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Norman Music: Glory Days FEATURE
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‘Blackened Heart’ was a piece I did when I was in a really dark place. I’d come home after work and just sit. I tried for weeks to find a healthy and creative way to express myself, however, all I could see was my own hand holding my heart. Then I figured, why not paint that. The blue and yellow background was inspired by ‘The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s era. The hand is a depiction of my own self reaching toward my heart, not letting it grow. After creating the painting, it continuously reminds me of how much control I have over my own life, and is a visual representation of how we can hurt not only physically but mentally.
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MUSIC GLORY DAYS Norman used to be a popular tour stop for some of the greatest musical acts of the 20th century, but over the years, things have changed.
story by Abigail Hall Âˇ photos by Gordon Baker and Felix Cruz 9
thousands of music lovers gathered at Lake Thunderbird for Oklahoma’s first and only version of Woodstock. Normanite Mark Walters was 21 when he attended the first annual Oklahoma Sound Rush and Watermelon Feed Festival on a plot of privately owned land next to the lake. Around 5,000 people sat on blankets in a grassy field to listen to the bluegrass and country melodies as pot floated through the air. Among the five bands that played the festival was the then-up-and-coming beach folk artist Jimmy Buffett, who had recently released “Come Monday,” one of his earliest well-known hits. “It was exciting,” Walters said. “We all kind of felt that was our own little Woodstock — nothing like that ... really happened around here before. So it was fun to see the community of other like-minded people show up there.” While the festival was intended to be the first of many, its premiere event in ‘74 was also the last, Walters said. But the Norman music scene continued to grow, with additional festivals and nationally recognized artists filling up arenas — such as the Lloyd Noble Center, McCasland Field House and
Owen Field stadium — and performing local shows in a plethora of clubs, concert halls, bars and house parties.
“We were all freaks — there were no hippies,” Walters said. “Hippies were for a summer in San Francisco. The rest of us were all freaks.” From 1976 to 1993, Walters recalls seeing artists like Joni Mitchell, U2, Devo and Willie Nelson at the Lloyd Noble Center. During those decades, there were numerous concerts performed by nationally recognized acts at Lloyd Noble, according to setlist.fm, a historical concert database.
Artists included in these setlists that were corroborated by Norman locals are
Elvis Presley, Grateful Dead, Queen, The Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, Sting, The Flaming Lips, Prince, The Time & Journey. Additionally, Jimi Hendrix performed at McCasland Field House in 1970, and the Rolling Stones and U2 took the stage at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in 1997 and 2009, respectively. “Those were the good times,” Walters said, “but that all changed.” For many larger acts, Lloyd Noble was an ideal concert venue, Walters said. The last show he saw at the venue was Vince Gill in 1993. “By the ‘90s, (use of Lloyd Noble as a concert venue) had trickled down and stopped sometime in there,” Walters said. “And I don’t know why. They must’ve had an official policy to do that ... or maybe the big shows started going to (the Myriad in OKC) and maybe Lloyd Noble just couldn’t attract them anymore.” As a teenager and a blossoming music lover in Norman in the ‘70s, Walters had access to innumerable concerts and live music, he said.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Campus Corner was home to thriving clubs and concert halls such as Boomer Theatre, Fontanelli’s Tavern, Town Tavern and Up the Alley. Fontanelli’s and Town Tavern are now sports bars, and Up the Alley is now a strip club. “It was always packed down there at night,” Walters said. “Young people just hanging around, visiting with each other, going to Town Tavern for something to eat or some coffee and cheesecake, and there would be bands in the bars.” Walters recalls the atmosphere of Campus Corner changing in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s, with the Boomer Theatre bought and turned into offices and the closure of several social and music hubs. Walters attributes the shift to property owners and the city wanting to rid the area of the “riffraffs” and “freaks” in the music scene. “It was a Campus Corner like you see in Palo Alto or Austin,” Walters said. “But they diluted it here. Now it’s just nobody — I don’t see people hanging around at all. They go to places, but that’s kind of what they do, they go there and they leave.” Howard Pollack opened the Boomer Theatre in the late ‘70s as Norman’s first concert hall and continues to book and promote shows in the Oklahoma City metro area. Pollack agrees with Walters and, in an email, said the Campus Corner Association and City of Norman “did everything they could to shut us down.” Today, the only venue that was open in the ‘80s that re-
mains on Campus Corner is The Deli. Despite the closure of many beloved venues on Campus Corner, the music scene continued to support local bands in the ‘90s. In those years, the Flaming Lips and the Chainsaw Kittens were discovered at a local club called Rome, which was located in Stubbeman Village west of Walker and Adams towers. David Box of Box Talent opened Rome in 1990 inside an old movie theater, and he kept it open until 1998, he said in an email. He recalls Rome fondly as “every scene” of music. Many of the local bands that played there were eventually signed by national labels, Box said, most notably the Flaming Lips. Rome, which Box frequently closed down for short periods of time to rebrand the inside and change the name — including The Edge, as it was known for a period of time — said the venue was half dance hall and half band performance. Typically, the club would host four bands a night, averaging 12 bands a week. “I think the scene was so vibrant because there were so many bands, and I wouldn’t say they competed against each other, but they just made each other better,” Box said. “I thought it was an amazing time — but I’m sure it comes in cycles.” Although Rome and other venues off campus, such as the Blue Onion Club on Lindsey Street, found success in the local music scene, by the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, national acts began to move to Oklahoma City.
