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2073 W. Lindsey St. Norman, OK 73069 | 405-364-3603
Editor-in-Chief MEGAN ROSS
Managing Editor KAYLA BRANCH
Design Editor MADDY PAYNE
Dear University NEWS
OUâ€™s Evolving Relationship New Training Center A Generous Life Norman Music Festival
Odds & Ends Crimson Quarterly is a publication of University of Oklahoma Student Media. Nick Jungman, director of student media, authorized printing of 10,000 copies by University Printing Services at no cost to the taxpayers of the State of Oklahoma.
YOU R VO I C E
A PLACE FOR COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVES
ARTIST: CAMILA LABARCA LINAWEAVER TITLE: LAS POSSIBILITIES 16” X 20” MONOTYPE ON PAPER 2018
FROM THE ARTIST — My printmaking work depicts themes of immigrant displacement through representations of the landscape. My personal experience as an immigrant acts as a lens through which I aim to create poetic works that question the delineation of land and the physical and psychological effects that manifest when crossing borders. Traditionally in the history of landscape art, the “picturesque” refers to an idealized view of the land through the human perspective. To further understand border landscapes, I took a fieldwork trip along the southern U.S./Mexico Border. After that time in the southwest, I was able to reconcile the physical (present) borderspace and the traumatic (past) idea of the border from my recollections. After this experience, I began creating representations of the border which juxtaposed those two frames of reference through a sense of real and imaginary spaces. Walls began to take multifaceted meanings and were representative of physical barriers but also barriers which do not exist as a tangible objects: emotional, psychological, ideological. There is an awareness of place and memory, and a subtle notion of passage. Fields of open land, symbolizing possibility, are scarred by walls, fences, and the imposing presence of the manmade. Through this lens the landscape reemerges, “picturesque,” but scarred, nostalgic, and desolate; a projection of the immigrant experience.
W E W A N T T O S H O W C A S E Y O U R W O R K — T O S U B M I T Y O U R A R T, P H O T O G R A P H Y O R W R I T I N G T O Y O U R V O I C E , S E N D I T T O D A I LY F E AT U R E S @ O U . E D U
P H OTO S B Y C A I T LY N E P E S
Minority Minority communities communities on on OU’s OU’s campus campus live live their their lives lives with with an an extra extra burden burden — — judgment, judgment, discrimination discrimination and and aggression aggression based based on on the the color color of of their their skin. skin. Just Just aa few few weeks weeks into into spring spring 2019, 2019, multiple multiple public public incidents incidents of of racism, racism, online online and and ininperson, person, occurred. occurred. Crimson Crimson Quarterly Quarterly solicited solicited letters letters from from aa campus campus leader leader who who has has seen seen students students deal deal with with this this burden burden through through the the decades decades and and aa student student leader leader who who is is dealing dealing with with it it now now to to share share their their thoughts. thoughts.
LETTERS / George Henderson
TO COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS, BYSTANDERS AND NAYSAYERS, When I came to the University of Oklahoma in 1967, there were only a few courses that focused on racial minority populations in general and there were none that focused on African Americans in particular. Campus life for minority group students mirrored this neglect. Put simply, compared to white members of the university, legally protected class students were neglected, underrepresented and lived separate and unequal lives. Daily acts of overt racism, including verbal and physical abuse, were commonplace. After the black students formed the Afro-American Student Union in 1967, they immediately established an alliance with empathetic white students. Together, with my support and guidance along with Melvin B. Tolson Jr. and Lennie Marie-Toliver, those students carried out a civil rights movement at the University of Oklahoma. It was the first such movement on a college campus in Oklahoma or anywhere else in the Southwest. Although all of the campus race relations battles at OU were civil and nonviolent on own part, they were anything but civil or nonviolent on the part of our adversaries. While there were few physical casualties, countless psyches of the black students and their allies were irreparably scarred. It was not easy for us to remain nonviolent while racial bigots publicly demonized us and tried to goad us into fighting back with our words and fists. Our self-imposed code of conduct required us to not respond to hateful words, pictures and behaviors in kind. Our end goal was to peacefully change specific, not general, oppressive University people, rules, regulations and procedures, which we spelled out to the appropriate administrators.
