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David Surratt, Belinda Higgs Hyppolite release statements; OU announces 'Diversity Dialogue' webinar to educate community about racialized violence

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Diversity and Inclusion Ribbon Cutting

From left to right: David Surratt, OU dean of students; Jane Irungu, former interim vice president of diversity and inclusion; Joseph Harroz, then-interim and now-permanent OU president; Belinda Higgs Hyppolite, vice president of diversity and inclusion; and Justin Norris, OU SGA president at the ribbon-cutting for the new Diversity and Inclusion Office in Copeland Hall on Jan. 22.

OU announced a webinar on race-based violence, and Vice President of Student Affairs David Surratt and Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Belinda Higgs Hyppolite expressed solidarity with OU’s black community in statements.

As protests continue across the nation on city streets and on social media following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, faculty leaders at OU are reaffirming their pledges to serve students.

Surratt released a joint statement on Twitter from the Student Affairs divisions at OU Norman, OU Tulsa, OU Health Sciences Center and Arezzo, Italy, regarding his department’s continued commitment to OU’s black students Wednesday.

“As a Division of Student Affairs, we remain steadfast in support of marginalized communities,” the statement said. “In these uncertain times, it is important we reaffirm and name our commitment to the black community at the University of Oklahoma.”

The statement also acknowledged the university’s previous failures to protect black students from racism, saying that it “must do better.”

“Students, staff and faculty at the University of Oklahoma deserve campuses, communities, a state, and a society that value justice and care for each other,” the statement said. “The Division of Student Affairs must be a part of that solution.”

The statement further explained the division supports the declarations of solidarity made by student leaders at OU, and it will begin an internal review of Student Affairs on OU campuses in an attempt to eliminate implicit bias.

The statement also said the division is committed to continuing to listen to students — the “most important constituents” at OU.

Dr. Belinda Higgs Hyppolite, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, also released a statement on behalf of her department Wednesday.

“We, as individuals and a collective, must work toward the vision of the country we desire for future generations,” the statement said. “We must continue to support and advocate for communities who have systemically experienced acts of racism and violence.”

Additionally, the department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will host a June 5 webinar addressing the effects of violence caused by racism.

The webinar is titled “Diversity Dialogue: Exploring the Impact of Racialized Violence” and will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m., according to a Tuesday release.

OU President Joseph Harroz will be one of several speakers, including community leaders, professors, spiritual leaders and law enforcement officers who, per the release, will “provide a unique perspective on racialized violence in their field.”

“Our objectives are to educate the broader community on the mental and emotional impact of racialized violence,” Higgs Hyppolite said in an email to The OU Daily. “We are hopeful this sparks dialogue and increases in self-awareness, provides new educational opportunities and advocacy for marginalized communities and brings awareness to racialized violence.”

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