It used to be very much different — Bon Iver would’ve played at Lloyd Noble back in the day. But most concerts I didn’t even have to leave town for, and that was great.
longtime Norman resident
“It used to be very much different — Bon Iver would’ve played at Lloyd Noble back in the day,” Walters said. “But most concerts I didn’t even have to leave town for, and that was great. I’ve really missed that because I have to go to (Oklahoma) City if I want to see somebody too.” The transition to Oklahoma City venues is reflected in the decrease in performances booked at Lloyd Noble and other OU venues. This not only changed the perspective of the music scene in Norman, but also resulted in the increasing importance of one group’s task to bring concerts to OU’s campus. Today, the Campus Activities Council (CAC) Concert Series is the only group actively pursuing bands to bring them to campus once a semester. Despite the group’s mission, the concerts they schedule usually do not occur in Lloyd Noble or other venues of Norman’s past concert glory. In April, the series brought pop musician MAX to perform on campus in Cross Village, and the council intends to hold the first performance of the fall 2019 semester during homecoming week Oct. 13–19, said Josh Brinkman, CAC concert series chair. The concert series has a budget of around $40,000 a year — but the price for bands that would be considered popular or “known” far exceeds that amount today. According to Priceonomics, booking a performance with an artist such as Adele would cost upward of $750,000. Additionally, booking an indoor venue like Lloyd Noble isn’t cost-effective, said Quy Nguyen, senior associate director of student life.
Nguyen said the Concert Series gets a 25-percent discount on booking Lloyd Noble, but even with that discount, the cost to rent the venue is $3,000. With a budget of $40,000, it’s simply not possible to bring someone of higher notoriety through the series, Nguyen said. While the music scene in Norman looks different today than it did from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, many music veterans still see its vibrant potential because of the hard work of those before them. “There have always been a lot of talented musicians in Norman, and they’ve always pushed each other,” Box said. “It was an amazing time, but now’s an amazing time, too.” The venues are fewer, but The Deli, Bluebonnet Bar, Red Brick Bar and Opolis continue to offer opportunities for local musicians to perform and get recognized — one such artist is Parker Millsap, who was discovered after playing open mic nights at The Deli. Box said The Deli remains the best place in Norman to see live music with performances “365 days a year.” Things have changed, but Box said there are perks for local bands pursuing the craft in 2019 that didn’t exist in 1990. “You used to be able to get bands record deals, but now bands can promote themselves,” Box said. “It’s a heck of a lot easier to get the word out and build a following that way — bands (should) never give up. Just don’t give up — because I’ve seen bands make it.” Another addition to the local music scene is the annual Norman Music Fest, which has brought hundreds of acts annually to downtown Norman since its formation in
2008. The festival continues to highlight local musicians, as well as national acts of various genres. Some of the former headliners of the festival are
Beach Fossils (2019), Ra Ra Riot (2015), Portugal the Man (2012)
and Norman-founded and signed
Chainsaw Kittens (2008).