George Henderson/ PHOTO BY CAITLYN EPES
LETTERS / George Henderson Most of the student members of the OU civil rights movement were only involved in public meetings and marches around various campus venues. They did not do the hard work of clearly defining race-related University problems, researching the facts pertaining to the problems, devising strategies for abating or preventing specific problems and working together to carry out various initiatives. The student leaders did those things. They did their planning in closed meetings with me and Professors Tolson and Toliver, not in community forums. We student mentors, leaders and followers quickly came to understand the fragile nature of our community activism. Despite careful preparation, our efforts to unilaterally combat racism most often fermented, fractured, rebounded and failed again. There was no fail-proof way for us to unilaterally achieve meaningful campuswide changes. We needed and finally got a critical mass of University administrators to support us. During this process, we learned that publicly calling administrators â€œracistsâ€? did not garner their support. Nor was it helpful when we publicly blamed administrators for oppressive things that occurred before they were appointed. And it was certainly counterproductive when we publicly minimized or belittled the good things administrators did after they were appointed. History does not repeat but historical lessons can inform us of helpful and oppressive behaviors. Looking back at my behaviors during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, I say to current OU student activists, bystanders, and naysayers: If you are not a sociopath or psychopath, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I believe that the only race of any significance is the human race. And the only human behavior that is not oppressive is humane behavior. George Henderson
LETTERS / George Henderson
“ IF YOU ARE NOT A SOCIOPATH OR PSYCHOPATH, DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU. I BELIEVE THAT THE ONLY RACE OF ANY SIGNIFICANCE IS THE HUMAN RACE. AND THE ONLY HUMAN BEHAVIOR THAT IS NOT OPPRESSIVE IS HUMANE BEHAVIOR. ”
LETTERS / Jamelia Reed
TO BE BLACK AND ATTEND THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA Houston, Texas is well known for its diverse culture and great food. When I chose to come to OU, it was a hard decision. I had to decide to leave everything familiar to go to a place eight hours away in the middle of nowhere. My father was adamant about me going so far, especially to a place where racial incidents had made it to national news. After weeks of influential rhetoric and compromise, I was able to attend the University of Oklahoma. I was never discouraged from pursuing my degree although I did have prior knowledge of racist incidents. Yet, I had faith in administrators to handle it properly. It has been two years since I committed to OU, and if you were to ask me that same question, my answer would be different. To be black and attend the University of Oklahoma is to constantly work your hardest to excel academically and then have your credibility questioned. To be black and attend the University of Oklahoma is to have the constant inner battle of deciding to fight the oppression and have racial battle fatigue or to remain silent and conserve sanity for another day. To be black and attend the University of Oklahoma is to pay an institution to slap you in the face because they cannot properly handle a racial incident. To be black and attend the University of Oklahoma is to watch your university constantly stumble in making statements against racism. To be black at the University of Oklahoma is to become part of a rich and powerful history of black leaders and innovators whose progress is challenged by ignorance constantly. To be black at the University of Oklahoma is to be part of a community full of magic and joy who will fight to the ends of the earth for the basic right and respect we all deserve and endowed by our creator (with respect to all religions and beliefs to who and what â€œthe creatorâ€? is and is not). In my greatest experience and knowledge, to create and continue effective change, we must change the institution and culture. In addition, it is not the job of the minority, it is that of the majority. We as minority students cannot do this alone, neither can the responsibility bear on us solely. Those who can ignore the issue and not be impacted are the ones who are most responsible for the problem. The fight and progress can not be the action of few. In the spaces we are absent, our interest should be present and respected by all.
LETTERS / Jamelia Reed Although my generation may never see the change we have initiated, we are content that our actions have caused it to come. My advice to the next generation is to continue the fight and to not settle for less than what you deserve. Many generations before me have fought for us to be equal and ask that you will do the same. You are more than the color of your skin. You came here to get an education and by all means obtain it. You belong here. What we do today, depicts our tomorrow.You are a part of the OU family. Sincerely, Jamelia Reed — She/Her/Hers
“ALTHOUGH MY GENERATION MAY NEVER SEE THE CHANGE WE HAVE INITIATED, WE ARE CONTENT THAT OUR ACTIONS HAVE CAUSED IT TO COME.”
RELATIONSHIP OU’s new leadership hopes to create lasting, effective relationships with the state Legislature.
n 2004, new political scene began to emerge in Oklahoma. Republicans had taken control of the House of Representatives, and in the following years, the entire state government shifted to the right. For some, this change was welcome. For others, like former OU President David Boren, it was the beginning of the end. The longtime leaders he knew, could ask favors of and work closely with were going away. The political techniques he had employed for decades — first in the state House, then in the nation’s capital and finally in higher education circles — were no longer effective. The stances he took on public funding in the ensuing years increasingly drew scorn and disagreement from the legislators now in charge of the state’s budget. Close to the end of Boren’s tenure as OU president, the historically powerful relationship between the university and the state Legislature was faltering. Oklahoma had cut millions in funding from higher education, and Boren’s 2016 penny tax initiative, which had failed and had been heavily criticized, was a breaking point. Now, in a new era for OU, some current and former legislators believe current OU president James Gallogly’s first legislative session as university president will bring a new lobbying strategy to the Capitol. Gallogly will promote his goals of fiscal responsibility, doubling research and competitive pay, among others. The hope is this method will resonate with many legislators who have been CONTINUED
A t l e f t : J o h n W o o d s , O U ’s n e w governmental relations director
skeptical of OU’s finances and goals in the past and potentially end with increased funding in the future. The session began Feb. 4, and, in the coming months, many will watch closely for signs of change. “My approach is a little bit different with (the Legislature), and, so far, it’s an approach that seems to ring true,” Gallogly said. “What I tell them is, ‘Look, the taxpayer should expect us to be reasonably efficient at our university and not waste money. And we’re working on that.’” The past year has put a spotlight on the differing opinions of how OU specifically and higher education generally has managed their budgets during Oklahoma’s economic downturn. It’s a mix of frustrations: Everyone is upset at the loss of revenue. Republicans are unhappy with Boren’s increases in both spending and tuition. Democrats are aggravated that funding and general support of higher education has dropped so sharply.
