minority experiences. This does not encourage critical self-inspection nor does it fulfill the obligation that a higher education institution has to prepare students to engage with a diverse world.

 

This further highlights the need to actively recruit and retain diverse faculty members, especially Black faculty, so that upper university administration may become more diverse and students have the opportunity to learn from educators with a variety of life experiences and perspectives. Further, an educational program that truly values diversity should not limit diversity-related content to a few designated courses. For example, all students in pre-med classes should be learning about racial bias in medicine and its impact on BIPOC communities, especially Black women. All students in pre-law classes should be learning about the many ways in which our legal system has been used to systematically oppress and disenfranchise racial minorities. Every syllabus with a reading list should include BIPOC authors, or an explanation as to why there are none, and so on.

 

Urgency No. 3:

Require a substantive racial bias training course for all incoming freshmen, transfer students, staff, and faculty members for the purpose of creating and promoting cultural awareness. 

Substantially reform the freshman diversity training experience to the extent that it successfully compels students to examine and address their prejudices

Extend the Diversity Advisory Board’s power to implement programs and training for students and faculty

 

OSU response:

The OSU Division of Institutional Diversity and the OSU Office of Human Resources collaborated over the past year on the 2020 Fostering Diversity and Inclusion online workshop module that will be required for all students, staff, and faculty beginning this fall. During the creation of the module, input was sought and received from a number of students, staff, and faculty. Additionally, over the past several years, the Division of Institutional Diversity presented an in-person, 90-minute diversity and inclusion (D & I) workshop to every session of Camp Cowboy, which encompassed approximately half of the incoming first-year class. They also present workshops to first-year seminar courses, at fraternity and sorority meetings, and to other groups throughout campus. The Division of Institutional Diversity also presents approximately 50-60 D & I workshops across campus annually to several thousand OSU students, staff, and faculty. Also, over the past couple years, Dr. Kirksey presented 10-15 D & I workshops to academic colleges, departments, individual classes, administrative units and areas across the OSU system. In summer 2019, Dr. Kirksey presented a two-hour Inclusive Excellence workshop to the entire OSU executive team, including myself, Provost Gary Sandefur, and every Vice President, Dean, campus Presidents, and several other high-ranking administrators. Several members of the Stillwater Police Department also participated in this workshop. Dr. Kirksey presented a 10-hour Inclusive Excellence Certificate Program to every sworn OSU Police Department Officer on the Stillwater and Tulsa campuses.

 

Student response to OSU:

An online workshop module is not a “substantive” racial bias training course. Prejudices that have been shaped over the course of a lifetime can’t be thoroughly addressed within a few hours nor mitigated by an online module. While the several public racist incidents that have occurred at OSU highlight our need for more thorough diversity training, it is the less public racism that BIPOC students face daily at OSU that really makes clear our need for sustained anti-racist edication.

 

As Black students who have worked on Camp Cowboy staff, we have first-hand experience regarding how that 90 minute presentation is too insufficient in length and content to meaningfully change incoming students’ hearts and minds.

 

Urgency No. 4:

Increase funding opportunities and awareness of those opportunities for African American students in order to lessen their financial burdens and aid them in successfully completing their degree requirements within 4 years.

Increase diversity scholarship funding at the university level and under all ten colleges within the university

Increase housing scholarships made available to incoming African American students and undergraduate students who plan to continue seeking housing on

Designate a meaningful portion of scholarships to be awarded to minority students who attended majority-minority high schools 

Assemble and publish an easily accessible list of scholarships and funding opportunities (from all kinds of sources) for African American students

 

OSU response:

In November 2012, the voters in Oklahoma passed state question 759, which added an anti-affirmative action provision into the Oklahoma constitution. This provision prohibits discrimination against or in favor of any person based on, among other things, race.  As a consequence, state funds cannot be allocated on the basis of race, so programs and funding limited only for African Americans are not legally permissible for the university.

 

Student response to OSU:

However, the OSU Foundation is a private organization that can raise and allocate private funds specifically to students from marginalized communities. In fact, the passing of SQ759 is all the more reason why private organizations, such as the OSU Foundation, should be raising funds for students from marginalized communities, as OSU is an institution that prides itself on accessible education and resources for all students, but in particular for students who have historically struggled in receiving equitable opportunities.

