2020 Spring Crimson Quarterly

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It’s been five years since SAE. The university has taken steps to improve. But has enough changed?


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ARIANA WEIR “karina’s bedroom” (2019) oil on canvas, 36 in x 48 in


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about the artist: “I am a visual arts junior at OU. Overall, I enjoy using various techniques, especially printmaking techniques such as woodblock printing, to create work investigating how I interact with my own identity as well as how others perceive themselves. Using everyday scenes and objects in my artwork reflects my own thoughts on the different aspects of cultural identity while also being recognizable and allowing the viewer to engage as well. The painting 'Karina’s Bedroom' also investigates the theme of identity. Items on the table in the room such as the Virgin Mary statue and various candles indicate religious aspects of identity, whereas the pink cowboy hat, blue cowboy boots and traditional Mexican dress allude to familial history of rural Mexican life.”

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Avery Amorosi honors her brother’s legacy and uses it to tell her own story about the founding of Archer’s Aim, which helps spread awareness about studentathletes' mental health. For biology sophomore Avery Amorosi, July 13, 2018, was a sunny summer day gone dark. A missed call from Avery’s father, Don Amorosi, brought her back to her home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, that morning. She feared something had happened with her brother, Archer Amorosi, who had anxiety, depression and ADHD. When Avery arrived, her assumptions proved true as she was met by a sea of reporters and officers, with helicopters circling overhead. “Officers were pushing me away as I frantically tried to get to the house, but they wouldn’t let us get close,” Avery said. “As they pushed us basically onto the highway, I remember the first thing my dad said to me was that he was gone.”




PHOTO BY JACKSON STEWART Avery Amorosi holds a picture of her brother, Archer, in her wallet. The tattoo on her inner forearm is a tribute to Archer in her father’s handwriting.

In the wake of a tragic, destructive outburst, Archer had been shot and killed by police. He was 16. Now, a year later, Avery attends OU after spending two years at Colorado State University. As Archer was an avid Sooner fan, Avery said it is the best way to honor his legacy. “There was just something different about OU,” Avery said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him, so I’m honoring him in that way.” Archer’s connection to Oklahoma stemmed from his love of OU football. Growing up, he idolized players like Baker Mayfield and proudly filled his wardrobe with an abundance of OU sports gear. His love for the team went beyond a surface-level appreciation. “Archer really felt for them and saw that they were more than just athletes,” Avery said. “I think he tried to say that, but he never would actually express it since he didn’t like opening up.” Archer’s empathy for these athletes was based on personal experience. He was a student-athlete who feigned vulnerability with his family and friends regarding his inward conflicts, Avery said, so they didn’t always know the extent of his strug8

gles. Coaches, in this way, can play a pivotal role in helping to prevent cases like Archer’s, as they sometimes serve as the frontline in recognizing symptoms. This coach-and-athlete relationship is something OU’s coaches and athletic department take very seriously. “If a coach can see that there’s a problem and be part of the team that encourages them to get help, that coach might be the difference between life and death,” Avery and Archer’s father, Don, said. “I would say if Archer’s coaches could go back and retrace their steps, they would do it in a second — they just need to know how.”

‘Sports were kind of his everything’ Don said Archer’s condition became apparent when he entered middle school. Throughout his youth, Archer went through four therapists, each attempting to regulate his symptoms with different medication regimens. “Try telling a kid whose coach says

‘to play varsity lacrosse next year, you need to gain 20 pounds,’ that you need to take an ADHD drug that will curb your appetite,” Don said. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on between his ears — he’s not going to do it.” In most cases, Archer found an outlet for the rage and restlessness he experienced through sports. “Sports were kind of his everything,” Avery said. “Not only was he really good at everything he tried, but sports also meant letting out his anger and frustrations. When he was on the field, it was like he was fully there.” But the combination of Archer’s deep-set anxieties and not taking his medication caused him to get into situations where he would get angry, Avery said. The repercussions culminated in his premature death. For those who knew Archer, the events of July 13 came as a complete shock. He was considered popular, compassionate and caring. People didn’t notice his outbursts, and if they did, they would easily forget about it, Don said. “Yes, he was the quarterback, the star of his baseball team and a varsity lacrosse player ... but he also had

the ability to put on a mask and hide a lot of his hurt,” Don said. “I think that ability works against athletes that have severe mental illnesses.” It was ultimately Don’s investment in mental health awareness that led him to start an organization called Archer’s Aim after the death of his son. Archer’s Aim is a nonprofit organization that seeks to shed light on the mental health of student-athletes and be a resource for coaches and students around the world. The nonprofit’s mission is to “increase the awareness and understanding of mental health and well-being by being an advocate for teens,” according to the website for Archer’s Aim. “We raise money for three things: student scholarships for people that are willing to say they are dealing with a mental illness, mental health training for coaches and then contributions toward local initiatives,” Don said. “Our goal is to educate people as much as we can.”