“ I THOUGHT, ‘MY GOODNESS, IT MIGHT BE FUN TO BE INVOLVED IF SENATOR BOREN IS COMING TO TOWN.’ ” If Gallogly can succeed in ways that promote OU and higher education broadly, especially for smaller schools that don’t have as much of a voice, it will be a positive, said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, who represents Norman and is on the Appropriations and Budget Committee. “Every university with all different kinds of leadership and political backgrounds — everyone is feeling (the loss of funding) ... But I think it’s natural for legislators to look to presidents of the two largest universities,” Virgin said. “So, I hope President Gallogly realizes that he’s not just speaking for OU, but for higher education in the state in general when he’s talking about the budget.”
THE BOREN ERA When Boren took over at the university in 1994, he was coming off a historic political stint that placed him as one of the state’s top politicians. He previously served as a state representative, was Oklahoma’s governor from 1975 to 1979, and was a U.S. senator from 1979 to 1994, where he was on committees like the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. It was widely celebrated when he announced his full-time return to OU. “I probably wouldn’t have run for a second term as (Norman) mayor — I was about ready to quit — but that’s when OU hired President Boren,” said Bill Nations, a former Norman mayor and District 44 state representative for 12 years. “I thought, ‘My goodness, it might be fun to be involved if Senator Boren is coming to town.’ I had no earthly idea what that was going to be like because he’s among the handful of iconic and historic figures in the state’s history.” For years, while Oklahoma had a majorityDemocrat Legislature, it went well, Nations said. Even though there was some grumbling from legislators who felt that OU and Norman were treated favorably when it came to funding, Boren was a force to be reckoned with. “Every year, at the start of session, all my colleagues would say ‘We’re not giving you anything else Nations, you’ve got too much ...Boren gets too much, you guys have got it all,’” Nations said. “Well, President Boren was so good that he would show up three days before we voted on the budget and lobby the guys who all swore they were never giving OU or Norman another nickel. And by the time he got through with that, they gave us more nickels than anybody else.” Boren had an “incredible Rolodex,” Nations said, and he used those established relationships and his influence to his advantage. But 10 years into Boren’s tenure, a new wave of freshmen legislators came into various elected offices, pushing Oklahoma’s House of Representatives to a Republican party majority for the first time in years, said Jeff Hickman, a former press secretary for Boren, state representative and now a current State Regent for Higher Education.
for Boren, state representative and now a current State Regent for Higher Education. This shift in Oklahoma politics is key to understanding how OU and the state government interact. It was the dawning of a new era, one where old leaders and ways of doing business would no longer be viable. And looking back years later, it’s clear this was when OU’s power and influence in the state began to dwindle. The new political dynamic brought increased partisanship and an economic downturn brought declining state revenue, making compromise difficult and leaving state agencies to adjust their budgets because of shrinking appropriations, Hickman said. As the budget crisis worsened through the late 2000s and early 2010s, lawmakers had to make difficult choices. Higher education funding was slashed so that common education, which includes grades K-12, would not receive fewer state dollars. “You have legislators who think, ‘Well higher education can just raise tuition and make up the difference where they need to whereas other state agencies don’t have the ability to raise tuition and fees to offset that,’” Hickman said. “So, I think there were a lot of legislators who felt like if you had to make a decision of where you needed to cut spending, higher education was a place where if PERCENTAGE OF OU’S BUDGET COVERED BY STATE APPROPRIATIONS
40% 30% 20% 10% 0%
'08 '09 '10 '11 '12 '13 '14 '15 '16 '17 '18 '19
NUMBERS FROM STATE REGENTS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
they needed to, they could make that up.” Hickman said legislators believed higher education institutions would raise tuition sparingly and try to increase efficiencies and lower costs overall. But this wasn’t necessarily the case, particularly for OU. At OU, tuition has increased by nearly 69 percent since the 2006-2007 school year. And there have been major building projects on campus in the last decade, including new dormitories and classroom buildings. Even though the percent of OU’s budget that was covered by state dollars continued to decline — it’s 20 percent lower since fiscal year 2008 — OU’s budget overall was increasing, growing 51 percent in the same time period. “With higher education, I think there was this mentality that the funding was cut, but they raised tuition even more and kept right on going without looking for efficiencies or ways to save money and to not increase tuition any more than necessary on students,” Hickman said. “And so that was an issue, one of several that strained relationships between legislators and the university.” This financially strained relationship was exacerbated by the clashing political ideologies and ways of doing business between Boren and the growing Republican presence in Oklahoma’s state government. No longer did calling in favors to long-standing colleagues, writing editorials in newspapers or trying to persuade legislators across the aisle — all things Boren was used to doing — work, Hickman said. The tipping point was in 2016, when Boren was heavily promoting his penny tax initiative to raise the state’s sales tax by one cent to support common and higher education, which voters turned down in November 2016. There was significant opposition to Boren’s campaign, and legislators weren’t pleased he was injecting himself back into their political process. “I think higher ed was very slow to adjust and realize that the leadership was different, the way you had to deal with the legislature was different now,” Hickman said. “So, I think building new relationships as people were leaving with term limits wasn’t a priority, and I think that strained that relationship as well.” CONTINUED