 

OSU response:

OSU offers a number of programs for students experiencing financial need. Beyond the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, several years ago the university established the Office of First-Year Success, which includes approximately 15 full-time Campus Connection Coaches and Financial Planning Coaches to assist all OSU students and facilitate their successful matriculation through their first year at OSU.

 

Student response to OSU:

As someone who was a part of the FYS program and is now in their last year at OSU, it was my experience that this program seemed to receive limited funding and did not prioritize student retention. The meetings held did not seem beneficial to student success; rather, they were centered around the program’s image. FYS has since improved, however, there needs to be easily accessible data showing exactly how this program affects the matriculation of students, and conclusions drawn from that data must be used to significantly improve the program. - Brenden Determan, OSU NAACP President

 

OSU response:

OSU Housing and Residential Life offers approximately 20 housing leadership and scholarship awards, as well as additional support for students in need. Additionally, for continuing students, Housing and Residential Life hires a number of students as Community Mentors, Ambassadors, Conference Assistants and Managers, and Apartment Assistants. Approximately two years ago, Housing and Residential Life established an incentive program to supplement the hourly wage of continuing students working on campus and living in a campus residential facility.  

 

Student response to OSU:

Community Mentors at other colleges and universities get the opportunity to clock in and be paid specifically for the hours they work. OSU Residential Life only provides community mentors with housing and meal plans, and their meal plan is less than the silver dining plan for regular students. Not paying community mentors directly for the hours they work harms their financial stability, and Residential Life does not allow CM’s to work more than 10 hours per week at another job, so they are often unable to earn the amount of money they need. This leaves CMs having to take out loans, despite their housing and meal plan being covered by the university. Given that CM’s have to help 30+ students manage various aspects of their lives, the incentives provided are not fair compensation for their work. 

 

OSU response:

The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid website publishes a number of internal and external scholarships and funding resources available to all students. The programs within the Division of Institutional Diversity that offer funding assistance are available at every New Student Orientation Browse Session, at the annual African American Student Association’s Black Student Orientation and the Hispanic Orientation of Leadership Associations, as well as at the other student organization orientations held in the Student Union Theater every fall semester. Additionally, the information is available on a floor standing brochure holder outside the doors of the OSU Office of Multicultural Affairs at 240 Student Union.

 

Student response to OSU:

According to data published by the Oklahoma State University office of Institutional Research and Information Management, black students who entered our university as freshmen in 2013 had a 6-year graduation rate of 40.2%, compared to a 71.1% 6-year graduation rate for white women in the same cohort. African American students at OSU have a significantly lower 6 year graduation rate than their white peers, partially because they suffer from disproportionate rates of financial hardship due to the legacy of slavery in America and its resulting racial wealth gap. There is no indication that the organizations and initiatives detailed above have mitigated this inequity at OSU. 

 

We hope to see the OSU administration publish data regarding how much debt the average Black OSU student graduates or leaves campus with compared to the average white student and detail strategies it will implement in the near future to correct inequities where they are present.

 

OSU response:

OSU offers a number of programs that African American students actively participate in and are subsequently offered opportunities for internships, as well as career opportunities. The Retention Initiative for Student Excellence (RISE) program, for instance, is significantly supported by Phillips 66 (P66). Over the past couple years, we have piloted a mentoring program, which paired former RISE participants with P66 employees in Houston, including several executives. While we can certainly do more, there are a number of existing OSU programs, e.g., OK-LSAMP, Inclusion Leadership Program (ILP) McNair Scholars, CEAT Summer Bridge Program, etc., that offer these and other opportunities to underrepresented and underserved racial and ethnic students.

 

Student response to OSU:

These programs need to be better and more widely advertised, and their funding needs to be increased.

 

Urgency No. 5:

Expand and increase institutional support services for minority students.

Increase funding and staffing support within Diversity Academic Support/TRiO to provide support for minority students beyond their first year of college

Institute Diversity Liaisons in the academic colleges

 

OSU response:

The Diversity Academic Support and TRIO programs within the OSU Division of Institutional Diversity referenced above are open to all students in compliance with state law. Within the Division of Institutional Diversity are our four U.S. Department of Education TRIO programs. TRIO programs are designed to serve low-income, first-generation, and differently abled students. Two of these programs directly serve OSU students. The Student Support Services program serves 140 OSU students, first-year through seniors. Additionally, the McNair Scholars program serves 25 OSU students with the goal of effectively preparing the participants for graduate education.

