Crimson Quarterly, spring 2023 edition

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After death of Norman fixture, local communities celebrate business owner’s life of generosity, allyship COLLEGE MEDIA’S 2021 MAGAZINE OF THE YEAR
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Crimson QUARTERLY 4 9 14 17 21 Potential revenue boom hailed by marijuana vote Remembering the Cookie Queen Finding healing through music Inside the affirmative action debate Democrats face uphill legislative battle INSIDE

Potential revenue boom hailed by


Ahead of state election, Norman business owners, experts forecast increased entrepreneurship, tax funds



he legalization of marijuana was nothing but a pipe dream in 2016 when Ward 7 Norman City Councilmember Stephen Holman faced seven drug charges, including a felony.

But in October, Gov. Kevin Stitt set a state election for March 7, 2023, for Oklahomans to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana for people 21 and older, which Norman business owners and a cannabis business expert say would increase state revenue and local businesses.

If State Question 820 passes, marijuana sales would be subjected to a 15 percent excise tax on top of the standard sales tax. All revenue generated would go toward funding local municipalities, the courts system, public schools, drug addiction treatment programs and the state’s general revenue fund, according to Stitt’s executive proclamation.

Before State Question 778 legalized medical marijuana in Oklahoma in 2018, Norman headshop business owners faced opposition. Holman recounted the massive controversy between the Norman Police Department and the Friendly Market, a Norman store that, at the time, only sold glass pipes and non-cannabis material.

Holman, who has managed Friendly Market since fall 2015, said he and store owner Robert

Cox were charged with multiple counts of misdemeanor paraphernalia possession and a felony for acquiring “drug money,” after NPD raided their store twice due to a complaint that the store’s glass pipes were drug paraphernalia.

Local donations kept the store open for six months following the two raids near the end of 2015, Holman said.

“People came to Friendly Market just to buy stuff and to be supportive,” Holman said. “It was

When medical marijuana was legalized, Holman said Cox created two separate legal entities for Friendly Market — a dispensary and a gift shop — so anyone could go into the store to purchase items that did not require a medical card.

“We didn’t want to be in a situation where we’re telling our customers, ‘OK, starting tomorrow, if you don’t have a medical card, you can’t come in anymore to Friendly Market to get other things that aren’t cannabis,’” Holman said.

Holman said the dispensary business is separate from the rest of the shop, allowing Friendly Market to retain previous customers and accommodate new ones in accordance with state laws.

He said State Question 820 will likely alter how the store conducts business but is unsure if it will increase foot traffic.

right around Christmas, and … the community just felt it was so absurd.”

After the ensuing legal battle, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of Friendly Market in 2017, returning items valued at $15,000.

“A basic assumption by many might be that if it’s legalized recreationally, there’ll be more business. There’ll be more people consuming cannabis,” Holman said. “I’m not necessarily convinced that’s true because of the low threshold to get a medical card in Oklahoma. My assumption is a vast majority of people in Oklahoma that consume cannabis or are interested in consuming cannabis have a medical card.”

5 “
Logan Goolsby, a professor at the Community College of Denver’s cannabis
Any new business that a main street in a small town in Oklahoma can get, it’s going to be good for them.
-STEPHEN HOLMAN, Ward 7 Norman City councilmember

business degree program, said the excise tax increase proposed by State Question 820 would match Colorado’s marijuana revenue.

Goolsby said revenue generated from the Colorado excise tax goes toward school repairs and law enforcement, especially for youth.

In addition to the increased revenue provided by the proposed 15 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana, Goolsby said State Question 820 could open more opportunities for businesses across Oklahoma.

“Individuals who might decide to go into a more retail market will find they don’t need medical as much, and they can stay with the retail market,” Goolsby said. “You might see an uptick, initially, with individuals trying to look at what their opportunities are, still, in the medical field. Then, as time progresses, they might switch into the retail market field.”

Holman also said the revenue generated by the proposed increase in excise tax would be good for the state, especially in towns like Norman.

In Oklahoma, the sales and use tax is the largest source of revenue, according to the Oklahoma Policy

Since July 2021, Oklahoma has collected over $111 million in

marijuana sales tax revenue, which goes to entities like the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority for operating costs, the state’s general revenue fund for education, and a drug and alcohol rehabilitation fund, according to the Sales Tax Handbook.

Applications for medical cannabis permits from patients and commercial vendors have generated $18.2 million in combined revenue, according to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority.

“Any new business that a main street in a small town in Oklahoma can get, it’s going to be good for them,” Holman said.

Goolsby said the creation of future developments is another benefit of increasing the marijuana market, like improved manufacturing practices, which will not only benefit the cannabis industry, but also other industries across the state.

Since State Question 820 proposes that only currently licensed medical stores are eligible for retail sales of marijuana, Goolsby said dispensaries in Oklahoma should not be concerned about a change in their customer base.

Chelsea Cossey, owner of The Grateful Bud Dispensary in Norman, said although she thinks legalizing State Question 820 will be beneficial for business and public opinion on marijuana, she doesn’t plan on immediately expanding into a recreational market.

“(Medical marijuana) is where my heart is,” Cossey said. “I’m not saying that I wouldn’t,

because I definitely think that could help sales, but my passion in it is the medical side.”

Cossey said she and her family became involved in the medical marijuana market when her 5-year-old nephew was diagnosed with seizures. Since using CBD, Cossey said her nephew is now seizure-free and off all other pharmaceuticals.

The Food and Drug Administration approved one CBD product, a prescription drug used to treat seizures associated with LennoxGastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome and tuberous sclerosis complex in individuals 1 year or older, according to its website. According to the FDA, there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety and quality of products containing CBD.

Little is known about the long-term impact of marijuana use by people with health and age-related vulnerabilities, including older adults or people with cancer, AIDS, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis or other neurodegenerative diseases, according to the National Insitute on Drug Abuse.

Holman said his main concern about State Question 820 is the negative stigmas surrounding marijuana.

“I expect a negative campaign against it just to get people’s fear about it riled up,” Holman said. “In the end, what I’ve witnessed is that medical marijuana has generated over 10,000 new businesses in the state of Oklahoma since it was created.”

RAY BAHNER/OU DAILY Ward 7 Norman City Councilmember Stephen Holman, manager of Friendly Market, on Jan. 31.

According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, there are 12,009 licensed cannabis businesses in Oklahoma. Holman said the number of jobs the cannabis market provides in Oklahoma proves expanding marijuana sales would be beneficial to the state.

Holman also said many Friendly Market customers expressed they are more open to marijuana due to its legality.

Gemma Ohlemacher, Washington state resident and Seattle Film Institute student, said legalizing recreational and medical marijuana in the states she has lived in has positively impacted how people view marijuana.