As Boren and many others saw declines in state funding as the main issue facing OU, many legislators with limited money saw an institution they believed wasn’t being responsible with the funding it did receive. Less than a year after the penny tax initiative failed at the polls, Boren announced in September 2017 his plans to retire. GALLOGLY’S NEW STRATEGY Enter James Gallogly. The former businessman’s straightforward attitude and dedication to fiscal management sparked interest from legislators when he was announced as OU’s new president in spring 2018. Even before officially becoming university president, Gallogly was making major moves to shake up OU’s administration and begin working on areas of campus he deemed as needing to be brought into the “modern world.” “In business … your investors want to know that what they see is what they get, that you’ll speak the truth, that you’ll be candid, that you won’t give political answers, you won’t try to give them what they want to hear,” Gallogly said. “You’ll give them what they want to know.” The state Legislature wanted efficiency, and that’s what Gallogly has begun to provide by consolidating and laying off workers in departments like landscaping, IT and small research offices, lowering costs for software and computers, selling parts of OU’s fleet of cars and switching to online timesheets, among other things. So far, Gallogly said he has cut roughly $32 million in OU’s budget. What some have called “micromanaging” or deemed ruthless, Gallogly said he sees as necessary to bring OU up-to-date with modern business practices. “(Lawmakers) don’t want to give it to somebody who’s going to waste their money. In certain instances, they were worried that was happening. Now, they’re less concerned because we’re saying, OK, we’re getting rid of the inefficiencies, and we’re trying to take that money and put it to the primary mission,” Gallogly said. “Can you imagine how
excited they were to hear we’re able to give our faculty raises without everybody marching to the Capitol and protesting? Or when I said to the state regents I don’t want to increase tuition this year?” But the cuts and layoffs, as well as Gallogly’s responses to racism on campus and changes he’s made to student bursar payments, among other issues, are heavily disliked by many members of the OU community. Students, faculty and alumni have spoken out against Gallogly and don’t seem to be appeased by the efficiencies, pay raises or tuition holds. These issues haven’t deterred his relationships at the Capitol, though. OU and the state government have spent years drifting apart. Now, the question is whether they can come back together.
“ IN BUSINESS … YOUR INVESTORS WANT TO KNOW THAT WHAT THEY SEE IS WHAT THEY GET, THAT YOU’LL SPEAK THE TRUTH, THAT YOU’LL BE CANDID, THAT YOU WON’T GIVE POLITICAL ANSWERS, YOU WON’T TRY TO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR. YOU’LL GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO KNOW. ” “This is a different kind of discussion than they’ve ever seen before,” Gallogly said. “I keep telling them, ‘We’re going to be great financial stewards of the money you give us, so please help me with the goal of educating our students because that’s really what we’re doing for the betterment of the state.’ And that resonates very, very well with them.” While state dollars for higher education are given in a lump sum to the State Regents for Higher Education and then the regents distribute that money based on a variety of measures and formulas to individual institutions, there are direct line-item appropriations for specific projects at the
projects at the university that Gallogly has focused his lobbying efforts on. In recent meetings with government leadership, Gallogly said he brought in ideas about expanding OU’s aeronautical engineering program to feed into jobs at Tinker Air Force Base, Boeing and aircraft facilities in Tulsa. He mentioned specific funding for the computer science program, which has classrooms that are “bursting at the seams.” And Gallogly would like to see Oklahoma become the top university in Native American Studies programs and partnerships with local tribes. “I said, ‘So, could you give me a little extra money for this or for this, knowing that we’re taking care of all these other things?’” Gallogly said. “I want to give you an investable idea so we can help our students be successful and create jobs where they become taxpayers and the economy improves.” THE FUTURE: JOHN WOODS
Gallogly’s strategy also focuses on building relationships — something Hickman said was previously lacking between the university and the Legislature. Both OU and the state government have new teams of leaders, notably Gov. Kevin Stitt, a businessman like Gallogly, who need to meet one another and find common goals and commitments. To make this happen, Gallogly brought on John Woods as OU’s new governmental relations director. Woods was born and raised in Norman and graduated from OU. He ran Congressman Tom Cole’s first campaign, worked in the state government in various roles, was the president and CEO of the Norman Chamber of Commerce and was most recently the executive director of the Tobacco Settlement and Endowment Trust for Oklahoma. He brings in diverse experience and a broad network. Since being hired in December, his work includes meeting with deans, directors, professors and programs on all of OU’s campuses to understand their work and what has potential for direct state or federal funding, particularly for research. He meets with Oklahoma’s federal
government delegation and the different city governments where OU has a presence. Woods will go through all the bills filed for the 2019 state legislative session and see which will have an impact on higher education. And he’ll spend time at the Capitol, building relationships with legislators. “It’s really about making sure that we’re open and transparent with our oversight, which at the end of the day, the Legislature is oversight of the university as a state entity and so we need to be open and transparent with them about our operations, our activities, our financials, answer questions that they have, but also share with them how we think we can play a key role in helping Oklahoma be one of the best states in the union,” Woods said. “It’s a two-way street.” This spring, legislators will have hundreds of millions more dollars to appropriate to state agencies than they have in nearly three decades thanks to a tax increase and an improving economy. Virgin said this is a good thing, but many state agencies have budgets that have been cut to the bone in the last 10 years, meaning the new revenue won’t be enough to restore all previously cut funds, and definitely not enough to give multiple agencies an increase.