‘It’s okay if you’re struggling’ OU has been proactive about mental health even before Archer’s Aim was founded. The organization specifically emphasizes the importance of mental health training for coaches as they influence players in different ways than parents, teachers or friends. In 2004, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione hired sports psychologist Nicki Moore, who pioneered the Psychological Resources for OU Student-Athletes (PROS) program, according to Moore’s biography on the website for Colgate University where she now works. This program focuses on delivering the best mental health, sports psychology, assessment and career counseling services to OU student-athletes in order to support their efforts to achieve academic, athletic and personal success, according to PROS’ website. Cody Commander, director of PROS, said along with individual counseling sessions with athletes, he meets separately with coaches and athletic trainers several times a

“Yes, he was the quarterback, the star of his baseball team and a varsity lacrosse player ... but he also had the ability to put on a mask and hide a lot of his hurt. I think that ability works against athletes that have severe mental illnesses.” -Don Amorosi, Avery and Archer’s father

week. By reaching out to members of PROS and talking about mental health, coaches are able to positively impact the mental health of their players. “Coaches are extremely involved in helping improve and increase mental health awareness within the athletics department,” Commander said. “We have lots of coaches who will reach out and have us come out routinely ... to talk about mental health topics like stress management, healthy eating and sleeping, and improving confidence or self-esteem.” What many don’t realize, Commander said, is how difficult it is for athletes like Archer to manage the pressure to perform along with personal issues they might face behind the scenes. “There’s tons of pressure to minimize your feelings and to play through pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional,” Commander said. “Athletes want to expedite their healing process, which is why we have to let them know that this is their mental health and it’s going to take a little bit longer than they want it to.” Archer’s Aim, much like PROS, serves as a reminder of the importance of vulnerability and that student-athletes are not alone in their struggles. “Through Archer, I learned that it’s okay if you’re struggling, but it’s not

okay if you don’t reach out or talk to someone,” Avery said. “I like how genuine our organization is and how the reasons for doing it are so real.” Avery said she and Archer were best friends and had been that way their entire lives. From catching waves to climbing trees, Archer was always up for an adventure. This is the Archer that Avery wants people to remember. To keep this happy memory alive, Avery now carries a picture of her brother in her wallet everywhere she goes. She also convinced her family to get tattoos of her brother’s name — Avery’s tattoo is on her inner left forearm in her father’s handwriting. “My sister and I got them together, and the whole time, people were asking me if it hurts,” Avery said. “But I was looking at his picture and was sobbing — not because of the pain, but because he got a tattoo when he was 16, so I thought if Archer can do it, so can I.” Now, as Avery attends OU in Archer’s memory, she hopes not only to honor him but also to remind people of the Archer she grew up loving. “I’m here now because I know what OU represented to him, and I want to do some of the things that he can’t do since he’s not here right now,” Avery said. “I just hope people recognize through this that everyone can be affected by anxiety or depression, and we have to get better about learning about it.” 9

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In the five years since SAE in 2015 and the year after blackface incidents on campus in 2019, OU has made efforts to better address issues of diversity and inclusion. But students and faculty wonder how much has actually changed. Around 9 p.m. on March 8, 2015, Isaiah Flowers’ power went out in Couch Center. Moments later, he received a group message that brought even more darkness. Flowers opened the message and watched as a group of OU students from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity sang a racist song with racial slurs and references to lynching. “There will never be a n----- in SAE! There will never be a n----in SAE! You can hang ’em from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me. There will never be a n----- in SAE!” The video had gone viral. Flowers didn’t sleep that night. Instead, he prepared and waited for the march he would attend at 6 a.m. He showed up on the North Oval dressed in all black. He wrote “UNHEARD” on a piece of tape, placed it over his mouth and marched across campus with hundreds of others. “My life when I first got here, it was great,” Flowers said. “I was having the time of my life. But then when that event happened, it was just like a dark time.” The weeks following the video consisted of marches, conversations and consequences. OU’s


chapter of SAE was quickly disbanded by its national organization, and members were forced out of the fraternity house. Two students identified in the video withdrew under threat of expulsion, a new vice president role was created to focus on improving the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts, and more diversity training was promised. Now, five years after the university cut all ties with SAE, OU’s administration continues to look for ways to get diversity right on a campus that still feels the effects of that video over 1,800 days later. Despite the changes made in the years since, racist incidents have continued to occur on OU’s campus. In February 2020, an OU Gaylord College professor used a racial slur during a class discussion sparking conversation and the call for changes. In 2019, rallies and marches were held after two instances of blackface. The Black Emergency Response Team formed to hold the administration accountable about making OU a more inclusive environment. OU Unheard had been created in January 2015 with similar goals. With a new, renovated space for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, along with a new vice president in Belinda Higgs Hyppolite, the

university may appear to be headed in the right direction. However, with racist incidents occurring as recently as February 2020, some students and faculty feel there hasn’t been enough change and accountability across campus. And many students, faculty and members of the administration are hoping they can be the difference. “What’s changed?” said sophomore Jamelia Reed, an officer for BERT. “People have changed, but we’re in the same rotation ... Unheard, they started almost (five) years ago, and we barely see a difference in what happened with them and then what it is now. “What are you actually doing (OU)?”