“There’s a lot of fear with people who see marijuana as something you do when you’re getting wasted in college or whatever,” Ohlemacher said. “It’s not that different from alcohol. I think that once people recognize that it’s actually safer than alcohol in a lot of ways, then I think people stop worrying about it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 88,000 alcohol-related overdose deaths occur each year. According to the American Addiction Centers website, the number of deaths caused by marijuana is almost zero, although it is not safe to use either substance while driving or pregnant.

Ohlemacher has lived in both Washington and Michigan, where she worked at a dispensary called People’s Choice. Ohlemacher said before recreational marijuana was legalized in Michigan, medical marijuana card and license regulations made it difficult to buy or sell, but not much safer in terms of health.

“Once recreational (marijuana) was legalized, suddenly everybody’s aware of it and it becomes much more normalized,” Ohlemacher said.

Holman said while reviewing marijuana laws, the state should also consider the cases

of people currently incarcerated for cannabis possession before it was legalized.

Approximately 4,500 adults were arrested in Oklahoma for possession of marijuana in 2020, according to an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation crime report. Overall, about 1,079 of 100,000 Oklahoma residents are incarcerated, according to a Prison Policy Initiative study.

“It’s borderline unethical that we have a multibillion-dollar industry in the state of Oklahoma now and all these new businesses — it’s great, but people are locked up for selling small amounts before it was legal,” Holman

Holman said one benefit of passing State Question 820 might be turning attention to these marijuana-related convictions and criminal justice reform in Oklahoma.

Cossey said she is eager to see how legalizing recreational marijuana will help the cannabis market.

“The more people normalize cannabis, the less stigma there will be,” Cossey said. “It’s a lot safer. It’s not a miracle or anything, but it’s very effective seeing how much it’s helped my patients.”

Goolsby said legalizing recreational marijuana would not only improve state revenue, but it would also positively impact business owners.

“Increasing or creating a recreational market creates better leaders,” Goolsby said. “It creates not only individuals who might have better economic opportunities that result from this … but it also creates individuals who are going to take this product they’re attached to or they have a particular drive to and learn things.”

Early voting for the March 7 election will begin March 2-3 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Polls will open again March 7 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This story was edited by Jillian Taylor,

said. “They broke the law then, and they were arrested and incarcerated for it, but now it’s not illegal. What is the benefit to us to keep them locked up?”

According to a report by the United States Sentencing Commission, between 1992 and 2021, 6,577 U.S. citizens were convicted of marijuana possession at the federal level. As of January 2021, none of them remain in federal custody.

The more people normalize cannabis, the less stigma there will be.
-CHELSEA COSSEY, owner of The Grateful Bud Dispensary


The Red Cup by the OUSWPC and paid for by SAMHSA SPF-PFS. Q&A is written


After death of Norman fixture, local communities celebrate business owner’s life of generosity, allyship


hile heading home from an art walk last fall, Erin Siobhan Smith passed by the Cookie Cottage on downtown Norman’s Main Street.

Smith saw her friend Shannon Hanchett performing one of the most “Shannon-esque” acts: Sitting beside a homeless woman, offering help and warmth to the woman who had stopped outside Hanchett’s cottage looking for a place to rest.

That was the last time Smith would see her friend.

Tearing up at the memory, Smith said spreading such kindness encapsulates Hanchett’s spirit. Somebody who would always help, who would always treat people with kindness, who would always make a person feel safe.

“That was just who Shannon was in a nutshell,” Smith said. “There’s not a minute that I’m not thinking about her, and that’s the memory that I try to hold on to most whenever I’m having a hard time, and I really need to remember her.”

Hanchett, the owner of Okie Baking Co. and her downtown Cookie Cottage, died Dec. 8 in the Cleveland County Detention Center after being detained for 12 days. She was a 38-yearold mother of two.

Body camera footage released Dec. 13 showed Hanchett seeking a child welfare check before she was arrested for placing false 911 calls and obstructing an officer inside a store.

Although friends say they were unaware Hanchett was in custody during the final days of her life, the Norman community immediately rallied around her upon news of her death, hosting memorials and vigils in her honor as well as calling for investigations into her arrest, time in custody and ultimately her death. Her friends question how she was detained for 12 days without them knowing, and why, if she was undergoing a mental health crisis, she wasn’t taken to receive treatment.

Hanchett, before opening her cottage downtown, worked for the Oklahoma Department

COURTESY OF CODY GILES Shannon Hanchett at the Okie Baking Co. Cookie Cottage in downtown Norman on April 7, 2022.

of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services with her friend Ashley Roby. Roby said the circumstances surrounding Hanchett’s death caused people to dismiss some of her unforgettable qualities, adding that her death was an example of everything Hanchett fought against and advocated to reform.

“How she passed, at least to me, was the antithesis of everything she worked for,” Ashley Roby, a friend of Hanchett’s, said.

Less than two weeks after Hanchett’s death, a second inmate, Kathryn Milano, died after being in custody at the same detention center. Two of the facility’s administrators resigned in January, though their reasoning was not cited as being related to the recent deaths.

Since Hanchett’s death, her family has decided not to speak publicly. Hanchett’s legacy of kindness, compassion and cookies has been overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding her death, according to her friends. Her friends said they need to continue fighting for justice while still highlighting the person they knew and loved.

They remembered her as a lover of Dr. Pepper, pink, fall weather and her two sons. They remembered her Miami Mud and Collinsville Coffee Glazed Oatmeal cookies, drag queen story hours, estate sale finds and frequent kind words over Facebook and in passing.

They remembered her sarcasm, honest advice and infectious laughter. They remembered her as a doting mother, a social advocate and a loyal friend.

They remembered Shannon Hanchett as a once-in-a-lifetime person.

Living her dream

Roby knew Hanchett well and the passions in her life: mental health, advocacy and baking.

Hanchett coached Roby when she first started working for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and she immediately felt drawn to her drive to improve care in the state and help eliminate stigmas surrounding mental health struggles.

“She was always a very open person, who was very communicative about her own mental health struggles and family mental health struggles,” said Roby, who is now a Systems-of-Care coach and trainer for the agency. “She was a person that was always looking for new innovative things to try to make our work easier.”

Hanchett worked out of Norman while with the department, but she traveled to all 77 counties in Oklahoma, visiting towns big and small to help people. Roby said Hanchett worked to break down stigmas surrounding mental health, but she eventually began to get burnt out.

In 2018, after she was diagnosed with lupus, Hanchett reflected on her life. After spending 11 years working for the state focused on children’s behavioral development, Hanchett walked away from a career she was passionate about to pursue a different passion: baking.

Hanchett was quickly dubbed the “Cookie Queen.”

Hanchett started baking while she attended

Pauls Valley High School and continued as she moved to Norman to attend OU. Hanchett baked throughout her life in Norman, and her love for it only grew after having her first son nearly 13 years ago.

While working for the state, Roby remembered the countless times Hanchett brought cookies and sweets to parties and celebrations with coworkers. Roby said baking was another way Hanchett showed her care for others.