Doug Hill, a freelance photographer and concert reviewer for The Transcript since 1997, said the festival revitalized Norman’s current music scene with the largest free festival in the nation. “It kind of changed everything,” Hill said. “(The festival) really put Norman on the map music-wise outside the state.” While Walters is nostalgic for the old days, he said he still enjoys local concerts and performances such as the Summer Breeze Concert Series in Lions Park, which he’s been attending since it was originally founded on campus in the ‘80s under another name. “I’ve been listening to music my entire life, and I’ve seen all these changes happen, and it’s interesting to look back on now after 60 years,” Walters said. “I just hope that coming generations get to have something similar on their own.”
Crimson Quarterly reached out to OU Athletics about the process of booking on-campus venues such as Lloyd Noble and received no response. Scott Kirker contributed to this report, as the author of this story has a personal relationship with Quy Nguyen and did not conduct his interview.
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Beatriz Loera sits with her daughter Ava in Copeland Hall.
ccess Despite a lack of resources for pregnant students on camp us, these four women are achieving their goals and making the most of their colle ge experiences.
story by Jana Allen Âˇ photos by Paxson Haws
isel Gutiérrez lay in a hospital bed with her computer resting against the crisp sheets, turning in homework within hours of giving birth to her son Leonardo. A junior at the University of Oklahoma, Gutiérrez was told by one of her professors that she would not be able to make up assignments missed when she was giving birth. Gutiérrez accepted this and quickly had to divide her attention between her newborn son and her biology class. Gutiérrez gave birth on Friday, Jan. 22, 2019 and returned to classes the following Monday. “It was just me trying to avoid confrontation,” Gutiérrez said. “Trying to avoid at all costs having to make professors work around me.” Despite a few obvious differences, pregnant and parenting students have many of the same worries as the rest of the student body. Classes continue to be a struggle, financial burdens are 18
now heavier, and strains in personal relationships are an added stress. While there is no way to know the number of American college students that have become pregnant, or the number that have a child and continue their education — pregnant and parenting students are present and succeeding on college campuses. The life growing inside of them didn’t stop them from pursuing an education — it motivated them to continue.
‘If other people could do it, I could do it, too’ Gutiérrez felt nauseated, out of shape and on the verge of crying. It had been a few years since she’d played soccer, so she’d expected to struggle. But as the game ended, the exhaustion and sickness didn’t. “I felt ... like I couldn’t do anything,” Gutiérrez said. It turned out it wasn’t a lack of fit-
ness — it was her pregnancy. The summer before her junior year at OU, Gutiérrez and her then-boyfriend, now-husband, felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety. After using Goddard Health Center to confirm the pregnancy, Gutiérrez said the nurse’s reassurance was part of the reason she stayed enrolled for the fall semester. “(The nurse) was very encouraging,” Gutiérrez said. “She said, ‘Don’t worry, this happens a lot. A lot of people go through classes, they have their babies, they go to med school, it’s all fine. ... Don’t give up.’” Gutiérrez said when she told her parents, her dad was excited, but her mom was distraught and immediately assumed her daughter’s medical school dreams were over. However, Gutiérrez didn’t see it that way. “If other people could do it, I could do it, too,” Gutiérrez said. Her parents agreed to help her
financially as long as she stayed in school. Throughout her pregnancy, Gutiérrez said her professors were understanding and accommodating when she missed class for pregnancy-related reasons, until it came time to give birth. Contrary to Gutiérrez’s experience with her biology professor, OU Title IX Coordinator Bobby Mason said accommodations must be made for pregnancy- or childbirth-related reasons, including accessible seating, frequent breaks, excused absences and an opportunity to make up missed assignments. Every OU class syllabus is required to inform students that accommodations can and will be made for pregnancy- or childbirth-related issues. If a student wishes to seek accommodations, they should reach out to the Disability Resource Center, Mason said. Camille Cisneros, with the Pregnant on Campus Initiative, works to
convince Title IX-compliant universities to provide more support and resources for pregnant students. The initiative helps students across the nation create student groups dedicated to supporting pregnant and mothering students. “A lot of times the biggest challenges that (pregnant) students are facing is a lack of support through the school itself,” Cisneros said. Other than the written Title IX policy prohibiting discrimination against pregnant students, and the accommodations that can be made through the Disability Resource Center, OU does not have any dedicated resources or programs for pregnant or parenting students, said Angela Startz with OU Marketing and Communications. The school should also ensure there are plenty of lactation rooms on campus — there are four on OU’s Norman campus — and diaper changing stations, Cisneros said. Crimson Quarterly reached out to
OU Facilities Management and Architectural & Engineering Services for the number of diaper changing stations, but was told there is not a way to track that. Besides providing physical resources, colleges can improve pregnant students’ likelihood to continue their education by changing the narrative around a pregnant student’s options. “There’s not only one student in that situation on campus,” Cisneros said. “We’re challenging the schools to build that community of support, so that these women who are in the middle of their education aren’t feeling like (their only) option is abortion.” The best piece of advice Gutiérrez has for a student who becomes pregnant and wants to keep the baby, along with finishing school, is just to give it 100 percent. “Just because you’re having this ... different thing apart from others, it shouldn’t make you give up,” Gutiérrez said. “It should make you work harder.”
