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Student organizers continue to wait for university’s response

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Destinee Adams, the protest's director, leads the march down Monroe Street at the March for Black Lives on June 27, 2020 on Library Lawn in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

In 1949, Nancy Randolph Davis fought segregation to become the first black student to attend Oklahoma State University. 70 years later, black students are still fighting to receive an education that is equitable to that of their white peers.

Recently, five OSU students came together to author the List of Urgencies with input from a diverse group of students, staff, faculty and alumni. They then presented the list to the Board of Regents, the SGA president and at The March for Black Lives on campus.

The list involves 11 ways OSU can create a more inclusive community for everyone. This includes more racial bias training for anyone entering the Cowboy family, a multicultural center to foster community and conversations among diverse students and a detailed plan of how OSU can improve transparency in the coming years, among other measures.  

OkState Stand United co-organizer and black rights activist Destinee Adams said OSU administration claims the school already has practices and initiatives that address the List of Urgencies. 

“If that is true, there should be more transparency and data from the university making it obvious that these things exist to proactively aid the minority communities on campus,” Adams said. “What good are diversity initiatives if the diverse communities are not reaping the benefits?”

The organizers are still waiting on an official response from President Hargis and The Board of Regents. They said the List of Urgencies is exactly that: urgent. 

Senior Business Management major and co-organizer Sean Tolbert said OSU has a history of neglecting the needs of minority students.

“A part of OSU’s dark history is that of not responding to or advocating for their minority students, and that needs to be remembered and acknowledged,” Tolbert said. 

This is not to say OSU hasn’t made any progress. On Friday, June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, the university announced that they would be renaming both Murray and North Murray Hall. The name comes from former Oklahoma Governor William H. Murray, who was an advocate for segregation and promoted Jim Crow laws. 

OSU Alumni and speaker at The March for Black Lives, Tanner Luther, said he is glad the buildings are finally being renamed but feels it should have been done a long time ago.

“It’s a shame that it took a civil rights movement, a petition, and national media scrutiny on OSU because of [Mike] Gundy to spark change,” Luther said. “The Board of Regents and President Hargis shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back for this one. We need actual change in our day-to-day operations.” 

On June 24, OSU Athletics launched a diversity and inclusion council, which will be chaired by Dr. Jason F. Kirksey. Kirksey is OSU’s Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer. 

Destinee Adams said she wants to see the same commitment to all students that the university has to its athletes.

“[President Hargis] needs to address his regular students as he did his athletes,” Adams said. “We are all human and our value shouldn’t come from how much publicity we receive.”

The organizers behind Okstate Stand United and The March for Black Lives advise those who want to get involved to sign petitions and to educate themselves whenever possible.

“We need support from all across the university to communicate to the administration that this community cares to see black and minority students thrive and succeed,” Tolbert said. “And we will hopefully have more for you soon.”