“Making cookies was a different way of her being able to touch people without the high stress that can come with the field that we’re in,” Roby said.

Hanchett founded Okie Baking Co. in February 2018, operating out of her home until she moved into a space at Yellow Dog Coffee Company in November 2019. A year later, Hanchett set out to find her own place to bake and sell cookies in Norman.

In October 2021, Hanchett opened her Cookie Cottage on Main Street, welcoming customers and friends to a small, retro bakery that was all hers.

“I wanted something that would make people feel that nostalgia associated with cookies. Not too fancy, just something you would walk into your grandma’s house and get,” Hanchett told the OU Daily in 2021 before opening her cottage.

Inspired by the counties and towns she traveled to while working for the mental health department, Hanchett made cookies to honor the people she met and the places she’d seen:

Norman Crimson and Creams, McLoud Spiced Blackberry Jam Thumbprints, Lawton Lemon Cakes, Durant Duos and Ardmore Irish Shortbreads.

Smith said the way Hanchett poured her passion for people into her work inspired everyone to follow their dreams while helping people around them.

“She was living her dream,” Smith said. “Opening the Cookie Cottage and being able to serve people the way that she did … That really encouraged everybody around her to do the same.”

Definition of the word ally

Joshua Jay Wimhurst met Hanchett while working with her on the Norman Pride board of directors in 2019. They immediately hit it off.

Wimhurst said Hanchett loved drag and attended every drag show she could find. Wimhurst, who had been practicing drag for about a year at that point, wanted to bring a drag queen story hour to Norman, similar to the ones they’d seen in Oklahoma City.

A month later, Norman’s first Drag Queen Story Time became a reality.

“Community activism, providing safe spaces for queer children and young adults is something that matters a lot to me, and it also mattered a lot to her,” they said.

Wimhurst, an OU graduate research assistant and doctoral candidate, is originally from the United Kingdom, and after moving to Norman and meeting Hanchett, they said she acted as

much as a second mother to them as a best friend. They said Hanchett’s spirit, altruism and authenticity shined in her life, and it has shined after.

“She was always the most altruistic being,” Wimhurst said, who is 10 years younger than Hanchett. “It didn’t matter how well she knew you, she would drop everything she was doing at a moment’s notice and help you with whatever you needed. She was like a mother to me, and I think she was like a mother to a lot of people.”

Wimhurst said being a business owner offered Hanchett many connections in the area. The duo was able to secure Gray Owl Coffee as a location for the Drag Queen Story Times in 2019. At the time, Wimhurst had been doing drag for about a year.

During the events, drag queens read stories, made crafts and had photoshoots with local families. Wimhurst said Hanchett was passionate about advocacy and activism, especially for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

“Being able to provide a space to be surrounded by positive, queer role models and have a space where they can be happy, be themselves and be authentic,” Wimhurst said. “Being able to have cultivated those kinds of spaces with Shannon are the things I think about most fondly with her.”

Eventually, the story times outgrew the coffee shop and were relocated to STASH on Main Street. After about eight months, however, the story times were paused amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hanchett and Wimhurst had since turned most of the story times into private events since most young children couldn’t receive the COVID-19 vaccine until last June. Wimhurst said they wanted to bring the story times back as fully public events, and are even more determined to do so since her death.

After Hanchett’s death, Wimhurst said the outcry from the local 2SLGBTQ+ community was explosive. Wimhurst said people who hadn’t met Hanchett still felt affected by the news, as she was known locally and statewide as a fierce advocate for the community.

In her honor, Wimhurst and Norman Pride hosted a memorial drag show to help the Norman 2SLGBTQ+ community grieve. About 12 performers from Norman and Oklahoma City performed shortly before Christmas to raise money for Hanchett’s kids.

She was unconditionally kind to everyone around her.
“ “
-GABRIEL BIRD, Norman dentist whose office neighbors the Cookie Cottage

“I wanted to make sure that the drag community, the queer community more broadly, had an opportunity to say goodbye to her on their terms,” Wimhurst said. “With how much she loved drag and how much she loved the queer community, I couldn’t think of a better way to pay respects to what she loved and the person that she was.”

Wimhurst remembered Hanchett’s maternal energy, from scolding them over tattoos they thought of getting or gossiping over lunch at some of their local favorites: Victoria’s Pasta Shop, Midway Grocery and Market and Neighborhood Jam.

Wimhurst said the pair sampled lots of local businesses and ordered specials and recommendations from waiters and owners. They wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to Hanchett.

Though they knew her from different times in her life, both Roby and Wimhurst remember Hanchett as a force and fierce advocate for the communities close to her heart, for her friends and family. Hanchett didn’t care what people thought of her, and she taught other people how to live authentically and respect themselves.

“What kind of came out of (her advocacy) is she was opening the door for people to be themselves unashamed, with no holds barred,” Roby said. “Having that respect for yourself first and just honoring the person that you are versus worrying about what everybody else thinks.”

Wimhurst described Hanchett as a sweet yet unequivocal defender of those she loved. And most importantly they said Hanchett was the definition of an ally.

“Sometimes, the word ally gets used flippantly to describe straight people who have a couple of queer friends,” Wimhurst said. “But, in my opinion, if you were to ever look up the word ally in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Shannon.”

Ambassador of kindness

Shannon Hanchett embodied what it means to lead with kindness and empathy.

Gabriel Bird, a local Norman dentist whose business resides next door to the Cookie Cottage, said she was the greatest neighbor, somebody whose legacy was one of kindness and acceptance.

“There aren’t people who I have found that didn’t like Shannon,” Bird said. “She was unconditionally kind to everybody around her. I call her an ambassador of kindness. She didn’t care who you were, what your background was, what group you fit into, what political affiliation, what orientation. … She just knew that she loved you and was going to love on you.”

After meeting her through local business circles, Bird said he was “thrilled to pieces” when he learned Hanchett would open her shop next door to his in 2021. Bird said Hanchett welcomed his daughter, who often got stuck at the office with him, with open arms and fed her sprinkles and cookies while he worked.

The recollections from Bird, Smith, Wimhurst and Roby alike pay forward what they each recall

COURTESY OF JOSHUA JAY WIMHURST Shannon Hanchett with Joshua Jay Wimhurst, an OU graduate research assistant and drag queen.

in their friend, someone who invested in her friends and made a point to prioritize relationships through thick and thin.

While undergoing fertility difficulties and the eventual premature birth of her daughter, Roby said Hanchett was by her side through it all.

“Through that time, which was a hard time for us obviously, she was there ready to bring us a meal and bring us some cookies or buy diapers or try to help,” Roby said. “She celebrated just as much as she would sit with you in the hard times. She really invested a lot of herself into her friendships.”

Her friends described an overwhelmingly kind and thoughtful person who in life — and death — brought the community together.

That, they say, is the perfect way to carry her legacy of kindness forward.