‘I had to advocate for myself ’ One of Rachael Winkles’ most treasured successes as a mother came in the form of a craft her daughter brought home on Mother’s Day. It read, “Dear Mama, I love you because you make me feel safe.” Winkles’ daughter, Sophie, was 5 at the time. Winkles had been single and attending school for the majority of Sophie’s life. Those five years had not been easy for Winkles by a long shot, but this gift meant more than her daughter could have imagined. “The most I could ever want for my life is for her to feel safe ... and loved,” Winkles said. Winkles, who now holds a master’s in social work and a bachelor’s in criminology from OU, found out she was pregnant in February 2011. She was in her second semester at Oklahoma City Community College. Winkles became a mother at 19, and she withdrew from her two fall classes when she missed a midterm exam the day after being discharged from the hospital. “I didn’t know enough to (say), ‘You can’t do this me, this is discrimination,’” Winkles said. Two years later, she returned to OCCC, received her associate’s degree in science in 2015 and transferred to OU. Winkles returned to school more prepared to stand up for herself than she was at 19. “I had to advocate for myself in areas where being a parent caused me to have some issues in college,” Winkles said. “At some point, you have to start telling people, ‘Stop treating me wrong. I’m doing everything I can do.’”
Winkles thinks more could be done by colleges to retain more pregnant and parenting students, and improve their quality of education. One thing she believes would help is to have a policy that, for at least 2 weeks after giving birth, all of a student’s materials should be available online, and absences should not affect their grades. “I think that I speak for every woman that’s (given birth) — that we’re not at home laughing our asses off about getting to take our tests online,” Winkles said. “It’s a reasonable accommodation.” Raising a child and getting an education was one of the hardest things Winkles has ever done, she said. There were times Sophie wanted to play and Winkles was doing homework. There were nights Winkles cried herself to sleep because there was so much on her plate. There were almost no nights Winkles got more than five hours of sleep. “(As a college student), you’re really just responsible for yourself,” Winkles said. “But when you have a kid, it’s not like somebody that counts on you. It’s someone you’re literally responsible for their life. And it’s just different. It just changes you.” But it was worth it, in a lot of ways, Winkles said. One of the biggest rewards is Sophie and her stepsister Audrey, ages 7 and 5, respectively, are both already excited for college, Winkles said, after seeing her and her husband both in school. Ahead of Winkles’ 2017 graduation from her bachelor’s program, she asked Sophie if she wanted to be a part of her senior photos and even have her own cap and gown. Of course, Sophie was ecstatic. But it wasn’t just for the cute factor, Winkles said.
“I just felt like we both achieved that,” Winkles said. “I know that sounds funny, but ... I told her, ‘You did it, too. You helped mom.’ I definitely wanted her to feel celebrated as well.”