Less than 12 hours after the racist video had been released online, it gained national attention. “It was blowing up on social media,” said Lauren Whiteman, former OU assistant director of African American Student Life. “I mean

blowing up, and we had never seen something we had shared get shared like that. We had gotten shares before, but that was wild. And then ‘Good Morning America’ called ... and said, ‘Hey, call us. We’d like to interview you.’ And CNN did the same thing. “All of a sudden, all of these requests kept coming in because it was making the news.” By midnight on March 9, 2015, SAE’s national headquarters had closed its Oklahoma Kappa chapter, and the fraternity house had been vandalized with the words “Tear It D” spray-painted on an exterior wall. Today, OU’s Accessibility and Disability Resource Center is located inside the former fraternity house. The morning after the video, on a dark and drizzling day, hundreds of students dressed in all black, with tape covering their mouths, gathered on campus and prepared to march from the president‘s office, through the Oklahoma Memorial Union and back to Evans Hall. “We expected ... the usual people that come, maybe show up at a town hall — a couple hundred, two, three, maybe four,” Whiteman said. “I still don’t know how many people were out there, but I know it was a sea of people.” Shortly before the demonstra-

PHOTO BY CHRIS MICHIE Levi Pettit apologizes for the racist video March 25, 2015, at Fairview Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City surrounded by black community leaders.


PHOTO BY CAITLYN EPES Adult and higher education graduate student Isaiah Flowers holds a copy of the March 10, 2015, edition of the OU Daily.

tion started, former President David Boren addressed the video’s participants before the crowd and the media. “You are disgraceful,” Boren said of the individuals in the racist video. “You have violated every principal that this university stands for.” The following day, Boren issued an intent to expel the two men singing in the video, Parker Rice and Levi Pettit, and they both withdrew before their expulsion took effect. Rice apologized for his actions that evening. “I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night,” Rice said in a written statement. “It was wrong and reckless. I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same.” Pettit apologized for the video on March 25 at Fairview Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, surrounded by black community leaders. Pettit voiced his appreciation of these leaders for taking him in and helping him understand the

effects the video had on the African American community. Two days after Pettit’s apology, Boren announced the findings of the investigation, stating SAE members had learned the song at a national chapter event and 25 former SAE members would be disciplined. These members apologized to black student leaders at OU and accepted their discipline, which included community service and sensitivity training. “I got a chance to interact with those students, and I’m glad that I did,” said Professor Emeritus George Henderson, who has been a part of OU’s faculty since 1967 and was the first African American, along with his wife, to live in Norman. “They were demonized by who knows how many people on this campus, and they didn’t know them. The flashback for me — that could have been my uncle, that could have been my cousin hanging on a tree or kicked out of (their) community, and nobody really knew them.”



Three days after the video, Boren announced the creation of a new role, vice president of university community, to handle OU’s diversity positions. Boren also said new diversity and sensitivity training would be implemented. Today, the university community office has been renamed the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. A new vice president, Higgs Hyppolite, has taken over the department, and a new space has been renovated in Copeland Hall to serve as a central hub for diversity. First-year students at OU are now required to take part in the Freshman Diversity Experience. Students can complete this requirement through a three-part program at Camp Crimson or by taking stand-alone training 15

during the academic year. Boren’s quick response to SAE inspired Karlos Hill, now department chair for the Clara Luper Department of African and African American Studies, to seek a job at OU. “I was just blown away by how decisive President Boren seemed,” said Hill, who came to OU in August 2016, just five months after SAE. “In terms of just saying, ‘This is not tolerated at OU. This is not who we are.’” Despite the outrage and demonstrations, those directly affected by the video were not surprised by the racist act. Racism on campus had been a topic of discussion among black students for years, but they struggled to get the university to focus on it. “None of us were surprised about SAE happening,” Whiteman said, who now works as a communications specialist. “We were surprised that the video actually leaked because these things happen all the time.” David Surratt, who was hired as the university’s new dean of students and vice president for student affairs in January 2019, remembers one distinct moment of racism that he faced while a student and residential assistant at OU during the early 2000s. Surratt came across two students in the dorms and reminded them about quiet hours and having visitors after a certain time. “As I walked out off the floor and the door started to close, I heard one of the guys say, ‘That N-word can’t tell me what to do,’” said Surratt, who graduated from OU with his master’s in 2004. “And I immediately just, kind of just got enraged in that moment.” He said he remembers going back into the room, getting in this student’s face and yelling loud enough that other students stepped out of their rooms to see what was going on. This occurred during a time when Surratt didn’t have anyone to talk to and was unaware of reporting opportunities. Comparing his experiences with today’s students, Surratt said students now have more opportunities to process similar instances, resources to talk to and people to report to when racist incidents occur. “It’s not perfect,” Surratt said, “but we’re moving in the right direction.” Similar to Surratt, Chelsea Davis, a co-founder of OU Unheard, said there was more support for black and brown students after SAE. Funding for events, 16

speakers at conferences and scholarships increased. But while support was up soon after the incident, Davis said systemic changes weren’t happening, such as hiring changes and more support in human resources and in housing and food. Even five years later, students say the university hasn’t improved much in those areas. Reed said she worries about OU’s amount of administrative turnover in the past year, failure to ask students for their opinions and lack of involvement from faculty and staff. Faculty like Hill agree more needs to be done. “As a faculty member, I can say that change and progress has felt really slow,” Hill said. “But there has been progress.” Reed said there has been a lot of turnover in the Division of Student Affairs and in the Department of African and African American Studies. In the past year, OU has hired a new dean of students and a new vice president for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, has transitioned through two presidents and currently has Joseph Harroz as interim president, the third president in as many years. With that much turnover in such a short time, it’s often hard to create true, meaningful change. “Hatred is systemic,” Henderson said. “I have yet to see systemic changes in this university.”