Wimhurst said Hanchett made the world a better place, calling her “one of a kind” when it came to serving those around her and the greater Norman community. In word and deed, Wimhurst said Hanchett taught them how to be patient and kind even to those they disagreed with.

Wimhurst said they now live their life through one simple belief inspired by Hanchett’s spirit: there is no function of being a mean person.

“I like to think that I’m a nice person, but Shannon was very much that and more,” Wimhurst said. “I could only hope that I could be at least somewhat as kind or sympathetic

or altruistic of a person that she was. … Having Shannon in my life is one of the biggest reasons why I adopted that mentality of just being a good person and not seeing the functionality of just being mean for the sake of it.”

Wimhurst said Hanchett’s kindness is what will bring change and reform to the city and the institutions that, they say, failed her. Hanchett wouldn’t have stood by and let what happened to her happen to anybody else, they said, and the community shouldn’t either.

Smith believes Hanchett’s advocacy efforts led up to this moment. She didn’t stand by and watch as injustice occurred around her, she instead fought against it and for love, kindness and justice — for everybody in Norman.

“She pushed for equality. She pushed for happiness,” Smith said. “It’s almost as if her passing has really amplified her spirit. I don’t really see that happen too terribly often when someone passed.

She meant so much to so many people that you can’t help but want to do better as a human because that’s what she would’ve pushed for.”

Roby remembered her friend as a loving mother and caring person. She said Hanchett’s biggest legacy was inspiring others to realize the impact of small actions, kind words and loving others for the sake of it.

Describing her friend’s love for her kids and her community, Roby started to cry.

She remembered how Hanchett fought against everything that led to her death. How she worked to end mental health stigmas. How she battled corruption in city institutions.

Most of all, Roby remembered how much she cared.

“She was just — she was just a really good friend,” Roby said through tears. “She was just a really good friend. There’s not going to be another person like her. The community’s going to have this gaping hole for quite a while.”

Hanchett is survived by her husband, Daniel; her two sons Sam and Cooper; her mother, Maurine Jones; her stepfather, Larry Jones; her stepmother, Debbie Lee; her sisters Christy Hall and Rachel Laffitte; her brother, Dalton Jones; and members of her extended family. She was preceded in death by her father, Tommy Lee.

This story was edited by Alexia Aston, Jazz Wolfe and Jillian Taylor. Francisco Gutierrez copy edited this story. COURTESY OF JOSHUA JAY WIMHURST Shannon Hanchett with Joshua Jay Wimhurst, an OU graduate research assistant.
How she passed, at least to me, was the antithesis of everything she worked for.
“ “
of Shannon Hanchett
13 Always Hiring: START HERE GO THERE

through music Finding healing

Concerts, performances offer outlets to improve mental health, create social connections

Madelaine Magee, a junior Spanish major with a minor in music education, playing piano on Feb 2.

Standing before her choral conducting class, Melissa Baughman raised her arms to match the crescendo of the music, guiding her students into the chorus with the piano playing softly in the background.

“You have to feel the music,” she said. The students responded, singing “The Roof” by Andrea Ramsey as a unit while individually connecting to the lyrics.

“Be awkward, imperfect, beautiful you.

Exhaustingly complex you,” the students sang with increasing volume, eventually decrescendoing. “You are still becoming what you will be. You.”

Sitting at the piano after the students filed out of the classroom, Baughman, an OU professor of music education, lit up with excitement as she talked about how music and singing together support mental health and create a feeling of belonging.

“The fact that when we get together as humans

and start singing and accessing the same emotions together as a unit, it’s just one of those very bonding experiences that you have that you don’t get from anything else,” Baughman said.

Music connects people, expresses the often inexplicable and has the potential to influence a person’s mood and improve their mental health.

Social connection found through music

Just two years ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic moved classes online, singing in a room


together was impossible. Students made it work, Baughman said, but it was very difficult to connect with each other through a screen.

Singing and creating music with other people has been scientifically proven to increase memory and cognitive function, senses of autonomy, and perceived social connection, as well as reduce depression and improve the quality of life, ChihChen Sophia Lee, director and professor of music therapy at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, wrote in an email to OU Daily.

The music therapy program at Southwestern Oklahoma State University is the longest-standing undergraduate music therapy program and only graduate music therapy program in Oklahoma.

“Music therapy is an established health profession that strategically uses music experiences to address clinically determined therapeutic goals related to the communicative, physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals,” according to the SWOSU website.

Lee said an increase in anxiety and depression seen during the COVID-19 lockdowns supports the idea that perceived social connection can improve mental health, an aspect often found with shared musical experiences, she said.

According to the Cognitive Behavior Institute, human-to-human interaction is an integral component of mental health and well-being. People who feel well connected and supported by others have lower rates of anxiety and depression, and those who do not have social connections are at

higher risk for suicide, low self-esteem and anti-social behaviors.

Research suggests attending live music events can help create and foster social bonds through shared emotional experiences and synchronous movement, like dancing, according to an article from Frontiers, a research journal publisher.

When social distancing and lockdown measures were in place, people tried to replicate this experience virtually. Virtual concerts and performances were more accessible to people who lived out of state or couldn’t afford to attend in person, Baughman said.

While pre-recorded concerts provide some sense of connection, Baughman said there’s nothing like being in the room when music is being performed. As concerts and rehearsals return in person, Baughman said there’s a rejuvenated sense of connection and energy in both the practice room and on stage.

Madelaine Magee, a Spanish junior with a music education minor at OU, said being back in person and performing with other musicians in the OU Women’s Chorus has benefited her mental health.

“It’s a time during the day when I (can) unite with other people with music,” Magee said. “We all (work) toward one goal to create art.”

At the school of music, Baughman created the student wellness initiative BreatheOUt to emphasize the importance of mental health care and create opportunities for students to bond.

BreatheOUt hosts social events, provides information about the mental health resources available to students and curates playlists to help students with relaxation and concentration.

“It’s (about) bringing people together and making sure that we’re OK,” Baughman said.

Listening to or creating music can be the one time during the day when someone can express their feelings and know they’re not alone, she said.

Rachelle Phipps, member of the Pride of Oklahoma, said being in band has been very beneficial for her mental health, as it allows her to express herself and connect with others.

“Just being able to say, ‘Hey, this semester is hard, but at least I get to come here and listen to music and play with other people who have similar feelings,” Phipps said. “(You) feel a connection.”

The benefits of independent musical experiences

While experiencing and performing music with others can provide a sense of social connection and support mental health, experiencing music alone can have benefits as well.

According to the Frontiers, even solitary music listening can be a social experience, conveying a sense of presence of another person. This sense of social connection allows people to identify or empathize with the performer or composer.

Creating music can be very beneficial for a person’s mental health, as well, Lee wrote.