‘I’m really not one to say no to challenges’ Beatriz Loera was among the shivering, disgruntled, wrapped-in-layers students making their way to their cars in the Jenkins Avenue parking garage on an icy February day. Many students were complaining about classes not being canceled, but likely none had as good of a reason as Loera, who was six months pregnant. One patch of ice, and before she knew it, she was lying on her back. Her backpack had taken the brunt of the fall. “It caused some strain and stress to the baby,” Loera said. “If I would’ve fell on my belly, I probably would’ve had her that day.” Loera found out she was pregnant the fall of her junior year, with three and a half semesters of undergrad to go before she could move on to medical school. Many of her friends and family had their own ideas about what she should do. “End the problem.” “Let someone adopt.” “You can’t do this and finish school.” But in her mind, her unexpected pregnancy wasn’t an end to all of her plans. It was just unexpected. As she transitioned from being a normal student to one expecting a baby, Loera struggled with focusing on classes in between morning sickness, the father of the baby trying to convince her to get back together and her hope for support from friends and
family. That fall semester, her grades suffered, and she received a D in one class. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” Loera said. “(It) was even more stress on me. And then with normal school stress and work stress, it was probably my worst semester.” However, Loera said she found a helpful resource in seeing her graduation coach through the Sooner Success program more often. Her coach had recently given birth and could easily relate to what Loera was going through. Loera said seeing her coach regularly has helped keep her on track with her classes and time management skills. Today, Loera is the sole caretaker of Ava Loera, born May 28, 2019. Still adjusting to balancing classes with caring for Ava, who has not spent more than half an hour away from her mom, Loera is hopeful for the future. Medical school is still in it, she said. “I’m really not one to say no to challenges,” Loera said. “I actually prefer challenges. So this has kind of been one of the biggest challenges, and I’m just telling myself, ‘You can do it.’”
‘Even though it wasn’t a surprise, the extent to which your life really changes kind of was’ Jenel Cavazos sat in her social psychology class nearly two decades ago, her pregnancy obvious from her protruding midsection. The day’s topic was related to families, and a classmate asked, “Who our age would actually want to have a kid?” “And here I am sitting there, su-
per pregnant and just feeling embarrassed,” Cavazos said. “And I had nothing to be embarrassed about. It was a choice. I was married, I was fully prepared, and yet — just being so different.” Cavazos was married to her high school sweetheart and had been trying to start a family when she became pregnant at 21. Though her pregnancy wasn’t unexpected, surprises came in the form of how it affected her walk to classes, not being able to use the folding desks in Dale Hall and how awkward she felt being the only pregnant student in her classes. “It’s one thing when you’re older and you have kids, and all your friends have kids,” Cavazos said. “But when you’re really young, and nobody else you know has kids, it’s definitely different to try. And even though it wasn’t a surprise, the extent to which your life really changes kind of was.” While professors today are required to tack on the Title IX policy of nondiscrimination against pregnant students to their syllabuses, Cavazos said this was not the case during her time as a student. In fact, Cavazos said, she knew little about her rights or how flexible her professors could be when it came to things such as absences and making up assignments, quizzes or exams. Most of her professors were very understanding, but when she had an emergency C-section during finals week, her calculus professor was the opposite of accommodating. The professor gave her an incomplete and two weeks to make it up. “I was in the hospital for four days, and you can’t drive for six weeks,” Cavazos said. “So it was very difficult. And, had I known then what I know
now, you actually have a year to make up an incomplete.” Even today, the Title IX office is still looking to improve education and outreach when it comes to students being aware of their rights during pregnancy and childbirth, Mason said. “Often, information students receive might not seem relevant until they experience a situation personally,” Mason said. “We are currently working to find new ways to build awareness and understanding about available resources, including information about accommodations available for our pregnant students and employees.” After giving birth to her daughter, Taylor Rosenquist, Cavazos’ life went through even more changes. She and her husband separated when Taylor was about 4 months old and divorced at 6 months. Not long after, she started dating her current husband. Through it all, she continued in school and received her doctorate at OU before leaving to teach at Cameron University. Now, she is beginning her fifth year at OU as the introductory psychology coordinator. And her story has come full circle: Her daughter just started her freshman year at OU. Taylor is literally Sooner Born, Sooner Bred. As a professor, Cavazos wants to make sure every pregnant or mothering student in her classes knows there’s someone who has been in their shoes and succeeded. “I make sure that I tell them the things that I would have wanted to know,” Cavazos said. “If you’re sick, let me know. If you’re uncomfortable and need accommodations, let me know. Anything I can do to help. I do understand.”
HARROZâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S N The former OU general counsel and law dean takes on a new challenge as
NEXT TRIAL interim president.
story by Scott Kirker · photos by Paxson Haws
oe Harroz’s client was on trial for murder.