For example, the state regents requested an additional roughly $100 million, which Virgin said is a reasonable request that would still not put higher education back to its original funding levels. But it’s unclear if they will get any increase at all. In Stitt’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, there is no higher education increase. “Unfortunately, a lot of my colleagues haven’t seen the value of higher ed. But I always try to make the economic argument,” Virgin said. “Sixty percent of jobs now require some sort of postsecondary education. In order to have a skilled workforce to make sure that Oklahoma thrives as a state, we have to make sure that higher ed is successful.” Woods said there is much work still to be done, but he sees many advantages for OU within the new session, namely the strong delegation of bipartisan senators and representatives from the Norman area and the fresh ideas brought in by the new governor and wave of new elected officials who can work without the political hangups of the past. It may be work that doesn’t garner results immediately, Woods said, but for the first time in years, OU is in a position of favor once again. “OU is not the Republican party. OU is not the Democratic party. OU is the higher education party,” Woods said. “I have a lot of questions and curiosity about what the upcoming session is going to look like, but in the midst of a lot of those big issues, my nag will be to not forget about the important role that higher education and the University of Oklahoma will play in the long-term success of our state.” OU’S GROWING BUDGET COMPARED TO DECLINING STATE APPROPRIATIONS
NUMBERS FROM STATE REGENTS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
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LEGACY New training center bears name of Blake Griffin
lake Griffin has left his mark on the University of Oklahoma. After donating millions, the former Sooner’s name is now on a section of Oklahoma’s basketball arena, and his impact on the program will continue. The Griffin Family Performance Center is an 18,000-square-foot facility added on to the south side of existing facilities at the Lloyd Noble Center and has state-of-the-art training equipment, exam rooms and a Gatorade bar. It has more luxuries than Griffin said he is used to at the professional level. The new complex will also help the Sooners with recruitment, said athletics director Joe Castiglione, and families’ eyes widen when they see the facility, which current players have nicknamed “the Griff.” “Each and every time we do something like this, we elevate one of our programs,” Castiglione said. In addition to attending the official dedication of the training center last August, the NBA AllStar made a trip home to Oklahoma in November to help with the announcement that his alma mater was becoming a Jordan Brand school.
“ EACH AND EVERY TIME WE DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS, WE ELEVATE ONE OF OUR PROGRAMS. ” An Oklahoma City native, Griffin played for the Sooners from 2007 to 2009 and started all but five games over his two-season run. He was the consensus national player of the year during his sophomore season and became the third player in OU history to record more than 1,000 points in his true sophomore year. In 2009, the Los Angeles Clippers chose Griffin as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. Griffin stayed in LA until January 2018 when he was traded to the Detroit Pistons. Now, Griffin is a five-time NBA AllStar, though he’s had to battle injuries along the way. Griffin made one of the biggest financial donations
STORY BY ABBY BITTERMAN
Photography by Paxson Haws
from any former Sooner basketball player, so Castiglione wanted Griffin to be involved in the planning of the training center that bears his name. “It was trying to see if he would help us bring a vision to life, and I wanted it not to be interpreted as him just going along with our vision,” Castiglione said. “We wanted him to participate in making that vision even better and taking the experiences that he had.” His gift was a part of the $7 million it cost to build the Griffin Family Performance Center, but, while it was his money, he said it didn’t feel right to him to only put his name on it. “There was a rendering early on that was the Blake Griffin Performance Center, and I hated it,” Griffin said. “It made me feel weird just because my whole life, my brother and I have been supported by our parents. They
are the ones driving us to practice, working two jobs to make sure we had the things we needed — shoes, uniforms, all that. This whole thing, again, has been a group effort.” As the Sooners take the court this season, Griffin’s impact will be apparent, especially with his name on the side of the building. The walls of the training center are decorated with Griffin’s logo and the Jumpman logo, and one wall in the building is dedicated to a quote from Griffin: “You have to fall in love with the process of becoming great.” “I just can’t quite find the words,” Griffin said the day the Griffin Family Performance Center was unveiled. “This is something that means a lot to me — having my family’s name up there, but also giving studentathletes these types of facilities is huge. I really mean it, this was a group effort.”