I have yet to see systemic changes in this university. -George Henderson, professor emeritus

PHOTO BY PAXSON HAWS Professor Emeritus George Henderson discusses changes across campus and racist events that have occurred at OU over the past five years on Jan. 15.



? On Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, it happened again. A video surfaced of an OU student, Olivia Urban, covering her face with black paint and saying “I am a n-----,” while her friend, Francie Ford, laughed and posted it to Snapchat. By Monday, the two students had withdrawn from OU, and then-President James Gallogly met with student leaders to hear their thoughts. “Their theme to me was clear: OU must work toward cultural change at every level,” Gallogly said in a press conference on Jan. 21. “No one should have to worry about being mistreated and offended while pursuing their degrees or working at our university.” This incident prompted Gallogly to initiate a multiphase diversity plan. According to OU’s website, the first phase included steps such as hiring a chief diversity officer and offering


additional diversity training for students. The second phase includes building space for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and raising diversity and inclusion as a high priority. Changes to scholarships occurred, and a committee was set up to review the Student Code of Conduct. Surratt, who was hired 11 days before the 2019 incident, said this committee was created to meet the request of activists and allies to have a zero tolerance policy for bias and hate speech. He said it was an opportunity for healing and discussions, and the committee completed its work at the end of the summer. “I think that the important thing was the idea to navigate and understand ‘What does it mean to support constitutional rights?’” Surratt said. “Knowing that those same constitu-

tional rights and those free speech rights are the same freedoms ... that allow not only someone to say things that may be hurtful or harmful, but also allow us to eliminate those things. “Speak out on it and challenge it in open dialogue.” During the week of the blackface incidents, the “Rally to Stop Racism” was held to give students and faculty a chance to voice their opinions and frustrations. On Thursday, Jan. 24, hundreds gathered on the South Oval, linked arms, held signs and marched to the president’s office in Evans Hall. Leaders of the march intended to give a letter to Gallogly, but he was away from his office that day. The march ended outside the Union with speeches from the leaders. “We needed to have a rally against racism because of what maybe stu17

dents perceived as a lack of institutional response,” Hill said. “It’s okay to feel hopeless, given what you’ve experienced, and seemingly nothing to your eyes has changed, but I was just saying to them, you can’t stay hopeless, right? We need you, as a student, someone who attends this university, to be a part of the solution. We need your witness to help guide us to where we need to be as an institution.” Amid all these events, students and faculty attempted, once again, to make change. The Black Emergency Response Team was created by the Black Student Association to hear from the community, work with administrators and ensure “lasting change happens,” Reed said. Surratt said intercultural dialogue among different students, especially in greek leadership, has been highly encouraged since the video. And Hennessey Chism, former vice president of inclusivity for OU’s Panhellenic Executive Council, said her role was created in reaction to the racist video in January 2019. “This was totally reactionary,” Chism said. “They were actually planning on writing into the bylaws for 2020. But because of what happened in January 2019, they said, ‘No, we’re going to do it right now.” Chism said, in her role, she required each chapter to write an Individual Chapter Diversity Plan with various points on how to increase diversity over the next year. Chism and her committee also wrote up Recruitment Best Practices, which included a list of do’s and don’ts for recruitment. Greek life isn’t the only area of campus that has taken steps toward creating change at OU. The Gender + Equality Center received a new, expanded space for its office and more staff members, and OU is working to improve its counseling services. Since Surratt’s arrival, Student Legal Services became a full office under — and supported fully by — the Division of Student Affairs. Hill, who was part of the search committee that hired Higgs Hyppolite, said he feels the university is on the cusp of some real change. He be-


PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY CARLY OREWILER Photo depicts signs from both 2015 and 2019 during on-campus protests.

lieves those feeling hopeless about diversity on campus can have hope in Higgs Hyppolite. “We’re going to realize that we have one of the best, if not the best, VP for diversity in the country,” Hill said. While Reed said she is thankful there are two people — Higgs Hyppolite and Surratt — sitting next to Harroz to have those conversations about diversity, it’s not people of color whose job is to teach others about diversity. She said getting out of one’s comfort zone and educating themselves is the way to change the culture. On Feb. 11, Peter Gade, director of graduate studies and capstone professor in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, used a racial slur during a class discussion. He called on a student who said journalists have to keep up with younger generations as they change. Gade said the student’s comment was equivalent to saying, “OK, Boomer.” The class laughed lightly before Gade continued his comment. “Calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a n-----,” Gade said. The class immediately reacted, and one student informed him he couldn’t say that word. Gade quickly moved past his statement and continued lecturing. Some students walked out of class, and others left when class ended and Gade continued speaking over the scheduled class time. “I’m not sure that (type of language) does (have a place in the