Harroz, now interim OU president, was still OU general counsel at the time. His client: Hamlet. Alan Velie, who has been a professor at OU for more than 50 years, brought Harroz in as defense counsel for a fictional trial as his class was exploring the mind of one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters. “As I remember, (Harroz) used an insanity defense,” Velie said. “And I know that everyone in the class was impressed with his ability and his good humor.” Now, Harroz is facing a brand new trial. Harroz took office May 17 — days after former OU President James Gallogly’s abrupt retirement announcement. Harroz will serve as interim president for a minimum of 15 months, and the OU Board of Regents has said a search for the next president will begin at that time. Financial struggles, multiple staff layoffs, presidential in-fighting, racist incidents, revelations of misreported data, sexual harassment allegations against leaders at the highest levels of the university — OU’s past year and a half has left the interim president with numerous challenges. And if Harroz wants the job permanently, he will face more trials ahead.
Historically challenging Law school instructor, OU general counsel, law school dean, interim president — David Swank can see the parallels. Both he and Harroz had served in all four roles. And just as Harroz entered his interim presidency facing trials, Swank faced challenges as well.
He replaced a president who left the university amid tension between the president’s office and the Board of Regents. Then, during Swank’s administration, multiple scandals plagued OU’s football team, and longtime coach Barry Switzer resigned before Swank left office. Swank faced disapproval from the coach’s critics before Switzer’s resignation, and criticism from Switzer fans afterward. Swank said the regents’ May decision to allow Harroz to pursue presidential selection at the end of his interim tenure could make Harroz’s choices more difficult. When Swank served as interim president, he was not eligible for selection. “(That) actually made it much easier, because then I could make whatever decisions I needed to make,” Swank said. “And I wasn’t worried about whether it’s going to affect whether I get to be the president or not. ... If I had been the interim president running for the job, it might have stopped me from making some decisions.” Velie said he thinks Harroz is well-positioned to succeed, despite the challenges. “I think he’s sensitive to the university’s needs in general, and particularly now,” Velie said. “This is a difficult time for the university, and I think he has a combination of skills to be a good leader. He’s very intelligent, he’s hard-working ... he’s a very affable, outgoing guy who knows a good deal of the faculty, so they feel comfortable with him.” Numerous interim presidents, including Pete Kyle McCarter, David Swank and J.R. Morris, served during Velie’s time at OU. “(Pete Kyle McCarter) did what others did,” Velie said. “He made sure that the university ran smoothly — that he wasn’t particularly the story. He was just kind of, keep it going on the course it had been going until a permanent person was in place. And I think you could say that for the others. ... They mostly did not take a particularly activist role.”
Will this plan work? I pray that it does. I don’t know how many shots we get at this thing. I believe that (Harroz) is serious when he says diversity is a top priority. How that looks, and how it indeed is accomplished, is really the key for me. OU professor emeritus
But Velie said Harroz seems to be approaching the job differently than interim presidents have in the past. “I think Harroz will be a little more forceful in setting goals and trying to accomplish something,” Velie said. “But he has a long time. A year and a half is quite a long time to be an interim president.” Velie said this difference could be due, in part, to the fact that a search for OU’s next permanent president is not yet underway. Velie said typically, a search begins immediately when an interim president enters office. Swank said, interim or otherwise, building relationships with OU’s constituencies — students, faculty, staff, alumni and Oklahoma taxpayers — is crucial for a university president. “You have to develop good communications between your constituents,” Swank said. “And that’s what I attempted to do. I know (Harroz is) trying to do that by some of the letters he’s sending out. And that’s good. But it’s something that really has to be done.” Swank said he held monthly meetings with student leadership during his time in office, and he worked hard to communicate well with faculty, staff and other constituencies as well. Student Government Association President Adran Gibbs said Harroz has been very accessible, and Gibbs is working to set up monthly meetings between Harroz and SGA leaders. “You need to respect the people that you’re trying to build a relationship with,” Swank said. “It’s about being open, truthful and honest with them. If you try and play shenanigans with them? They’ll find you out very quickly.”