A GENEROUS LIFE
PROJECT THRESHOLD ADVISER CHANGES STUDENTSâ€™ LIVES BY INVESTING IN THEM. STORY BY CHANDLER WILSON, PHOTOS BY MEGAN ROSS & CAITLYN EPES
n 2001, Crystal Perkins-Carter was faced with a challenge: how to continue helping her students without wearing her family financially thin.
Perkins-Carter was working as an adviser at Langston University when she and her husband had a conversation about how the personal money she was giving students to help them pay for tuition and books, among other things, was unsustainable. So she sold her car, used her tax return and began writing novels with the hope that she could provide financial assistance or scholarships to students who desperately needed someone to believe in them. “I’m sitting in this office telling my kids, ‘I believe in you, I believe in you, I believe in you,’” Perkins-Carter said. “‘But if I only believe in you when the university can put up their funds to help you, do I really believe in you? If I really believe in you, I am willing to make a sacrifice for you.’” Many years and published books later, PerkinsCarter is on a different campus, but her mission is still to invest in the lives of her students. Perkins-Carter is the assistant director and an adviser for OU’s Project Threshold, a federally funded program designed to help first generation college students, the economically disadvantaged or those with disabilities, according to its website.
“ IF I REALLY BELIEVE IN YOU, I AM WILLING TO MAKE A SACRIFICE FOR YOU. ” On any given day, the Project Threshold counselor and assistant director’s office can be found overflowing with students who consider her a surrogate mother on campus. Since coming to OU in the early 2000s, Perkins-Carter has paid tuition, fees, bought class rings and supported students in times of crisis or celebration, among many other things. Above all, Perkins-Carter has given hope to the hopeless, passion to the defeated and direction to the lost, according to many of her past and present students. “There are so many students she has kept in school who were on the verge of dropping out, me being one of them,” said BerThaddaeus Bailey, a previous Project Threshold student and current policy analyst for the
state of Oklahoma. “Words can’t even express what she has done. This isn’t book stuff. They don’t teach this stuff. I hope I have expressed all she means to me and so many others.”
EARLY LIFE As a daughter of teen parents and an absentee father, Perkins-Carter credits her mother, Karolyn Lewis, and her faith in God for her desire to serve so willingly. “It was really by the grace of God my mom decided that even though she made a mistake (by getting pregnant so young), she was going to do something dynamic and powerful out of the decision she made and make sure her kid didn’t repeat her mistake,” Perkins-Carter said. “My mom made sure I didn’t get lost in the shuffle of what was happening in the streets of Detroit, and so I grew up in church and was taught to love the Lord.” Throughout Perkins-Carter’s childhood and into young adulthood, she had people she admired whom she considered servants and givers in addition to her mother. This included her godparents who helped fund her college education and her stepfather who moved their family from Detroit to Oklahoma and supported her and her half-siblings. Not only did Perkins-Carter’s mom love her well, but she loved others and served them well also. While Perkins-Carter was growing up, Lewis took in cousins, nieces, nephews, the neighbors and her brother’s classmate who lost his family. Anyone who was in need of a place to stay or someone to be there for them had that with Perkins-Carter’s family. Perkins-Carter said it taught her to live a life of gratitude, hard work and service to model the love and selflessness of those she grew up around. It put her where she is now: a first-generation college graduate able to make a difference in her students’ and three children’s lives. “Even in her struggle, (my mom) was a servant to me,” Perkins-Carter said. “I pray that if anything were to ever happen to me, somebody would show my kids the same kind of compassion that I show to the students that I serve … I know that has everything to do with the seeds that my mother planted in my life.”
BOOK WRITING While Perkins-Carter leaned on her mother for guidance, Lewis relied on her daughter as well. Not only did their relationship lead PerkinsCONTINUED
Carter to generosity and gratitude, but it led her to creativity and confidence, according to her mother. “She wanted to grow up and take care of the needy and the poor,” Lewis said. “She was always a leader — responsible, mature, creative and outgoing. In a way, we grew up together. In a way, she kept me grounded.”
“ SHE WAS ALWAYS A LEADER — RESPONSIBLE, MATURE, CREATIVE AND OUTGOING. IN A WAY, WE GREW UP TOGETHER. IN A WAY, SHE KEPT ME GROUNDED. ” Initially, Perkins-Carter went to college at Langston University with the “strange” desire of being a mortician but quickly changed her mind and set her hopes on attending law school after graduation. But after completing her undergrad, Perkins-Carter began working within the juvenile justice program and was exposed to kids who had experienced abuse, were impregnated by adults, were neglected or who felt lost in their mistakes. And suddenly, her passion changed again. “I just felt like, ‘God, I can make a difference,’” Perkins-Carter said. “‘Use me.’”
students at Langston University in the late 1990s, she realized many of her students were struggling financially, and she wanted to help them. It was this passion and drive that encouraged her to start writing. “She does so much for her students,” Lewis said. “She gives scholarships when they have needs, and if they are sincere in what they are doing, she gives to them. That’s why she wrote a book. She started putting her thoughts to paper. She sold her BMW to finance her first book.” Perkins-Carter said she never expected what happened next. Her second book, “Hood Rich: Sex, Status, and a Baller’s Confession,” which came out in 2005, tells the story of a young man whose life was influenced by growing up on the streets of inner-city Michigan. “Hood Rich” quickly affirmed that Perkins-Carter had made the right decision to sell her car and use her tax return to kick start her writing career. The novel ended up on Essence Magazine’s topsellers list, and her writing has since been mentioned in Publishers Weekly and The New York Times. Though her 20-plus books have received much attention, eventually leading her to need an agent, start her own publishing company and do book tours, her purpose never changed. She began writing to help kids, and no matter how much she achieved, her profits continued to go toward scholarships and bettering the lives of her students. “It blessed me to bless my students in the manner in which I wanted to,” Perkins-Carter said. “To be a servant to somebody else is the greatest reward ever.”