classroom),” said Gaylord Dean Ed Kelley. “Perhaps it did once upon a time. Perhaps he was using it as an educational tool. We have no record at all of Dr. Gade, a distinguished professor who's been on the faculty here for more than 20 years, of him ever using this term, much less any kind of other racially inflamed language.” As of Feb. 14, Kelley said Gade would step down from teaching the class and would, along with other faculty in Gaylord, go through extensive diversity training. Despite all of these changes, recent events still leave students wondering when change will come. “Sometimes I’m very worried about the future,” Reed said. “You know, ‘student life, student affairs, diversity, inclusion, interim president.’ Oh, ‘diversity and inclusion.’ Where’s the provost? ... You’re over admissions and recruitment. And when we’re talking about academics, you are the person. Yet I’ve yet to see you at any march and rally.” Reed, along with many of her peers, wants to see and hear from the faculty and staff that don’t have to listen to and communicate with her regularly. She wants to see members of OU’s Board of Regents interact with students. She wants to see students speak up and use their voices. And, most importantly, she wants to see real change. “My question is, OK, we’re talking about diversity and inclusion on the forefront,” Reed said. “Where are you at the table?”



We are peer educators with the State Opioid Response Initiative for Higher Education. Opioid prevention is a hot topic right now and we are working to bring education on this important issue to OU students through a program called Generation Rx. We are hoping to coordinate with students, faculty and staff to present an educational program on prescription misuse prevention. This presentation provides an overview of the Generation Rx University messages designed to educate college students toward “safe medication practices for life.” We will focus on specific issues relating to opioid and stimulant medications, as well as some key general guidelines for safe medication-taking practices. We want to bring this hour-long presentation to you to make the University of Oklahoma a safer community for all staff and students. If you are interested, please contact us at the contact info below.


Jennifer Dell – jenniferdell@ou.edu Elexis Tyler – elexis.s.tyler-1@ou.edu Brock Neely - brock.r.neely-1@ou.edu 21

W R C M S N A N V O R E Q K E F J D S S L 22









With states like Oklahoma and Texas lacking comprehensive, well-regulated sex education, many OU students come to college feeling left in the dark.


assie DeGroot’s first sex education lesson was about Band-Aids. In eighth grade, DeGroot and her peers at Stillwater Junior High School were given a presentation about safe sex led by a local religious group. The students were told to think of themselves and their sexual experiences like a Band-Aid. “It was really all about abstinence,” said DeGroot, now a public and nonprofit administration junior at OU. “They gave us all Band-Aids and then told us to stick them to a bunch of people around us.” When the Band-Aids weren’t sticky anymore, they said, “That’s you.” After the Band-Aid segment, one of the speakers said the more sex a person has, the more they will become desensitized to sex, including losing empathy and compassion toward partners. “And it just felt really gross — the idea that you’re broken if you have too much sex, especially to kids that young,” DeGroot said. “We went through the rest of our high school career with that being our first (sex education lesson).” Sex, disease and consent education in the United States is complicated. It’s even more complicated in states like Oklahoma and Texas — approximately 86 percent of OU Norman-campus students hail from those two states — where there are no state statutes mandating sex and consent education for children and teens as they go through primary and secondary education. Only 27 of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., require sex and HIV education be taught in school districts.

Of those, only 17 states mandate the education be medically accurate, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In Oklahoma, HIV education is the only sex-based education mandated in all school districts. This statute has been operative since 1987. In April 2019, Senate Bill 926 was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt, requiring Oklahoma schools that already teach sex education to teach consent education as well. However, the bill still does not mandate that schools statewide teach sex education. “I went into my first sexual situation super blind,” DeGroot said, “which is extra frustrating because you can’t consent to something you don’t understand. And if you’re not educated on sex, how can you know what you like and you don’t like?” Students in Oklahoma public school systems are only required to receive “AIDS prevention education” once between fifth and sixth grade, once between seventh and ninth grade, and once between 10th and 12th grade, according to the Oklahoma HIV Education Mandate. According to this mandate, HIV prevention education must teach the idea that abstinence from “homosexual activity, promiscuous sexual activity, intravenous drug use or contact with contaminated blood products” is the only method of avoiding the virus. School districts are not required to discuss sexuality and identity, healthy relationships, dating and sexual violence prevention, sexual decision-making and self-discipline, or contraceptive

education. The education does not need to be age-appropriate, culturally appropriate, unbiased or free of religious promotion. While HIV education must be medically accurate, that is not a requirement for sex education in Oklahoma’s schools. “The thing is, in Oklahoma — and I looked it up because I (thought), ‘This has to be illegal,’ but it’s not — they’re allowed to say whatever they want to,” DeGroot said. “They’re allowed to give misleading information as long as it’s abstinence-only.”