Music helps people express, validate, cope with,

RAY BAHNER/OU DAILY Rachelle Phipps, a computer science junior and member of the Pride of Oklahoma.

process and resolve their struggles. This can be in the form of music making, active music listening, composing, moving with music and collaborative, creative and expressive arts interventions, Lee wrote.

From the preventative aspect, active listening and music making, vocally and instrumentally, on a regular basis can help regulate emotions and behaviors affected by potential stressors, Lee wrote.

“If one is in a more balanced stage both physically and mentally, they would be more resilient to the ‘curve balls’ life throws to them,” Lee wrote.

In everyday life, many college students turn to music to relieve stress and anxiety, find motivation and express their emotions.

“(Music) is a way to escape and kind of take a breather in the middle of the day,” said Logan Taylor, a creative media production and music junior. “(It) says the words for us that we’re not able to (express) ourselves.”

Taylor discovered his passion for music and mental health in high school when he was going through a difficult time and experiencing emotions he didn’t fully understand. He used music to express his emotions by finding a song that described what he was feeling at the time.

He called it his “mood music.”

“Music was just kind of something that I knew I could always turn to,” Taylor said. “It’s the medium that I really connected with and that helped (me) express how I was feeling.”

Music’s ability to either amplify or create a new mood is incredibly powerful, Baughman said. It’s something humans naturally do. When someone is sad, they listen to sad music. But they can also choose to listen to happy, upbeat music in order to improve their mood, she said.

“It’s like magic,” Baughman said.

Baughman said she often uses music to manage her emotional wellness. On days when she is feeling down, she likes to listen to upbeat music to motivate her and help shift her mood.

“(It) is a simple way to fight back when everything becomes too much,” Baughman said.

The connection of music and memory

Some artists even create their music specifically to facilitate a particular mood. “Weightless” by Marconi Union, for example, was created in collaboration with Lyz Cooper, a leading sound therapist and founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, to relax listeners and reduce anxiety.

The carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms and bass lines help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to Inc. Magazine. During a study, the song was found to reduce participants’ anxiety by 65 percent, according to Inc.

In music therapy, therapists also use music to either validate or influence a patient’s mood, Lee wrote. Through the iso principle, a music therapist supports and validates a client’s mental state by matching music with the client’s mood, energy level and behavior.

Through a different approach called rhythmic entrainment, a therapist creates a music environment that helps the client shift to a more desirable

mental or physical stage by gradually making the music more energetic to help move them out of a depressive stage, Lee wrote.

“Music has the ability to fill the gap when language falls short in expressing our thoughts and feelings,” Lee wrote. “Music is accessible and can be individualized to address specific goals and objectives one is experiencing.”

Magee said she constantly listens to music to relieve her stress and motivate her to study. She views music as a companion: something she can always depend on to improve her mood and calm her anxiety.

Last winter, when she was struggling with her mental health, Magee said music helped keep her grounded.

“It was something I could always enjoy, even if I wasn’t enjoying what was happening around me,” she said. “I (could always) at least turn to music.”

For Phipps, her passion for music started when she was in the second grade when her grandmother taught her how to play the piano. She soon realized she wanted to be in the band, and her love for music only grew.

Now, Phipps often connects music with memories. Listening to certain songs reminds her of different periods in her life, and she often finds that the meaning behind the lyrics changes for her as she gets older. For example, the meaning of the line, “I want to be known by you,” from ”Goner” by Twenty One Pilots changes with time, Phipps said.

“Who is this person I want to be known by?” she said. “(Is it) myself or my family or someone I like? It’s just sort of vague enough for me to (always) resonate with (it).”

According to PsychologyToday, an event, an emotion and a song get connected through implicit memory, or unconscious and automatic memories. When a piece of music is paired with a very emotional event, it can be an effective cue to bring back the strong emotion that was felt at that moment.

Taylor said it’s hard for him to listen to the same music he listened to in high school, because it reminds him of the negative emotions he was feeling then.

“Those songs now feel like they’re a part of me,” Taylor said. “They’re so much more than just songs.”

Music is a part of almost every aspect of a person’s life, Baughman said. It connects them to the past, to others and to themselves.

“It’s truly magical, the way that anyone throughout time in any culture has always been impacted by music, whether they realize it or not,” Baughman said. “There’s just nothing else like it, which is why it’s so special.”

This story was edited by Alexia Aston, Karoline Leonard, Jazz Wolfe and Jillian Taylor. Teegan Smith and Francisco Gutierrez copy edited this story. RAY BAHNER/OU DAILY Logan Taylor, a media production and music junior, on Feb. 2.

Inside the affirmative action debate

Asian American students feel scapegoated by model minority myth in admissions argument

In his last three years at Westmoore High School, Seth Phung said he learned about the nuance of race-conscious affirmative action in an unconventional way: watching “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” He said he’s always loved laughing, and the explanation of affirmative action and Asian American issues through various comedy shows made it easier to digest.

Phung, a history and economics junior and the Asian American Student Association chair for the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Leadership Conference, said, although his view has changed, he believes race-conscious affirmative action is necessary. However, he said the feeling of obligation and the potential for insincerity causes mixed feelings among some minority groups.

“Affirmative action, on paper, sounds like an amazing idea to combat systemic issues,” Phung said. “Systemic racism gives minorities an inherent disadvantage, but there is a weird dynamic of giving us things just because we’re minorities. It doesn’t feel deserved. It feels tokenized, like virtue signaling in a sense.”

In 2012, Oklahoma became one of nine states to ban affirmative action in public employment, contracting and education, including university admissions.

Conversations regarding affirmative action recently resurfaced after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Oct. 31, 2022, for two lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina by Students for Fair Admissions. The organization alleged the two institutions’ race-conscious policies discriminated against Asian American students.

The Asian American community now finds itself at the front of diversity discussions, with these two court cases standing between upholding race-conscious policies or banning them outright.

The Asian American voice

Joseph Thai, OU law professor, said the Asian American community is deeply divided about affirmative action and whether it’s a help or a hindrance in college admissions. In the Students for Fair Admissions cases, there are Asian American groups advocating for both sides.

Thai, who attended Harvard for his undergraduate and law degrees, said he didn’t experience any discrimination by the university.

Tristan Timog in an image from the cover of the Asian American Student Association magazine. In this issue Seth Phung, AASA chair for the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Leadership Conference, wrote to tackle the model minority myth.

“The fact I’m Asian obviously didn’t preclude me from getting admitted, and the education I received was transformative,” Thai said. “In my own experience, Harvard has done a much better job including and supporting Asian Americans than OUhasdone”

Thai said the OU’s Office of Admissions and Recruitment’s Diversity Enrichment Programs website mentions Asian Americans among the groups it serves, but noticed other sections of the page where Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi students are left out, such as the OU Affinity Committeessection.

“Whether unintentional, which is bad, or intentional, which is worse, the message between the linesisthatAsianAmericansarenot part of the ‘diversity in its many beautiful forms’ that OU seeks to include and celebrate,” Thai said.