 

Student response to OSU:

We know that these programs exist, which is why we are asking the university to increase and expand them.

 

OSU response:

In February, Dr. Kirksey proposed to the OSU Dean’s Council the establishment of a Senior Inclusion Officer position in each academic college. He provided the deans with the formal proposal approximately one month ago. The proposal was well received and supported. In fact, Dr. Lex Smith Washington, Associate Professor of Management in the Spears School of Business was appointed, and the title change of Senior Inclusion Officer was approved at the OSU A & M Board of Regents meeting last Friday. We expect the other academic colleges to also appoint a Senior Inclusion Officer over the next year.

 

Student response to OSU:

We hope that this letter and the List of Urgencies will be taken seriously by the Senior Inclusion Officer(s), and that they will meet with students of color, specifically Black students, who are participating in anti-racist work.

 

Urgency No. 6:

Create a multicultural center on campus to provide a central space where minority students can access information critical to ensuring academic success and participate in learning experiences aiding professional and academic success

Centralize a facility on campus dedicated to serving the university’s minority population(s) and providing free event space to facilitate collaboration and cultural celebrations 

Provide office space to streamline multicultural resources and mitigate duplication of efforts and increase interdepartmental collaboration 

Create career ambassador positions specifically developed to present job opportunities to multicultural students

 

OSU response:

The Office of Multicultural Affairs serves as an office, centrally located within the OSU Student Union, to provide a space to share and disseminate information regarding resources focused on the academic success of underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized students at OSU. OMA also serves as the administrative home for our Coordinators for African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latinx, and Women’s and LGBTQ Affairs. Additionally, OMA serves as the administrative home for a number of our multicultural student organizations, including NAACP, Minority Women’s Association, Male Initiative, and Feminist Collective (FemCo).

 

Student response to OSU:

Having OMA is not similar to having a multicultural center, partially because OMA is not a community space. Providing students with a centralized, multicultural community space is a necessary part of promoting diversity and inclusion, as well as streamlining resources critical to serving marginalized students. This is why many other Big XII schools (including but not limited to OU, ISU, and KU) provide multicultural centers for their students.

 

African American focused student organizations at OSU often have to spend most of their budgets renting out rooms for events, leaving them with little funding and resources left for community development. Having a multicultural center with space designated for these groups would solve this issue and promote the inclusion that this university claims to facilitate. 

 

OSU response:

The President’s Roundtable is a monthly meeting made up of the chairs and presidents of African American focused student organizations. This group meets to discuss programming initiatives, collaboration opportunities and provides a space for students to discuss things effecting the Black community. Dr. Elmore-Sanders and her team are also establishing an OMA Student Council to offer an additional, structural opportunity for the voices of underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized students to be expressed and heard.

 

Student response to OSU:

We have met with the President’s Roundtable and will continue to do so, and one of us is the President of an organization included in the roundtable. The presidents of African American focused student organizations have expressed significant concerns to us that would be mitigated by many of the measures detailed in this list. Some of their concerns are (1) insufficient funding for multicultural student organizations and (2) a lack of trust in the universities commitment to employing genuinely effective diversity and inclusion initiatives.

 

OSU response:

Last year, the Division of Institutional Diversity established an Ambassadors Program. These students serve as representatives for prospective, as well as continuing students and participate in browse sessions, such as New Student Orientation, high school recruitment events, on and off of campus, as well as the 2019 OSU Diversity Hall of Fame.

 

OSU Career Services also has several team members, including a designated Career Counselor and Assessment Coordinator, that focus on working with underrepresented and underserved populations and addressing specific career concerns. They regularly offer workshops across campus, as well as individual appointments to work with students.

 

Student response to OSU:

There is only one staff member in Career Services focused on serving marginalized communities, and they are charged with focusing on all of those communities, which is insufficient. This issue, like many others mentioned, may have been brought to light and addressed sooner if there were more diverse faculty and high-level administrators.