“You can’t consent (if) you don’t understand.” After the eighth grade presentation, DeGroot received a more extensive presentation on sex from the district nurse in 10th grade. While the course was called “HIV prevention,” DeGroot said the nurse took it upon herself to teach the class more broadly about sexually transmitted diseases and consent, even though it was not mandated in the curriculum. DeGroot was grateful for the supplemental information, she said, but as a bisexual woman, she still had to find most of the information she needed to engage in safe sex through YouTube channels, internet searches and firsttime experience. “We did not talk about queer sex at all. I was literally convinced if you have sex with women, you just get STDs,” DeGroot said. “So I did some Googling, and the great thing about the internet is that you STORY CONTINUES ON PAGE 26


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can get expert information. But it’s frustrating that I had to trust someone who said they were a doctor instead of a doctor coming and speaking to my school.” DeGroot said if queer sex education had been provided, even to simply acknowledge that LGBTQ people exist and heterosexual sex is not the only form of sex, she may have come out sooner than she did. “Even if it was an option at home, even if it was an option culturally, it wasn’t an option at school,” DeGroot said. Similar to DeGroot, Rafael Anguiano said if he could change anything about the sex education he received, he said he would change everything. Anguiano, an accounting and entrepreneurship senior who attended Prince of Peace Catholic School in Plano, Texas, said his primary and secondary sex education took an abstinence-only approach, with metaphors such as “You’ve got this present, don’t give it away,” and “Don’t sip out of the soda can.” In high school, he said, he learned about HIV through “doom and gloom” and pictures of infected genitalia. “I definitely wasn’t prepared, and I absolutely did not get anything about being gay,” Anguiano said. “That wasn’t even mentioned. No ‘It’s an alternative lifestyle,’ (or) ‘It’s a choice’ — just not a single word.” The damage of teaching abstinence-only, heterosexual education to teens instead of an inclusive, frank conversation is “incalculable,” Anguiano said. “It would have been nice to have





A SINGLE WORD. -RAFAEL ANGUIANO, accounting and entrepreneurship senior


been told gay people existed earlier,” Anguiano said. “That would have been really good for my and my partner’s mental health (and) well-being.” He said he spent years pushing down thoughts that heterosexual relationships might not be for him — including two years in a heterosexual relationship in high school. “Walking away from that girlfriend of mine, I think deep down I knew something wasn’t right. And I just tried to push it down as much as I could to not think about it — that was an ongoing theme,” Anguiano said. “I think it was to avoid that shame ... because dealing with the implications of that, it was just too horrifying.” Later in high school, Anguiano began dating his now long-term male partner, and the two have been in a relationship for five years. Even though the two found each other, Anguiano said he wishes education had been more readily available about the existence of LGBTQ people and safe queer sex. “I didn’t even realize that (being gay) was a thing until high school. I had been struggling with this internal identity problem for years and it made me so depressed, and I absolutely tanked my academic performance and social life,” Anguiano said. “I think that if that kind of cognitive dissonance could have been eased earlier in the process of growing up, I could have avoided a lot of those problems.” While Anguiano has educated himself on sex, consent and disease, he said the misinformed beliefs of those around him have affected him. In high school, he was surrounded by peers that didn’t understand how HIV is transmitted or that queer sex can be safe. In his time at OU, he found himself explaining the term LGBTQ to an older peer, as well as being uninvited to college functions when it was discovered he was in a same-sex relationship. Anguiano said starting appropriate sex, disease and consent education early in primary school could help

PHOTO BY CAITLYN EPES Cassie DeGroot is a public and nonprofit administration junior.

upcoming generations understand and accept their identities earlier, and prevent misinformation and discrimination based on identity and sexual relationships. OU’s Gender + Equality Center offers a variety of LGBTQ resources, including student groups and events, education services and aspiring ally training, for those who wish to learn how to become an ally for the LGBTQ community. “It’s not like I’m suggesting exposing kids to anything more than they need to be, but even just acknowledging that gay people do exist — we do,” Anguiano said. “The returns on that for how little you have to put into that, I think you would create a huge reduction in the harm that you know is being done later down the line.” The framing of certain topics in public sex education can also leave students confused and uncomfortable with their own bodies and how to take care of them. Anthropology, human health and biology senior Elizabeth Durham’s first understanding of menstruation was shame. In fifth grade at Broken Arrow Public Schools, Durham said her class was divided by gender, and the girls watched a video of a girl carrying a box of sanitary pads in order to broach the topic of menstruation. “All I remember from it was they had

a girl carrying a big box of sanitary napkins in her bag, and she was very embarrassed,” Durham said. “And that’s really the only concept they talked about — the shame around it.” In sixth grade, Durham received the “sex talk,” which she said didn’t include a discussion of the physical biology of sex, consent or contraception. “They touched on biology, but it was to show a penis,” Durham said. “They showed an abstract painting of a blue man, and he happened to have a penis ... and a girl threw up.” Durham said there was a gap between the sixth and ninth grade, when she received “STD education,” which consisted of STD Jeopardy, where students shouted out the names of STDs from flash cards without understanding what they meant. When she was almost of legal age, Durham found herself even more frustrated with the sex education system after attempting to gain information from her health care practitioner. In her senior year of high school, Durham, then 17, went with her mother to see her gynecologist about accessing birth control, but she said she wasn’t taken seriously. “It was really weird,” Durham said. “She was always nice, but she (treated me) like I was really not going to have sex.” Going into her first sexual encounter, Durham said she had to seek infor-

mation from Google. “I feel like the resources are out there,” she said. “It’s just kind of shitty that that’s the result — you have to seek it out.” The largest misconception Durham said she faced in terms of sex and consent was the myth that “men always want sex.” “I’ve had a long-term boyfriend pretty much since high school and I’ve never forced him, but whenever he (said), ‘No, I don’t really want to,’ it was a confusion at first because guys are very much portrayed as sex machines, especially at this age,” Durham said. “No. They are normal people — sometimes they just don’t want to have sex.” She said the most important issue to correct in current sex and consent education is to include it at every level of education, with medically accurate information provided by health care practitioners instead of school staff. “Abstinence-only education doesn’t work, and it’s really unrealistic because people are going to have sex anyway,” Durham said. “Stop treating it (as) taboo.” Durham said consent should be taught in preschool and elementary school, discussing “boundaries and space,” and as the students get older, shifting the conversation to “don’t touch people when they don’t want to be touched.” “I think a lot of things could be avoided with (better education),” Durham said. “It’s just unfortunate that some health care providers still carry taboos and biases because, ideally, they should just be there to care for people’s health.”