Thai said since the University of North Carolina is a public university, its lawsuit is a constitutional law case, bringing into question the constitutionality of affirmative action under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, which protects against governmentdiscrimination.

Since Harvard is a private institution, the 14th Amendment does not apply. Instead, it’s a federal law case under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits programs that receive federal funding from discriminating on

thebasisofrace,colorornationalorigin. He said one good thing from these cases is the increasedawarenessofthediscriminationandinvisibility that Asian American communities face. Thai said these cases have sparked helpful conversationsaboutwhatuniversitiescanandshould dotoincludeminorities.


Oklahoma, along with 18 other states, filed an amicus brief in support of Students for Fair Admissions. It stated that, despite its prohibition of using race as a factor in university admissions, itsflagshipuniversitiesremainedjustasdiverseas when affirmative action was banned in the state, andtherehasbeenno“long-termseveredecline” inminorityadmissions,withthestatecitingOUas evidence.

In 2013, the year following Oklahoma’s ban on affirmativeaction,OU’sNormancampussawadmissionamongBlackandNativeAmericanfreshmenfallby22percentand11percent,respectively. In 2014, admission among Hispanic freshmen fellby24percent.

OU’sclassof2026isthemostdiversefreshman class it has ever admitted, but Native American and Hispanic admissions are still down from the previous year, falling 1 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

On Jan. 18, OU President Joseph Harroz Jr.

released his annual statement reaffirming the university’s commitment to affirmative action and equal opportunity employment to staff, faculty and student employees.

The statement reasserted the university’s compliance with state and federal laws while also promoting diversity and equity through OU’s affirmative action plan.

Genevieve Bonadies Torres, the associate director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said she anticipates seeing similar drops in admissions from marginalized communities if affirmative action becomes banned nationwide in states like California and Michigan.

“Banning affirmative action is a signaling factor that students of color are not welcome,” Bonadies Torres said. “Students of color feel more isolated, alienated and experience harassment at greater rates. It’s very important to have sufficient numbers of same-race peers in classrooms to combat that sense of tokenism.”

Phung said he believes affirmative action sometimes perpetuates the model minority myth, which can be harmful to Asian students.

The model minority myth is the perception that Asian Americans are the “perfect” minority, excelling in creating their own “American Dream” where other minority groups fail, according to the Pew Research Center. The myth tends to pit

RAY BAHNER/OU DAILY Seth Phung, Asian American Student Association chair for the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Leadership Conference, on Feb. 3.

students of color against one another and dismisses the discrimination against Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Bonadies Torres said race and ethnicity play an integral role in people’s daily lives and it is virtually impossible for them to share their stories without some reference to race. She said many of her clients say racial diversity on campus has a direct impact on the quality of their education and their confidence to excel in an increasingly diverse society.

Thai said one of the benefits of a diverse student body is the variety of perspectives. OU College of Law, he said, is the flagship of the state and is a pipeline for the leaders of Oklahoma’s future, actively educating them.

He said if future leaders aren’t taught and nurtured in a diverse environment, then the future of Oklahoma will reflect this and fall behind.

“Diversity not only makes OU a richer educational experience, but it is essential to making Oklahoma a more diverse and competitive state,” Thai said. “The world is getting more diverse, and, to keep up with other states and countries, we need to foster the understanding and the connections that are made through a diverse student body.”

Previous court cases

In the early to mid 2010s, Students for Fair Admissions had a similar case in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin — a Supreme Court case where Abigail Fisher, a white woman, filed a lawsuit against UT after her application was denied in 2008.

She argued that the university’s use of race as an admission consideration violated the 14th Amendment. UT disputed this, stating that its race-conscious policy is for those not included in or admitted through the Top Ten Percent Law, which accounts for about 25 percent of the students they admit.

UT’s decision to consider race among applications for those who don’t fall within the Top Ten Percent Law followed Grutter v. Bollinger, where the Supreme Court upheld a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Michigan Law School.

Texas’ Top Ten Percent Law requires public higher education institutions to admit all high school seniors ranked in the top 10 percent of their class. This was in response to the Fifth Circuit Court’s Hopwood v. Texas, where four white plaintiffs successfully challenged UT’s admission policy on equal protection grounds after being denied admission to The University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

Carla Pratt, the OU Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Chair in Civil Rights, Race and Justice and an OU law professor, wrote a research paper in 2014 titled “The End of Indeterminacy In Affirmative Action,” which focused on the Fisher case and its ramifications.

Pratt said it was well understood and expected after the Fisher case that there would be more challenges to affirmative action. She believes the landmark case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke negatively impacted people’s

view of affirmative action by ignoring and rejecting the original rationale, which was to address the impacts of discrimination.

Allan Bakke, a white man, applied to the University of California Davis School of Medicine and was rejected twice. The school’s affirmative action program reserved 16 out of 100 spots for qualified students of color in each admitted class. Bakke’s college GPA and test scores exceeded those of the minority students admitted in the two years in which he was denied, and he claimed he was excluded due to his race.

This case, although overall upheld race-conscious affirmative action in university admissions, prohibited racial quotas. Pratt said this decision asserts that race-conscious policies exist due to the school’s interest in the educational benefits of diversity, and that it erases and ignores the history of racial oppression faced by minority groups.

“The court really went off the rails with (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke),” Pratt said. “Bakke was the beginning of the end, and we were set on this path to end race-conscious policies.”

Bonadies Torres said affirmative action has been challenged since the 1970s with Marco DeFunis, Jr. v. Odegaard. The Supreme Court has upheld affirmative action each time.

DeFunis noticed his test scores were better than the students of color who were admitted to the University of Washington School of Law, where he was denied admission. He alleged he was discriminated against on the basis of his race and argued that, as a Sephardic Jewish man, he was a minority and should have been admitted.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the entire case was moot as, by the time it was heard, DeFunis had been admitted and was in his final term. However, the Supreme Court of Washington ruled the university didn’t have to admit DeFunis, and affirmative action decisions were necessary for diversity in public education.

If affirmative action were to be overturned, Bonadies Torres said the U.S. Supreme Court would have to “bulldoze” through four decades of precedents and years of support from military leaders, educators, fortune 500 leaders and the medical community encouraging race-conscious policies.

Amicus briefs filed during the Harvard and University of North Carolina cases from the same sectors continue to indicate their support for race-conscious policies.

Students for Fair Admissions

Phung said, given Students for Fair Admissions’ past with the Fisher case, he believes the Harvard and University of North Carolina petitions are utilizing the “presumed perfectness” of Asian Americans and the discrimination they face to front their own agenda.

“We’re unfortunately the perfect pawn in a bigger racial game,” Phung said. “There’s a good reason that racial discussions are mainly Black and white, but when Asian Americans come into play … they always ask, ‘If Asian Americans can do it, why can’t African Americans?’ We’re the perfect scapegoat, and it’s unfortunate because

white people don’t want to or can’t parse the nuance, and Black people are understandably a littlepissedaboutthat”

Pratt said Students for Fair Admissions is using the model minority myth, grouping the Asian American community into a monolithic category to argue that affirmative action is harmful to the “most successful” racial minorities.