 

Urgency No. 7:

Develop and publish easily accessible data reports regarding the academic success of OSU’s multicultural students compared to that of OSU’s white students so that increased transparency can aid in holding the university accountable to establish a significant degree of equity amongst its students.

Publish race-specific data regarding OSU’s annual retention rate of various groups of students and the number of semesters it takes students to graduate

Commit to taking any and all necessary measures to correct inequities where data shows them to the present in order to ensure that marginalized racial minorities succeed in their academic careers to the same degree as their white peers

 

OSU response:

The Institutional Research and Information Management department maintains a diversity ledger, an academic ledger, and a student profile on their website (https://irim.okstate.edu/cdr/index.html). All three of the ledgers are publicly accessible and contain the information requested above. Additionally, this ledger provides a five-year snapshot of diversity-focused data across a range of categories, including many of those requested above. OSU has provided a publicly available diversity ledger for well over a decade.

 

Student response to OSU:

Yet, the inequities still exist, so our university needs to commit to taking any and all necessary measures to ensure that marginalized students succeed in their academic careers to the same degree as their white peers. OSU should want to put the statistics from its diversity ledger on marketing materials equally as often as it uses photos of students of color on such materials. 

 

This point on our list has been further updated, which can be read here

 

OSU’s data regarding the academic success of its multicultural students compared to that of its white students needs to be more (1) comprehensive, (2) widely publicized, and (3) easily accessible.

 

Urgency No. 8:

Develop and publish a detailed plan of initiatives and strategies OSU commits to implementing in upcoming years in order to foster a widely and genuinely inclusive environment at OSU.

Develop and include specific action points and measurable goals aimed at establishing racial equity across all OSU departments (recruitment, academic colleges, financial aid, retention, administration, career services, etc.)

Include a protocol detailing how the university administration will respond to racist incidents

Include plans to intentionally recruit Black graduate and undergraduate students

Collaborate with students, faculty, specifically those who are racial minorities, to create this plan by the end of the 2020-2021 school year, as other Big XII schools have done, including OU and UT 

 

OSU response:

As a federal contractor, OSU is required by federal and state law to complete an annual Affirmative Action Plan. The OSU Office of Equal Opportunity for approximately the past five years contracted with an outside vendor, Berkshire, to compile and assess our compliance with the federal and state mandated compliance rules and regulations. Their reviews have shown that we are in compliance with federal law.

 

Student response to OSU:

We’re not asking for compliance with federal law; we’re asking for a detailed plan of initiatives OSU commits to executing in upcoming years in order to foster a widely and genuinely inclusive environment at OSU. We are actively consulting and working with OSU administrators and staff to develop measures to be included in this plan, and we hope to work with Dr. Hargis and Dr. Kirksey throughout this process. A published plan of timed, measurable goals and commitments will aid future generations of cowboys in holding their university accountable to impactful, rather than performative, diversity and inclusion work.

 

OSU response:

Bias response incident information is available through the Division of Student Affairs, specifically the Vice President Dr. Doug Hallenbeck’s office. Depending on the origin and nature of the issue, e.g., physical threat or other violation of the law, the Vice Presidents of Student Affairs and Institutional Diversity immediately communicate and assess the incident. OSU Brand Management, particularly for social media issues, is also immediately contacted, as well as Senior Vice President Gary Clark in the Office of the President. Again, depending on the situation, OSU Chief of Police Leon Jones, and in rare instances, the OSU A & M Board of Regents Legal Counsel is also immediately contacted. Provost Gary Sandefur is also included when faculty are involved. If the comments or behavior is protected by the First Amendment, we generally reach out to the individual to counsel how such speech or behavior is hurtful and not what we expect from members of the Cowboy family.  In appropriate instances, public statements will be issued pointing out how the actions are repugnant and not representative of OSU.

 

Student response to OSU:

This is not the same as having a published protocol for dealing with racist incidents. 

 

OSU response:

Each academic college has a prospective student coordinator or related position or office. These individuals and units regularly partner with the OSU Office of Undergraduate Admissions, The Honors College, the Graduate College, and the Division of Institutional Diversity to effectively recruit students to OSU, including prospective students from underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized communities.  

 

Student response to OSU:

We are not asking for “effective recruitment of students, including marginalized ones;” we are asking for recruitment efforts to be specifically aimed at such students.