Continuous, enthusiastic, reversible Men and women enrolled in college report sexual assault at a higher rate compared to the rest of the population. Women 18 to 24 are three to four times more likely to experience forms of sexual assault than those of other ages, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN. The rates of assault, particularly for incoming freshmen on college campuses, are uniquely high — according to RAINN, collegiate women are 50 percent more likely to experience sexual assault during the first few months of their first and second college semesters. Many students come into college with little to no understanding of what consent is and how to get it, said Bliss Brown, gender-based violence pre-




U.S. state laws and policies on sex and HIV education in schools (as of Feb. 1, 2020) Source: Guttmacher Institute


PHOTO BY CAITLYN EPES Rafael Anguiano is an accounting and entrepreneurship senior.

vention program coordinator for OU’s Gender + Equality Center. Brown, a 2016 graduate of women’s and gender studies at OU, worked as a peer educator as an undergraduate student prior to her current position. She oversees Step in, Speak Out, which is one of three president-mandated trainings for incoming freshmen. Step in, Speak Out is a sexual misconduct prevention training that covers consent and discusses resources for survivors of gender-based violence, as well as all forms of sexual violence, Brown said. The training is taught by about 20 undergraduate peer educators, who go through the training and are hired as paid staff to administer training sessions. “The program has evolved over time,” Brown said. “Before Step In, Speak Out, I’m not sure that the university was doing any sort of gender-based violence prevention.” The program has been mandated on campus since fall 2017, after a student protest in 2016 led former OU President David Boren to make the training required for all incoming students. Before 2017, the training was only required for high-risk groups of students that are known to experience higher rates of victimization and perpetration, such as fraternities and sororities within the Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council, ROTC and international students. While Brown said she could not comment on whether abstinence-only education is a successful initiative, she said the Step In, Speak Out program does not mention abstinence-only, and she believes the OU program to be effective.

Brown said most of the misinformation-based beliefs that students come into the program with are related to consent. “There’s a lot of misconceptions about what consent is, what it isn’t, how you can get it,” Brown said. “I think that people just have never had a conversation — never thought about it before.” DeGroot was part of the first mandated Step In, Speak Out training as a freshman. “The first Step In, Speak Out training was like a punch in the face to me,” DeGroot said. “I didn’t realize how much I didn’t understand about sexual assault.” Despite having some understanding of consent from her high school sex education, DeGroot said what she learned in Step In, Speak Out was brand-new information. In high school, she heard the common phrase, “No means no,” and thought that was the extent of consent. “What we learned (in Step In, Speak Out) is it’s continuous, enthusiastic, reversible,” DeGroot said. “Especially the idea of reversible. People can change their minds — it’s not just a yes, it’s an enthusiastic yes.” DeGroot said the training went through a checklist of a variety of scenarios that reflected different forms of sexual misconduct. The training walked the students through what to do if they were present in any form of sexual misconduct situations, as bystanders, friends of victims and more. “I didn’t realize there were people who put time and effort into learning these things and learning how to deal with them. I could have used that five years ago in my freshman year of high school,” DeGroot said. “I think I was

personally pretty educated, and I was still super unaware.” DeGroot, Anguiano and Durham agreed that earlier conversations with children and teens about sex, disease and consent in schools would lessen the pervasive issues that stem from a lack of information. “I understand that, for a lot of people, abstinence-only feels morally correct,” DeGroot said. “But if statistics show that it doesn’t reduce sex, why aren’t we using every weapon we have? We need to talk about results, and if you want to reduce unplanned pregnancies and reduce STDs and make people sexually happy and healthy, we need to do whatever is shown to work.”

Editor’s note: In addition to Step In Speak Out, the GEC offers voluntary training programs for students, faculty and staff to learn more about recognizing different forms of sexual misconduct, including harassment, assault, violence and stalking, as well as cultural and institutional barriers to reporting and intervention. To learn more, visit the GEC’s page on OU’s website. The GEC also offers programs for the LGBTQ community, as well as OU Advocates, a free, confidential 24/7 crisis line available to the OU community. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking or sexual harassment, you can call OU Advocates for support and advocacy at 405-615-0013, or stop by the GEC office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Oklahoma Memorial Union, Suite 207. 29

Justin Norris, 20, is the newly elected president of OU’s Student Government Association. A native of Arlington, Texas, and a graduate of Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, Norris has been active in student government since his freshman year at OU. In a sit-down with Norris, the vocal performance and business junior discussed his role as the new student body president, his hopes for the new year year,, and the frustrations his office has faced, given the recent faculty overturn throughout various branches of the university’s administration.