Eyes on diversity Gibbs has spent more time with Harroz as interim president than most students. He spent much of the fall 2019 move-in day with Harroz, greeting new students. They’ve met at numerous events. 24
When Harroz hosted faculty, staff and student leaders at Boyd House to discuss implementation of his administration’s diversity and inclusion plan, Gibbs was there. Gibbs said while SGA will work hard to hold the administration accountable, he thinks Harroz is the right person for the job — and he judges Harroz’s progress on diversity and inclusion as a success. “I think (Harroz) is exactly what the OU community needs,” Gibbs said. “I think he is one of those people where you absolutely cannot match his energy. He has the largest heart. But he also has a strong sense of guidance and vision for university going forward. ... He’s a very big thinker, but he also understands the details and how to get there.” But despite progress, dealing with diversity and inclusion at OU is still the most public challenge Harroz must face. Harroz said in June that issues of race and ethnicity are a top priority for his administration. Harroz’s administration released the second stage of the university’s diversity and inclusion plan in August — an initiative Gibbs said goes beyond the scope of what might be expected from an interim president. “I think he’s doing just as much, if not more, than what you might expect from a president,” Gibbs said. “The rolling out of the diversity and inclusion plan, although it had been in the works for the past two or three years, just the rollout of that and the intentionality and force behind that is pretty tremendous, and it’s respectable, especially for an interim.” Diversity and inclusion efforts under the Harroz administration include the formation and operation of numerous committees, the launch of a campaign to encourage a diverse community and establish the university’s values, an optional diversity ally training course and internal reviews of OU’s colleges and their student body diversity. Professor Emeritus George Henderson has known Harroz for years. Henderson and his wife, Barbara, who were the first black couple to own a home in Norman, wrote a letter recommending Harroz for the presidency in 2017, when the
presidential search committee that would eventually select Gallogly was searching for former OU President David Boren’s successor. Henderson said Harroz succeeded with diversity initiatives in his role as law dean by empowering student voices. “Seeking out students. Talking to community residents. Asking, ‘What can we do, and how can we do it better?’ He gave great emphasis to his diversity initiatives in the college, but he also let students define what diversity meant to them,” Henderson said. While he believes in Harroz, Henderson said he wants to see how the plan is executed. “Will this plan work? I pray that it does,” Henderson said. “I don’t know how many shots we get at this thing. I believe that (Harroz) is serious when he says diversity is a top priority. How that looks, and how it indeed is accomplished, is really the key for me.” But Henderson said he believes, under Harroz, the right people will be judged for their performance on diversity in their areas. “Every chair and every director and every person will be held accountable, at least that’s (Harroz’s) intention,” Hen-
derson said. “For this thing called diversity, if you look at the faculty handbook and see who’s responsible for what, this is probably going to be the first president to say, ‘Okay, based on what you are obligated and have a responsibility to do, how well have you performed?’” Henderson said he hasn’t seen it before. “For the very first time in my 52nd year now, deans, vice presidents, chairs and others who have the responsibility for fairness and inclusion are going to be evaluated,” he said. And Henderson said Harroz will be held to the same standard. “(Harroz) will succeed or fail based upon what he does, not what other people think that he is or who he is, or a plan that someone has drafted and if they have not implemented.” As Harroz’s administration works to execute the diversity and inclusion plan among other initiatives, Velie said he thinks the plan and other efforts by Harroz’s administration may be a sign of more to come. “I think the way he’s acting is as if he’s going to be president for a while,” Velie said, “and he’s taken over and is doing an excellent job. The difference between (Harroz) and all the other interims is ... they acted as placeholders.” 25
round campus, David Surratt is known for his position as dean of students and vice president for student affairs, his alumnus status at OU and George Washington University, and even for his former position at University of California, Berkeley — but in the world of Comic-Con, he’s known as a geek, a Trekkie and a panelist. Surratt has been a panelist at “Comic-Con International: San Diego,” also known as San Diego Comic-Con or SDCC, for the past two years. In July, he was a panelist at the 2019 event and discussed gender inclusivity in gaming. Surratt sat down with Crimson Quarterly to discuss his experience at Comic-Con and his love for geek culture and inclusive storytelling.
story by Abigail Hall ∙ photos by Caitlyn Epes 26
San Diego Comic-Con is the biggest event in the world of Comic-Con. How did you end up getting invited to speak as a panelist? UC Berkeley created a mini conference with Comic-Con called GeekEd to dive into the idea of nerd and geek identity and how you incorporate that to how we work with students, so they put me on a panel to talk about civility. And then they learned that I have been a geek all my life.
What was Comic-Con like? Is it what you expected?