The kids she worked with inspired Perkins-Carter to get her master’s in human relations with an emphasis in clinical counseling from OU so she would be able to more closely work with at-risk youth and troubled families. For the first time, she felt certain about her calling in life. After Perkins-Carter started working with college
Now, Perkins-Carter continues to invest in the lives of her students at OU through Project Threshold. And even though the future of Project Threshold is uncertain because the program currently lacks a clear funding source due to campus-wide budget cuts and a federal grant being denied, the students look to Perkins-Carter for guidance and comfort. According to OU President James Gallogly, the program was out of funding by last October, forcing the university to take over expenses. While he assured students the program will continue, students and faculty worry restructuring could lead to the dismissal of one or all of the counselors, among other things. But Perkins-Carter said she plans to be there for her students no matter what happens. According to her, the
students have become her family and she loves them in the same way she loves her three daughters and her three siblings. Because of that love, countless students have been changed by all that Perkins-Carter has done for them, Project Threshold director Deborah Binkley-Jackson said. “She just has a way about her when it comes to interacting with people,” Binkley-Jackson said. “Her community is just thankful and grateful in every way for the services she provides them.”
“ SHE JUST HAS A WAY ABOUT HER WHEN IT COMES TO INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE. HER COMMUNITY IS JUST THANKFUL AND GRATEFUL IN EVERY WAY FOR THE SERVICES SHE PROVIDES THEM. ” During the first few weeks of BerThaddaeus Bailey’s freshman year at OU, he was debating dropping out because of financial struggles and the difficulty of his classes compared to his prior education. After a friend encouraged Bailey to seek guidance at Project Threshold, PerkinsCarter became his counselor. She set higher expectations for Bailey than he had ever been held to before, which led him to believe in himself and eventually propelled him to his current career as a policy analyst, Bailey said. Perkins-Carter never lets her students miss a class, and she gets to know each of them well enough to understand what courses they should take, according to Bailey. While she does this because she cares about their success in the classroom, it is more so because she cares about their minds and character. “Miss Carter was so intentional about going beyond a normal adviser,” Bailey said. “I came to her not just for counseling or to get advised for my courses, but I came to her for a lot of issues that really had nothing to do with me being in college. She even kept my money in her savings for me when I was looking to buy a ring to propose to my (then) girlfriend, and she did all the decorating for my engagement party. She said she wanted to do it out of love and never mentioned it again. That just shows her character.”
Perkins-Carter said she knows what she does is not an obligation, but her upbringing and faith have taught her that if others are in need and she is able to help, she should give to them. “I can’t even say how many students’ tuitions I have personally paid for myself,” Perkins-Carter said. “I can’t just sit on my funds and think it’s all my money and be like, ‘You’re in need, but I’m not going to help you.’ I help them because I care about them.” Perkins-Carter knows many of her students will never be able to pay her back for what she gives them, but she doesn’t want them to. Instead, she hopes they pay it forward because she believes helping someone like she does is an opportunity to not only change their life, but the lives of their children and their grandchildren as well. No matter what happens to Project Threshold and her job as an adviser and assistant director, Perkins-Carter will never stop being a servant to those in need. Everything she has accomplished has been to support her family and students, and that is not congruent on whether she works at Project Threshold. Rather, it is a part of who she is and what her mother instilled in her, Perkins-Carter said. “I would not be half the person I am today if I hadn’t met Miss Carter,” Bailey said. “I wouldn’t have the job, I wouldn’t have my degrees and I wouldn’t even be married. “I would say Miss Carter completely changed my life.”