 

Urgency No. 9:

Actively and consistently seek input from students, faculty, and staff belonging to marginalized groups regarding how the university administration can foster a healthy and inclusive learning environment.

Conduct anonymous campus climate surveys at the end of each semester to receive direct insight into the experiences of students, faculty, and staff from marginalized groups and feedback regarding how to improve their learning and working environments

Conduct focus groups with marginalized students to discuss their experiences and input regarding OSU’s diversity initiatives in detail

 

 

OSU response:

The OSU Office of University Assessment and Testing evaluates diversity as a general education outcome. In the 2018-2019 academic year, OSU evaluated diversity as a general education outcome. In addition to evaluating written student artifacts, OSU also administered the OSU Campus Climate Survey for Students (CCS-S). In an effort to streamline assessment of diversity, the Campus Climate Survey for Students will continue to be administered to OSU students for each diversity assessment cycle year in order to establish a baseline and track progress at OSU across years. By collecting responses from all students, we will be able to improve upon the existing CCS-S, which will provide OSU with the ability to measure progress and effectiveness of diversity initiatives. With this information, OSU will be able to effectively address any issues or concerns.

 

Student response to OSU:

We are not asking for campus climate surveys to be administered each diversity assessment cycle year, but at the end of each semester. This is especially important to implement immediately due to the current political and racial climate in our country and on our campus, which students of color experience and understand in a way that university administrators can not.

 

OSU response:

The Division of Institutional Diversity committed $5,000 each of the previous three years to support the Cowboys Coming Together initiative. Cowboys Coming Together was a series of focused conversations among OSU students, staff, and faculty to discuss issues of inequality, equity, respect, and civility. The overall goal of the initiative was to help better facilitate open, welcoming, and respectful campus and community environments for every member of the OSU Family. The effort was coordinated by Dr. Tami Moore, Dr. Mike Stout, several members of the OSU Black Faculty and Staff Association and others.

 

Student response to OSU:

Money is not equivalent to justice. Further, in the sphere of higher education, $5,000 is not much money.

 

Focused conversations regarding issues such as equality are very limited in their reach and effectiveness, because the people who most need to be educated regarding this topic will not go out of their way to do so. Only people who are already comfortable talking about such matters participate. It is important to get this information to those who would not traditionally attend diversity-focused events, which requires a more concentrated and active effort to reach the OSU community outside the scope of the Cowboys Coming Together initiative. Focused conversations on anti-racist work can very easily be incorporated into new faculty orientations and more.

 

Urgency No. 10:

Increase and expand professional development opportunities specifically for students from underrepresented populations to combat systemic racism in employee recruitment and hiring practices.

Increase postgraduate programs and professional workshops for black students.

Real-time data for post-graduation job security of minority students

Incorporate a Multiethnic Professional Association into career services.

 

OSU response:

OSU Career Services offers a wide array of programs and services to support, guide, and equip all OSU students with essential skills for career success. The programs are available to every level of OSU student. The Division of Institutional Diversity regularly collaborates with Career Services team members to offer a variety of workshops to educate and guide all  students’ understanding and skill development to promote career success and advancement.

 

Student response to OSU:

As seniors, we know that OSU has a Career Services office, and having Career Services is not the same thing as increasing and expanding professional development opportunities specifically for students from underrepresented populations.

 

As stated previously, there is only one staff member in Career Services focused on marginalized communities, and they are charged with focusing on all of those communities.

 

OSU response:

OSU offers a number of professional associations for all students, including the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), African American Business Student Association (AABSA), Minority Women’s Association (MWA), and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Science (MANRRS), as well as others. Over the past several years, the Division of Institutional Diversity has supported and often funded the initial and annual memberships for the Association of Black Psychologists, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association for Minorities in Hospitality, Diversity Study Abroad Membership, The PhD Project, and others.

 

The Division of Institutional Diversity also supports and funds a delegation of Afro-Am students to attend the annual Big XII Conference on Black Student Government. The Office of the President, the Vice President for Student Affairs, the academic college deans, several administrative units, and the OSU Foundation also regularly provide financial assistance to support the OSU delegation of students attending the annual conference. In 2015, OSU hosted the conference, which brought over 600 students from 43 institution from around the state and nation. Finally, the Division of Institutional Diversity and the Office of the President support and fund the Black Graduate Student Association’s annual colloquium on Black professional development, and graduate school attainment.    