She said there is great diversity in the Asian American community, and it is important to remember that the model minority myth is a myth forareason.

“Each group has a unique history relative to the U.S. government, and that unique history creates a different positionality for each group that impacts their opportunities,” Pratt said. “Diversity within racial groups is really important for providing opportunity, rebutting stereotypes and preventing isolation of studentsoncampus.”

Students for Fair Admissions was founded by Edward Blum, its current president, who is a conservative legal strategist, despite having no formal legal degree or experience, and has organized numerous lawsuits against voting rightslawsandcivilrightslaws.

Bonadies Torres said Blum’s actions and large network of conservative funders make it evident that his mission is to reduce civil rights gains in education, voting, women’s rights and immigrantrights.

“It’s all connected to efforts that suppress the voices and participation of all members of our society,” Bonadies Torres said. “The network Blum is part of deserves our attention and vigilance to make sure we resist these attacks and continue to speak out about why a multiracial democracy that includes those of all backgroundsisessentialtoourprogress.”

OU Daily reached out to Students for Fair Admissions for a statement about the ongoing lawsuits but did not receive a response bythetimeofpublication.

The U.S. Supreme Court will come to a decision in the spring or summer of 2023. Thai and Pratt said they expect race-conscious affirmativeactionto be banned, given the court’s current composition, which they said is primarilyconservative.

Bonadies Torres said the civil rights community will continue to focus on their efforts on fighting for students of color and for the colleges that will “open doors of opportunity” to people of all backgrounds.

“At the heart of these cases are students of color,” Bonadies Torres said. “Our democracy really depends on interacting with those who are different from us across socioeconomic background, across geography and across race, which continuestobeasalientfactorintheU.S”

This story was edited by Alexia Aston, Karoline Leonard, Jazz Wolfe and Jillian Taylor. Nikkie Aisha and Francisco Gutierrez copy edited this story



Competing against professionals, the OU Daily was presented the 2022 Carter Bradley First Amendment Award, for work that aimed to reset norms around transparency at OU and in Norman. Its winning entry included stories that:

Examined how the university handles records requests, including response times in comparison to other universities and resources available to the school’s records office.

Broke down data from the Norman Police Department to show on a per capita basis, the city’s Black residents were three times more likely than their white neighbors to be contacted, arrested or have force used against them by the police.

Monitored the football team’s quarterback controversy via the journalism school windows near the practice field, leading the athletic department to institute a 72-hour national media blackout.


Democrats face uphill legislative battle

Democrats lost every major race in Oklahoma in the 2022 midterm elections, including both U.S. Senate seats, state superintendent and governor. Democrats won two Senate elections and ten state representative elections.

decade before his election in November.


On Nov. 8, Norman voters cemented three Democratic candidates as their next representatives, making them a fraction of the Democratic minority heading into the 2023 legislative session.

That night saw the reelection of incumbent Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman), and the success of newcomers Rep. Annie Menz (D-Norman) and Rep. Jared Deck (D-Norman). Now, they are among 17 other Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, where they will sit opposite 81 Republicans this session.

There were 781,091 registered Democrats in 2018, and 687,545 registered Democrats in 2022, according to Oklahoma voter registration statistics. Inversely, there were 1,003,182 Republicans in 2018, and 1,175,253 registered Republicans in 2022.

Finding themselves in the minority of a Republican-dominated state House and government, Norman’s three representatives said making headway through bills and reform policies is daunting. However, they hope through communication and perseverance they will be able to make progress for the state.

Rep. Jared Deck (District 44)

Deck’s political aspirations originated over a

Fifteen years ago, after working a 12-hour shift in a factory outside of Weatherford, Oklahoma, Deck received a paper saying to return for a plant-wide meeting. There, his job and many others’ were outsourced to overseas facilities.

In a nontraditional move, Deck went from plant work to politics by running for House District 57. Although he lost in 2008, he said the COVID-19 pandemic became a second call to action when he ran for District 44.

“I watched my state government sit on its hands while thousands and thousands of people perished,” Deck said. “To me, that (was) unacceptable”

Deck said health care is his main priority, as noted by his former involvement in “Yes on 802,” a campaign promoting State Question 802, which expanded Medicaid access to people with incomes below 135 percent of the federal poverty line.

Despite being in minority, Norman liberal leaders approach session with hope
RAY BAHNER/OU DAILY From left, Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman), Rep. Annie Menz (D-Norman), Ward 4 Norman City Councilmember Helen Grant and Rep. Jared Deck (D-Norman) during the Undergraduate Student Congress 2022 post-election forum on Dec. 5, 2022.

Deck recently filed the Access to Health Care Equalization Revolving Fund, aimed at expanding health care access in rural areas, specifically through increased sexually transmitted disease testing.

From 2016-20, Oklahoma’s primary and secondary syphilis rates rose 255 percent, and the national rate rose 50 percent, according to the CDC. During the same time period, congenital syphilis rates rose 1,791 percent in Oklahoma and 235 percent nationally.

In October, Terrainia Harris, director of the Oklahoma State Department of Health Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Service, encouraged increased STD testing after the increase in syphilis cases.

“We have an STI epidemic that’s really happening in rural Oklahoma, and there’s a massive inequity in access to testing,” Deck said. “We need access.”

Deck said this expansion extends to mental health, referencing Oklahoma’s Comprehensive Crisis Response as a part of his proposition.

Oklahoma’s 988 Mental Health Lifeline was established in July 2022 and provides 24-hour service from licensed health care professionals for people suffering mental health crises.

Deck said he intends to ensure the program is allocating and receiving funds properly so it fulfills its intended purpose.

Deck filed the Mental Health Reform Act of 2023 as a result.

Deck said he is concerned by Oklahoma’s unemployment rate, which he believes stems from inadequate salaries.

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate rose from 2.7 to 3.4 percent in 2022. The number of

unemployed people rose from 49,607 to 63,636.

“It’s not the job of (the) government to subsidize businesses who don’t pay their employees enough, but we have a lot of that,” Deck said. “We have devalued labor in our state. We have devalued the education process. … Whenever you’re doing that, you’re disincentivizing people coming here (and) living here.”

Deck said Oklahoma should be committed to growing the economy over individual businesses. He also said he doesn’t think the government should support jobs and businesses that don’t pay a living wage.

Oklahoma’s living wage is about $15.75 an hour for an adult with no children, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator. Oklahoma’s minimum wage matches the U.S. federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Deck filed House Bill 2835, which would repeal a section of the Oklahoma Legislature that preempts the state government from adjusting a business’ minimum wage.