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2019 NORMAN MUSIC FESTIVAL
The 2019 Norman Music Festival will feature Beach Fossils, Black Milk with band Nat Turner and Soccer Mommy as headliners. The free three-day music festival will be April 25-27 in downtown Norman and features local and national bands. Here are some of the names to keep an eye out for: BEACH FOSSILS: The Brooklyn-based band is comprised of members Dustin Payseur, Jack Doyle Smith and Tommy Davidson. According to the band’s website, the band’s latest album, “Somersault,” features “more complex instrumentation” and includes the use of piano, harpsichord, flute and saxophone. BLACK MILK WITH BAND NAT TURNER: Black Milk is a producer, rapper and performer. His latest album, “FEVER,” addresses the current social climate and incorporates multiple genres. Black Milk is known for fusing electronic programming with live music. SOCCER MOMMY: Soccer Mommy is headed by singer Sophie Allison from Nashville. Allison, 20, said in an interview she’s played music since she was 6 years old, according to her bio on the NMF website. Allison has toured with Mitski, Jay Som, Slowdive and others. THE GARDEN: The duo from Orange County, California, was established in 2011 by twin brothers Fletcher and Wyatt Shears. The two primarily incorporate drums and electronics, as well as vocals and bass. According to their website, the twins have become known for their “energetic, aggressive and off the wall performances.” OMAR APOLLO: Omar Apollo, 20, is a first-generation MexicanAmerican from Indiana who mixes jazz, R&B, funk, alternative, soul and pop music. His biggest influences, according to his bio, include D’angelo, Los Panchos, John Mayer and Gary Numan. NIGHT BEATS: The experimental R&B band includes D. Lee Blackwell, James Traeger and Jakob Bowden. The Seattle-based band plays “pure psychedelic R&B music that spikes the punch and drowns your third eye in sonic waves of colour,” according to their Facebook page.
Q&A WITH NMF P 32 Interview with Joshua Boydston, the associate director of the Norman Arts Council and a member of the Norman Music Alliance.
APRIL 25-27, 2019
BEACH FOSSILS BLACK MILK WITH BAND NAT TURNER SOCCER MOMMY THE GARDEN OMAR APOLLO NIGHT BEATS MEGA RAN SKATING POLLY BIG BUSINESS COSMONAUTS FLOCK OF PIGS VINYL WILLIAMS
JABEE NANAMI OZONE WHY BONNIE SAILOR POON RAINBOWS ARE FREE TRAINDODGE WORM PAXTON PENNINGTON JOSH SALLEE KLIPSPRINGER HELEN KELTER SKELTER M. LOCKWOOD PORTER PAPER SAINTS SON OF STAN LCG & THE X
FOR A FULL LIST OF BANDS AND THE FESTIVAL SCHEDULE, VISIT NORMANMUSICFESTIVAL.COM
OU ALUM DISHES ON PLANNING FESTIVAL Each April, the Norman Music Festival, brings local and nationwide artists to perform in a three-day long event. In charge of planning the touring artists is OU alumnus Joshua Boydston, the associate director of the Norman Arts Council and a member of the Norman Music Alliance.The Daily sat down with Boydston to ask him about his job and what makes Norman Music Festival successful: Q: What challenges have you faced when planning Norman Music Festival? A: Having a limited, nonprofit budget is kind of a blessing and a curse because it makes you think outside the box a little bit... It’s a very curated festival in the sense of we have an idea of who we want to showcase. We really do want to produce the best festival we can within the constraints we’re given. We’re active.
Q: Are most of the headliners open to playing at such a small festival? A: Yeah, that’s a big part of it. We try to book bands that have never played in Oklahoma before. Q: What is the target audience for Norman Music Festival? A: It’s impossible to appeal to everyone, and I think we had to reconcile with that at some point. There were years where we tried to make it a festival for every single person, but it’s one of those things where you start to make it for everyone and then it becomes for no one. For us, the spirit of Norman is in the college town. We think of it as a really adventurous place. We want it to be more diverse, both in terms of the sound and the performers. We don’t want it to just look like a bunch of white guys playing folk music — that’s not everything that’s going on in Oklahoma. We want it to be as reflective of the community as possible. Q: How does your schedule differ from fall to spring, when Norman Music Festival happens? A: We start brainstorming for the festival in late July and August, thinking about where we want to go with the lineup. By September, we start sending out offers. All confirmations happen early October. Then we have the open call and accept about 300 local bands in total. We’ll listen to all of those by January into February. What’s kind of nice then is it’s mostly just kind of set. Q: What lessons have you learned planning Norman Music Festival that you wish you had known when you started? A: Making sure to be open to criticism and listening more. Some people might not fully understand our limitations — “Why can’t this band be bigger? Why can’t Father John Misty headline?” Keep an open mind and take it all in.
ODDS & ENDS FORMER OU QUARTERBACK KYLER MURRAY ANNOUNCES HE WILL ONLY PLAY FOOTBALL IN THE NFL, LEAVING BASEBALL BEHIND. THERE HAS BEEN MUCH SPECULATION OVER WHAT MURRAY’S FUTURE WOULD HOLD.
NORMAN ELECTS BREEA CLARK AS THE NEW MAYOR. CLARK SERVED PREVIOUSLY ON NORMAN’S CITY COUNCIL AS THE WARD SIX COUNCILWOMAN.
OU students host the RALLY TO STOP
The closure of OU’s
Chair of the OU Board of Regents
OU’s new Dean of Students
the first of several events to speak out against racism on campus after two separate incidents of blackface.
Janeiro becomes public. To cut costs, President James Gallogly will also shrink the OU in Arezzo, Italy program.
STUDY ABROAD CENTER in Rio De
resigns, citing health concerns. Regent Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes is standing in as the acting chair.
begins working on campus. Surratt was previously a student affairs administrator at the University of California Berkeley.
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