 

Urgency No. 11:

Conduct a transparent, external review and audit of OSU’s Division of Institutional Diversity and the Office of Multicultural Affairs and their diversity efforts.

Develop a committee consisting of a diverse group of faculty, staff, students, and alumni to oversee this initiative and, along with the external review team, make recommendations to the Board of Regents regarding the best ways to move forward with diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at OSU

No individuals currently serving the Division of Institutional Diversity or the Office of Multicultural Affairs in any capacity should be on this committee or external review team, nor should they be involved in selecting individuals to serve on said committee

Publish the results of this review and audit, and use them to inform the structure, organization, mission, staffing, and direction of the Division of Institutional Diversity and the Office of Multicultural Affairs moving forward

 

OSU response:

The OSU Division of Institutional Diversity was established in 2005. It is the oldest, comprehensive executive-level division focused on diversity and inclusion in the Big XII. Dr. Kirksey has served as head of the Division since 2009. During his tenure, OSU has experienced record enrollment growth, degree attainment, and faculty hiring of diverse students and faculty. Under Dr. Kirksey’s leadership, OSU has earned more than 25 nationally prestigious awards and recognitions, including since 2014, the U.S. Department of Education designation as a Minority-serving Institution. In 2015, the Division of Institutional Diversity established the OSU Diversity Hall of Fame, and that same year, Dr. Kirksey and his team embarked on an innovative and unprecedented capital campaign focused almost exclusively on African American OSU alumni. The goal of the five-year campaign was $1.65M. At the conclusion of the campaign last year, Dr. Kirksey and his team raised $6.4M to establish endowed scholarships, provide program support, and other financial assistance to help students, faculty, and staff achieve their goals at OSU.

 

Student response to OSU:

The length of time which an institution has existed does not determine its quality nor effectiveness.

 

OSU’s diversity awards have no impact on the day-to-day lives of students of color at OSU. Many spend a significant amount of our time dealing with racism, and OSU’s diversity awards have not mitigated that issue. 

 

We appreciate the increase in diversity at OSU thus far, and we want to stress that diversity is not the same thing as inclusion. If one were to increase the number of students of color at OSU by 50%, that would make our campus environment 50% more diverse, but such an action in itself would do nothing to make our campus more inclusive. Having more people of color in closer proximity to any conversation, in itself, does nothing to ensure that their voices are listened to or respected as much as those participants who are more privileged. In fact, it often just puts people of color in a position to be consistently talked over and often uncomfortable.

 

OSU response:

The Division of Institutional Diversity falls under my purview, and I evaluate the effectiveness of its overall performance annually. OSU continues to demonstrate a commitment to inclusive excellence that truly sets us apart from many higher education institutions across the state and the nation. While admittedly there is more work to be done, the independent and external affirmations regarding our efforts confirms my view that the Division performs very well. I will continue to challenge them to seek feedback and implement innovative ideas. They are a passionate group! They have always embraced any challenge that they are faced with and I am confident that they will continue to support our community.

 

Student response to OSU:

We understand that the Division of Institutional Diversity falls under the purview of our university’s president and appreciate his efforts to evaluate and maintain its effectiveness. However, the effectiveness of any anti-racist efforts can only be adequately judged by those who have lived experiences of racism.

 

We included this point on the list specifically because Black OSU alumni suggested it (nearly word-for-word as it is written), and because Black students and alumni have expressed sentiments that would lead one to believe that an independent, external audit of our Division of Institutional Diversity is warranted. 

 

Neither our university’s president and administrators nor those who have provided independent and external affirmations of their diversity efforts can have the same perspective on their effectiveness as the students of color who those efforts are intended to benefit. Despite us Black seniors nearing the end of our time at OSU, we want to see OSU become a welcoming and accessible place for future Cowboys from marginalized communities. Accomplishing that goal requires that OSU administrators genuinely, consistently listen to Black students and alumni who have experienced institutional racism.

 

With OSU administrators having a high degree of confidence in the effectiveness of our Division of Institutional Diversity, they should feel equally confident that an independent, external review would result in the same conclusion.