Deck said a decreased unemployment rate also relies on advancements in criminal justice reform, an issue he’s been involved in through the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma Board of Directors.

Deck proposed implementing a career training program for former convicts upon release to prepare them to enter the workforce.

“I see that as a vision for the future that cuts across party lines,” Deck said.

Rep. Annie Menz (District 45)

Menz is the first Latinx house representative elected in Oklahoma. Raised by an immigrant

mother and veteran father in a low-income household, Menz said she was unfamiliar with comfort.

“I grew up poor,” Menz said. “I have five siblings. I’m queer (and) Latina. I don’t know what comfort is.”

Menz enlisted in the Navy when she was 17 and is a member of the Oklahoma Women Veterans Organization. After serving, she became involved in politics, eventually becoming a nonpartisan executive assistant in the Oklahoma Senate.

After working in the Oklahoma state Capitol for six years, she noticed what she considered to be a disparity in the number of average citizens and people of color in the Capitol and decided to run for office.

Menz said she still carries the importance of being the first Latina elected to the state House.

“To be able to bring along my ancestors in my heart with everything I do is really important to me,” Menz said.

Menz listed housing, raising the minimum wage and public education as pertinent issues. She said she found the struggles of working people to be universal, citing inflation.

“It’s not really a partisan issue,” Menz said. “We’ve all felt the effects of inflation. I have always wanted to fight for working people.”

Menz filed House Bill 2724, which would give a $200 stipend for landlords providing sanitary housing for low-income tenants.

Menz listed corruption as another prominent issue and filed HB 2728, which aims to transfer bonds issued by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and require the court’s approval for each.

RAY BAHNER/OU DAILY Rep. Annie Menz (D-Norman) during the Undergraduate Student Congress 2022 post-election forum on Dec. 5, 2022. RAY BAHNER/OU DAILY Rep. Jared Deck (D-Norman) during the Undergraduate Student Congress 2022 post-election forum on Dec. 5, 2022.

Additionally, the bill would notify property owners within one mile of the OTA’s work of the Supreme Court hearings and allow protests.

“It’s hard to talk about what’s wrong with the OTA without talking about corruption … and some of the special treatment that they get that other boards, commissions, agencies don’t necessarily get,” she said.

Menz said she is hopeful Republican constituents will work with her in combating corruption.

“Whenever it comes to corruption, there are some people that are rightfully upset on both sides of the aisle,” she said. “Whenever it comes to fighting to do the right thing for Oklahomans, you’re gonna see Democrats and Republicans team up.”

Menz believed going into the state House of Representatives as a Democrat was reflective of her childhood and the constant discomfort she said she felt throughout her life.

Yet, the Oklahoma state Capitol is not unfamiliar territory for Menz. She said knowing the intricacies of the Capitol is helpful, and she has already established friendships across the aisle.

Menz said she intends to further relationships through respect and understanding.

“We want to make the lives of Oklahomans better. We just have different ideas on how to get there,” she added.

Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (District 46)

Rosecrants began teaching sixth grade social studies in Oklahoma City Public Schools in 2012 and continued until becoming a representative in 2017. Since then, he has been reelected as a representative twice.

Rosecrants said his time as a teacher motivated him to run for office again.

“I’m a hardcore Democrat, but that wasn’t what got me involved in politics. It was the fact that teachers were ignored,” Rosecrants said.

Rosecrants said he became frustrated with mandated tests in Oklahoma public schools. To him, these mandated tests don’t reflect the time

when he grew up when teachers controlled what tests were given.

Rosecrants began protesting and attending teacher rallies in 2015. During this time, he gained political knowledge that encouraged him to advocate on behalf of his childrens’ futures and their education system – the same one he had taught in for years prior.

“What kind of future do we want to leave for our kids?” Rosecrants said. “That’s the way I look at it.”

Rosecrants’ goals for the current legislative session range from public education to mental healthcare funding.

One of his priorities comes from a bipartisan interim study he ran on school security. Rosecrants said the study revealed a lack of mental health support for public school students.

To address the issue, he authored House Bill 1340 with sponsor Rep. Daniel Pae (R-Lawton), which would reduce the number of qualifications required to become a school counselor.

“Right now, if you’re a licensed professional counselor, (and) if you pass the National Counselor’s Exam, you still have to take two separate tests to even become a counselor in a school,” Rosecrants said, “It’s an emergency.”

Rosecrants’ emphasis on mental health funding included increasing school psychologist stipends – an issue that’s been on his mind since his initial election – and said he hopes to provide a $5,000 stipend for school psychologists with House Bill 1037, which is also sponsored by Pae.

“You can make so much more money outside of the school as a psychologist, and so we need to incentivize these people,” Rosecrants said.

Rosecrants also hopes to pass House Bill 1081, known as the Right to Recess Act, which would ensure 40 minutes of daily recess for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students. He said he previously received pushback after attempting to pass House Bill 3047, a similar bill.

He cited the possibility of increased classroom time — which he believes presumably stemmed

from fears of learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic — as his reason for concern, believing it would instead burn students out.

Rosecrants said he hopes to repeal or amend House Bill 1775, which bans schools from knowingly or unknowingly teaching that a person, because of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, starting with the filing of House Bill 1339.

He said HB 1339, if approved, would provide due process for teachers considered to be violating HB 1775, instituting an investigation before a decision is made at the board level.

In August, HB 1775 resulted in the resignation of Norman High School teacher Summer Boismier after she posted a QR code for Brooklyn Library Books Unbanned — a collection of e-books banned across the country — in her classroom. Boismier was later placed under investigation and decided to resign. Current Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters later called for her teaching license to be revoked.

“(HB 1775) is doing what it was meant to do,” Rosecrants said, “It is driving teachers away from (their) profession.”

Oklahoma schools reported 1,019 vacancies in teaching jobs during the 2022-2023 school year according to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. During the 2021-2022 school year, 3,914 emergency teaching certifications were issued.

Rosecrants emphasized that cooperation with members across the aisle is necessary in achieving anything.

“If you don’t work with (Republicans), you’re not going to get things done,” he added.

Deck said that small wins make big differences in Oklahoma.

“We can make a difference,” Deck said. “It may not look like what we originally thought it would look like, but we can get there if we just keep fighting day-in, day-out, one step at a time.”

Deck said several issues in the state intersect across communities, so there will be inevitable change in the state as Democrats and Republicans reach common ground.

Menz also said with a higher youth voter turnout, Oklahoma would not be as Republican-centric.

“Oklahoma is not monolithic. We are a low turnout state. We’re not a red state,” Menz said.

“The landscape of politics, especially in Oklahoma, is going to change,” Menz said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to happen gradually.”

This story was edited by Alexia Aston, Karoline Leonard, Jazz Wolfe and Jillian Taylor. Francisco Gutierrez copy edited this story.

RAY BAHNER/OU DAILY Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman) at the Undergraduate Student Congress post-election forum on Dec. 5, 2022.
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