Members of the OU College Republicans student group have expressed concerns about the freshman diversity training program at OU designed to influence an inclusive culture.
OU freshmen and transfer students are required to complete the training program implemented last summer following the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity scandal.
Students are required to take the five-hour course during Camp Crimson, a Gateway class or a standalone course by the end of their first academic year at the university or risk holds on future enrollment.
Members of the student group raised concerns about and discussed the program’s lessons at its first meeting of the spring semester Feb. 22 .
OU College Republicans chair Kylee Williamson said the group plans to gather as many opinions on the training as possible to gauge whether a petition is necessary to promote changes to the program. She said she feels the training should not be required of all students.
“Whenever you have certain (religious) backgrounds, you should be able to get exempt from it because of some of the things that I’ve been told that they teach,” Williamson said. “Whenever I have members coming up to me, telling me this made them uncomfortable, then I feel like it’s something we need to speak out against.”
Political science freshman Kyle Meyer is a member of OU College Republicans and said he feels change is warranted after taking the training through a Gateway class.
Meyer said he believed the course was less focused on diversity, but rather a politically correct learning process.
“I would change the whole idea of inclusive language,” Meyer said. “I feel that at the college level, feelings are going to be hurt. If you unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings, you should apologize and move on about it.”
Meyer said the training limits students’ personal rights and that the course emphasizes how to be politically correct students.
OU vice president for the university community Jabar Shumate helped design the program so students at the beginning of their OU experience could understand the university’s core values of diversity and inclusivity.
OU College Republicans member Jake Martin, an Arabic studies senior, feels the program’s goals are counterproductive, however, in promoting an inclusive environment.
“What it actually does is it divides the student body into groups based on race,” Martin said. “Instead of focusing on relating to people as other people with intrinsic dignity, the process divides people, sticks them in boxes and then punishes the people who are not diverse enough.”
Martin said he believes his generation is too concerned with being politically correct and that each person can react in any way they choose to words that may not be intentionally offensive.
“If you react negatively, that’s your choice. If you react positively, that’s your choice. If you don’t have an opinion, that’s also a choice,” Martin said. “It’s not somebody else’s responsibility to make sure you’re not offended, especially if you are offended by the truth. It’s up to you how to react.”
Williamson has taken note of her members’ concerns and believes the group should speak out if the training does foster an uncomfortable environment for students.
The group plans to distribute a survey, receive student feedback, potentially author a petition and get as many opinions as they can.
Williamson is a senior and was not required to take the course, but said she hopes to get her hands on a manual or sit through one of the courses to confirm what the OU College Republicans members are saying.
OU College Republicans secretary Lauren Keenan said the group will meet again Monday, March 7, in Dale Hall.