OU alumni members say they have been banned from OU’s Facebook page for commenting about the closure of the American Organ Institute.
Danny Kocher, a 2019 OU master’s graduate, said he and many other alumni have been commenting on OU’s official Facebook page to spread awareness about the current situation surrounding AOI. He said many of them have been banned from the page, making them unable to comment or interact with posts.
OU officially announced its plan to close AOI on June 17, hours after supporters of the institute marched to Evans Hall. The AOI raised funds in an attempt to fund its programs independently, but allegedly OU refused them.
The most recent outcry has been in response to OU moving forward with the program and laying off four more AOI faculty and staff. Along with that, incoming freshmen were not told before moving in that the program no longer existed and that they would have to change their majors.
Kocher said he thinks the post that got him banned was on a video of President Harroz, where he talked about challenging himself to be a good leader and to put students first. Shortly after he posted the comment, it was taken down.
“I definitely took issue with that given the lack of transparency and everything going on right now,” Kocher said. “And I basically just put the challenge out there (that) if you're going to stay true to those words, then maybe consider having any kind of open dialogue about this, instead of hiding behind excuses of being busy today, tomorrow and in the future.”
The majority of the posts reposted the same information and comments. Lane Perkins, a 2019 OU master’s graduate, said many were copied and pasted from Nolan Reilly’s posts, the director of music at St. Thomas More University Parish, AOI alumnus and organizer of the June 17 AOI march.
Lauren Brookey, OU’s spokesperson, cited the university’s community guidelines in an email to The Daily, highlighting the portion that states “the university reserves the right to remove any and all content and comments at its discretion.”
“We have blocked certain messages we identified as spam (frequency, same message, same graphic) per our Community Guidelines posted for our University-sponsored social media sites,” Brookey said in the email.
However, Perkins said he thinks the university is trying to defend its position without giving the opposition a voice – or that President Harroz and Provost Harper are trying to get back at things former OU President Boren supported while he was president.
“I sincerely don't think it's about the money,” Perkins said. “I mean, if it was about the money, they would have accepted the $6.6 million in donations.”
Kocher said he can’t speculate on the motivations to remove the posts because he is not on the inside, but that it “smells fishy” to him.
“It seems like something that they don't want to talk about, and they don't want people to talk about,” Kocher said. “So in my mind, it just kind of seems like even creating awareness of the situation or something, they don't want to happen — they'd rather it just be kind of quietly swept under the rug.”
Many students and alumni were unblocked on Monday evening, and are now able to comment on the Facebook page.
After the article was published, Lane Perkins, 2019 OU master’s viola performance and pedagogy graduate, and second year opera master’s student Annie Elliot, said they were unblocked from OU’s official Facebook page.
“All of us were unblocked and our comments restored,” Perkins said. “I think that’s interesting.”
Kesha Keith, OU director of media relations, told The Daily in an email she was “unsure” of when the article was posted.
“But the post that violated university social media guidelines was removed and senders of spam (repeated, unrelated images and messages) were banned,” Keith said in the email. “They remained blocked until the spam review was complete.”
This story was updated on Aug. 22 at 6:52 p.m. to reflect that two days after this article was published, some students and alumni were unbanned from the page.
This story was updated on Aug. 21 at 5:56 p.m. to reflect the correct spelling of Nolan Reilly's last name.