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OU introduces mandatory diversity classes to curriculum

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Diversity training

A small group meets during Camp Crimson July 24, 2015 during the transfer session to discuss diversity on campus. Mandatory diversity training is being implemented throughout the university to promote diversity and inclusion in the upcoming year. 

Diversity became a point of emphasis at OU, following protests by OU Unheard and the release of a video featuring racist chanting from Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members.

OU has hired Jabar Shumate as the new vice president for the university community to help lead diversity initiatives.

D’Andre Fisher, a diversity enrichment programs assistant director, said learning about other cultures and embracing them is a quality and skill that will set OU students apart from other students in the nation.

According to Fisher, the program consists of five main values: diversity, awareness, understanding, interaction and responsibility.

The focus is on more than just race. It's also about ethnicity, gender, social-economic standpoints, religion and sexuality, Fisher said.

“[It’s] going to help students identify the differences of the social climate of each student, so it occurs to students to understand, welcome and celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of each person,” Fisher said.

However, some students are critical of the classes.

Joseph Lyon, a mathematics junior, said the program seems counter-intuitive.

“The university is wanting students to be more inclusive of other cultures and backgrounds, but …  it should just be taken at face value that you can accept people of other cultures — that you have that level of intelligence already,” Lyon said.

Tim Smith, a journalism junior, said the program may be beneficial, but unnecessary.

“People have a pretty good idea that racism isn’t acceptable. If people don’t understand, they should be given information, but it’s generally about if the person wants to be accepting or not,” Smith said.

“I don’t think we need classes — I think we need to create an environment that says ‘we’re accepting all people who want to understand all people,'” Smith said.

Philosophy professor Stephen Ellis said having a diversely conscious campus is important for making departments and graduate programs better and more educational.

“I think it’s getting better, but I don’t think we’re all the way there yet,” Ellis said.

Ellis said there have been students speaking out about diversity for a long time before this program.

“The diversity is good for everybody … Realizing that diversity isn’t just for non-majority population people,” Ellis said.

The goal, Fisher said, is (for students to explore) exploring the possibilities every individual has and embracing it in transition to students in the OU family.

Fisher said having open dialogue is about understanding the different stereotypes each student may bring with them and breaking down the negative barriers that some stereotypes create. 

“Being able to really understand where each other comes from, the background of each other and things of that nature — that’s going to be very, very important,” Fisher said.

Fisher said learning how to treat people from different cultures with respect is the students’ responsibility. 

OU also hired Jabar Shumate as the new vice president for the university community to help lead diversity initiatives.

Bryce McElhaney is a journalism junior and senior reporter at the Daily, and co-founder of OKFolks Magazine. His past includes the Journal Record Legislative Report and the OCCC Pioneer.

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