Since the start of the spring 2019 semester, the OU community has experienced four incidents of racism, two of which involved OU students. None of these incidents resulted in disciplinary action by the university.
On January 25, a video was posted by then-Tri Delta sorority member Francie Ford of her and her roommate Olivia Urban in blackface using a racial slur. Ford and Urban both withdrew from the university in the aftermath, though the university would not have been legally able to take disciplinary action against them.
Less than a week later on Jan. 30, an unknown individual was seen walking around on campus in blackface. The Rally to Stop Racism and the Better Together March were also held that week in response to each of these incidents. Feb. 15, a video circulated on social media of a former OU student hanging a noose around a stuffed duck saying “Hang you from a tree, n-----, just like a n-----.”
Most recently, screenshots from the OU College Republicans GroupMe were leaked March 7 and contained racist, Islamophobic, misogynistic and violence-centered comments. Some of the comments condoned the racist events that happened in January, saying that the man walking around campus in blackface Jan. 30 wasn’t an act of racism.
A THREAD: These are a series of very troubling and offensive things such as racism, Islamophobia, and more that've been shared in the OU College Republicans groupchat. The 1st set of messages regard the man seen in blackface on campus on Jan 23 @OUDaily @UofOklahoma @OU_SGA pic.twitter.com/sEhC6SXe7P— Jam Googly (@JamGoogly) March 7, 2019
OU President James Gallogly made a statement saying the comments in the GroupMe were protected by free speech, but the university would reach out to the leaders of the College Republicans to “emphasize the impacts such harmful language has on valued members of our community and to reiterate that the sentiments expressed are inconsistent with our University values.”
Though there is not anything in the OU Student Code of Conduct that discusses hate speech, the closest thing is abusive conduct, which is defined as “conduct that is sufficiently severe and pervasive that it alters the conditions of education or employment and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, harassing, or humiliating.”
According to the code, “simple teasing, offhanded comments and isolated incidents” are not considered abusive conduct. After these four incidents, The Daily asked university spokesperson Lauren Brookey if they can still be considered isolated incidents, to which Brookey did not comment.
Some of the comments made by OU College Republicans members Jonathon Tolle, Otto Wimer and Joe McCarthy regarding Grillot discuss if they could win in a physical fight against Grillot. Wimer said he'd "wipe the floor" with Grillot, and Tolle said he'd "break her f------ kneecaps."
OU General Counsel Anil Gollahalli said in January that speech is protected unless it affects the learning environment or is threatening.
Brookey said that because the comments were not made directly to Grillot, and it is unlikely they ever intended her to see them, the comments do not "rise to the level of conduct that is actionable under the Code."
"While offensive and distasteful, the statements were not made with the intent to cause fear or intimidation," Brookey said. "The entire exchange contains hyperbole and opinion, and not actual threats, calls to action or any other behavior that would violate the Code."