OKLAHOMA CITY – Several sorority and fraternity members at OCU could be disciplined after using a racial slur as a team name for a charity sorority soccer tournament, according to representatives with the university.
“A lot of people talking about it,” Maya Ferrer, an OCU student, told News 4.
Ferrer is talking about a recent incident involving the Alpha Phi sorority, Kappa Sigma fraternity, and a racial slur.
“It really feels like an isolated incident,” Ferrer said.
That incident unfolded at an Alpha Phi-sponsored soccer tournament where members of those two Greek houses named their team after the racial slur “porch monkeys”
“To hear this specifically on our campus on a campus I’ve grown to love so much, it’s just been disheartening,” Pastor Jay Williams with Village United Methodist, who’s also an OCU student, said.
Williams said many students on campus share that feeling.
“A lot of the groups on campus, the cultural groups on campus, don’t feel supported have said that they don’t feel safe on our campus and that’s, I hate hearing that,” Williams said.
The OCU Black Student Association president released this statement regarding the incident:
“As the President of Black Student Association I feel that it is important to say that I do not embody the viewpoints of all students of color on campus but I can say that a large percentage of us do not feel safe or protected. Our university and administration has not stood up for students of color. This semester alone we have had to endure 5 racially charged incidents. As student leaders on campus we have to speak to media outlets to finally have the opportunity for our voices to be heard and have a seat at the table in the issues that affect us. It seems that we constantly bear the burden of having to prove our worth and importance to this institution because other students and professors are allowed to express racism and hatred where we are so vulnerable. Take a moment to really think about the students who have to fear for their lives on this campus. We are at risk of not being protected from racist police officers, racist professors, and racist students. We pleaded with the members of the Senate to hear our cry for help and understand that ending operations of Kappa Sigma and Alpha Phi does not stop racist incidents from occurring on campus. It simply stops giving the students an extra layer of protection to hide behind. It only takes away the strength of a brotherhood and sisterhood that is standing with a racist. Thankfully the Senate members supported our resolution with a vote of 17 to 5. We tried to come to an alternative conclusion that could be agreed upon but it did not provide the necessary consequences for the actions of Kappa Sigma and Alpha Phi members. As a university our administrators have to stand up for the voices that are not being heard or respected on this campus. We have to be proactive instead of continuing the trend of taking reactive measures to put a band-aid over a problem. For instance, why is the university waiting for Alpha Phi to have a third strike before suspending their operations. As students we are having to let go of the justice we deserve and settle for what the sororities and fraternities can or can not do when it should be the university establishing the guidelines and disciplinary measures to be taken. Ignorance does not excuse racism. Just because you don’t know the history of your people and your country doesn’t make a Person of Color feel any better. Black people do not have the luxury of forgetting our history, we have to live with the consequences of that history daily. Oklahoma City University has to take a stand and make the necessary changes in a transparent way. This starts with investing in the voices that are unheard, hiring diverse and inclusive staff, faculty, and administration, and creating a no tolerance policy for racist acts that will give students of color on our campus the extra layer of protection from the horrid acts that have taken place so far.”
OCU’s President, Martha Burger, sent this email to students:
As we head into the weekend, I want to share some thoughts and observations with you. It has been a difficult few weeks at OCU, and I’d like to ask for your help as we move forward from this difficult time. One of the opportunities we have right now is to work together on fostering and enhancing diversity and inclusion so that the types of things that recently occurred don’t happen again at Oklahoma City University.
Let me start by saying that the racial slur that was used for a team name at a recent student philanthropic event was inappropriate and unacceptable. I am profoundly disappointed that this incident occurred, but I am also proud of the students who stepped in to correct the situation. The fact that other students who were at the event addressed the situation immediately is an example of our diversity initiatives at work. The team name submitted was taken down immediately, as it should have been, and the incident was reported to Student Affairs and is making its way through the student conduct process.
I realize that words alone will not fix this and recovering from the hurt that you are feeling will take some time. But what we CAN do is to commit to work together as we move ahead on the diversity and inclusion efforts that are in the works. You’ve already received some communication regarding steps that our police department is taking to help build confidence in our commitment to the safety of our campus community. Additionally, there will be a call for volunteers to serve on the various committees that are being formed in conjunction with our newly reconstituted Diversity and Inclusion Council. I urge you to volunteer so that all voices are present. We will also be convening a group to help guide the search process as we fill our new position of VP – Diversity and Inclusion. As recommended by the student senate, this will be a cabinet level position and I foresee a search process that will involve open sessions with the students, faculty and staff.
Along with specific tactical initiatives, I want your help to figure out ways that we can foster a culture where the quality of our dialog leads us to greater insight, stronger relationships and better outcomes for all of our campus community. We need to make sure that we are intentional about our stewardship of a culture of inclusion and hearing diverse points of view needs to be a part of everything we do.
When I first became president of OCU, I made a commitment to diversity and inclusion. While things haven’t happened as quickly as I would like, and I am certainly not perfect, I remain committed to this core value. I am convinced that together we can help Oklahoma City University reach its full potential.
“We need to be on the forefront of educating people on theforefrontof letting people know that these things aren’t okay versus letting them happen and deciding oh, maybe now we should talk about these kind of things,” Williams said.
News 4 reached out to local and national chapters of Alpha Phi and Kappa Sigma and we haven’t heard back.