Sit-in, hunger strike over racial issues at OU ends; administration pledges changes, improved communication

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The Black Emergency Response Team (BERT) sit-in and hunger strike at the University of Oklahoma’s Evans Hall is over after university administrators pledged to make changes addressing racial issues on campus.

The three-day long protest ended Friday, and a top university administrator is saying changes will be made to address the issues that BERT members brought to light.

The promised changes involve more constructive communication, including the creation of a new student advisory committee.

David Surratt, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, released the following statement Friday afternoon:

This week, our students have raised legitimate concerns about increasing a sense of belonging at OU, echoing issues we see raised at universities across the country. They came with a list of demands that in our discussions, we agreed were actually solutions that reflect the work already underway as part of the university’s draft strategic plan that we have developed and will be presented to the OU Board of Regents next month. Among other positive developments, we are hopeful we have established constructive ways to communicate and to help our university.

We are excited to add a new piece to our draft plan that captures another one of the students’ ideas around a new student advisory committee and that is in harmony with the strategic vision for the university. The past few days of conversation have crystalized our efforts to squarely align the strategic direction with student interests.

BERT members continuously met with administrators over the past three days and discussed a list of demands that BERT brought to administrators.

While waiting for the demands to be met, some protesters went without food. By Thursday, six BERT members had not eaten since 8 a.m. Wednesday when the sit-in and hunger strike began.

The list of demands to the university that includes Provost Kyle Harper resigning, mandatory equality training for all faculty and staff, a semester-long diversity class for students, and a multicultural center with “a common lounge area, study room, and a Popeyes.”

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