My friend, who’s actually a creator in comics, he calls it “the mothership,” and it’s pretty amazing. You’ve got 135,000-plus people and one convention center, a couple of hotels nearby, it’s intensely crowded — it was a dream, obviously — it took me nearly 40 years to get to. I imagine other folks who have not gone there are still hoping for an opportunity. I thought it would be just more traditionally comic books, and it’s so much bigger — it’s film, it’s cartoonists, animators.
When did you first get into comics and what significance do you associate with them?
It would’ve been elementary school — probably third or fourth grade at most. And then I started collecting Marvel cards and trading those, and then started reading more into the storylines. And then as I got older, I got more reflective about the comics and what they meant for how we view the world — and I think that’s actually what was inspiring. In Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, the creator, did something revolutionary by incorporating diverse actors who had storylines that really captured the idea of ethical ways in which we engage with other people, other cultures, other species. And it was meant to be obviously a story about society at the time, and I think Marvel did the same thing in many ways, as well as DC Comics. And honestly — the connection to the themes of social justice and society. The people like Stan Lee who dedicated their lives to this creativity and this art were doing it because they felt like there was a greater need to get messages and stories out that would be reflective of society, and the hope and the vision of what society could be. The storylines are oftentimes a battle of “What are our ethics?” and “What do we stand for?” And I think that’s really what society is always grappling with. 28
You’ve spoken about your love for “Star Trek” and the importance of that storyline in your life. Do you have a favorite character? Oh gosh, I’m a big fan of Picard. I love “Next Generation.” I’ve seen all the series except for the newest one at CBS Discovery, so I’d say between Captain Picard and Sisko are my favorite captains, with Janeway as a close second.
Is there a specific comic or storyline that has really inspired you or meant a lot to you? Silver Surfer. Wolverine was another one, too. But Black Panther lately has been on my mind a lot.
What are your thoughts on “Black Panther” and its current mainstream relevance? One, it was a revitalization in the modern times of a character who was one of, if not the first, black superhero in mainstream comics for Marvel, that predated the Black Panther Party in the American context. What I found intriguing about his character is that he represents this idea of Afrofuturism — the idea of what could be idealized if a culture or society actually realizes its power and its ability to influence and change the world. So that’s pretty awesome. And I think that it’s a character that inhabits this notion of the strength and skill, intellect, all these different abilities that you don’t often see in black heroes — you just don’t see it existing oftentimes, so I think it represents something pretty powerful.
You’re also a fan of “Stranger Things” — who’s your favorite?
I mean El is really dope. I love her. Mike, he annoys me, but he redeems himself in these last few episodes. But they keep on killing off the characters that I’m falling in love with. So just, everyone, don’t fall in love with Winona Ryder, and we’ll be safe. That’s what I’ve been doing at this point in time — don’t mess with her.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited for clarity and length.
“The storylines are oftentimes a battle of ‘What are our ethics?’ and ‘What do we stand for?’ And I think that’s really what society is always grappling with.”
Odds & Ends
FREEDOM OKLAHOMA NAMES NORMAN THE FIRST CITY IN OKLAHOMA TO ADOPT “COMPREHENSIVE NONDISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS FOR LGBTQ RESIDENTS” AFTER THE CITY COUNCIL PASSES A MEASURE CHANGING CITY EMPLOYMENT LAWS TO INCLUDE LANGUAGE ABOUT LGBTQ INDIVIDUALS.
CLEVELAND COUNTY JUDGE FINDS DRUG MANUFACTURER JOHNSON & JOHNSON RESPONSIBLE FOR MISLEADING THE PUBLIC AND CONTRIBUTING TO THE STATE’S OPIOID ADDICTION CRISIS. AUG. 26
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Interim OU President Joe Harroz announces a previously approved salary increase for faculty members at all three OU campuses will go into effect Oct. 1. This will be the first broad salary program for staff in Norman since 2014.
Kimberly Teehee is appointed as the Cherokee Nation’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives by OU alumnus Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
All three of Oklahoma football’s top-recruited freshman wide receivers — Theo Wease Jr., Jadon Haselwood and Trejan Bridges — score their first touchdowns as Sooners during OU’s game against South Dakota.
The Daily obtains a letter sent to OU by an attorney representing UMB bank, trustee for Cross Village, that criticizes OU’s decision to end the commercial and parking leases for Cross.
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