Q: What sort of challenges have been presented to you so far?

A: I was fortunate enough to come into this

role already having a lot of good relationships with faculty, staff and administrators. And so, even in the past couple of weeks, the conversations that I’ve been having with the staff of student affairs — it’s clear to me it’s just really important to set up a really strong, positive relationship, so that way, even if there is a little bit more of a transition, it can be a healthy one. It’s like realizing that, ‘Oh, I had a good relationship with the person in your role. It’d be better for both of us if we established a good connection and we just picked up where your predecessor left off.’ I think it just really comes down to good, clear communication.

A: My goal was to help foster a

greater sense of community at the university because I think that’s something that’s really been lacking ever since the blackface incidents. Through it all, we’ve persisted as a really strong OU family, but before the blackface incidents I think there was a lot of underlying racist ideology or frustrations within different communities. ... I think the best solution for creating a more cohesive university is by having an administrative leadership team that represents multiple ideologies across campus while also having the personality and desire to understand the ideologies that they don’t represent.

Q: How can your office and university administration work together to ensure better communication, even in a changing climate?

A: Throughout the whole campaign, I always

said it’s all about intentional conversations. That’s a huge part of my personal ideology, not just talking to someone, but really taking the time to listen and understand, and finding the intersectionality between your personalities — that’s when progress happens.

Q: How does the overturn of faculty and administrators at the university affect what you can do for the student body?

Q: What is your office doing to help make that progress happen?

A: I think it makes it a lot harder. Especially

A: One of the big things we’re working on

when it’s a very high-up administrative position that is changing frequently, then it can sometimes change the way that approval processes work, or how long it takes for something to get approved. I think that is also a big source of student frustration in that they bring their concerns to SGA, we hear them and then it goes to student congress or the appropriate branch, but then once it’s there, all we can do is send it to administration and say, ‘Hey, this is the student voice, this is what students need.’ But if you aren’t exactly sure how that administration is going to respond because the response is constantly changing, then I think that has put a big halt on progress. 30

Q: What was your main objective for the student body under your presidency?

is working with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on how we can program events that are specifically catered to educating students that need to be educated, as well as providing platforms and visibility for students who hold underrepresented identities on campus — so everyone feels visible, but also they’re being educated in a way that’s interactive and is not like we’re preaching but makes everyone the right kind of uncomfortable. Because you do have to make people uncomfortable to a point in order to change their mindset and grow a little bit, but not so uncomfortable that people feel like they can’t ask questions about things that they don’t understand.

Q: What can the university administration do to help make that progress happen?

A: I think (what helps is) them bringing

in their knowledge of how we can get the funding that we need for these events to work, also helping students to see from a perspective that shows this is something the whole university is working on together. (It’s) not just student government doing something but administration doesn’t really care about it at all. They’re really saying, ‘This is something that is coming from the top down and the bottom up.’ The desire is within the students, but the desire to help is coming from administration as well.

Q: So your position is more about acting as the connecting voice between the student body and university administrators?

A: Exactly, that’s really my main goal. I

just want to be a microphone to amplify student voices and make sure that they understand that they are being listened to and that their concerns are going straight to the people that need to hear them. But (I’m) also letting administration know that I am going to cooperate with them and serve as a streamlined means of communication between them and the students.

Q: What is your hope for the next year?

A: I’m willing to acknowledge that our

university is not perfect and we’re coming from some really hard times, and that’s not just going to go away. I can’t make it all go away. But there is a strong team of people, myself included, that are super excited about how much we can progress in the next year.

Editor’s note: This interview was edited for clarity and length.

ODDS & ENDS During a week of events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day on campus, OU officially opens a new workspace for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in Copeland Hall.


JAN. 22

JAN. 23

OU announces an expanded Starbucks location will open in the Oklahoma Memorial Union next semester in the space currently occupied by the ThinkTank collaborative space. It will offer more than 50 seats for patrons.

OU’s Board of Regents officially confirms Scott Fritzen as the new dean of the College of International Studies. Fritzen served as the director of International Executive Education at the University of Washington, among other positions across several universities.

JAN. 27

JAN. 30

FEB. 4

In its first meeting of 2020, OU’s Board of Regents approves a 3 percent cost increase for residence halls, the Kraettli Apartments and meal plans, and a 6 percent increase for the residential colleges.

JAN. 30

JAN. 31

The Oklahoma State Department of Health announces two individuals in Oklahoma who were believed to have the coronavirus tested negative.

OU’s Norman campus sees its first winter storm warning in three years, leading to OU closing for one day after several inches of snowfall.

FEB. 6

Cross-country bus company Flixbus announces it will open a stop at OU’s Lloyd Noble Center, giving OU students a cheap option to bus to major U.S. cities and college campuses.

FEB. 4

OU football ends the 2020 recruiting cycle with the 10th-best recruiting class nationally and secondbest class in the Big 12 behind Texas. The recruiting class is OU's lowest-ranked since Lincoln Riley became head coach in 2017, according to ESPN.

Members of the OU community call for change within Gaylord College after professor Peter Gade compares the word “n-----” to the phrase “OK, boomer” during a journalism capstone class.

F E B . 11 31

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