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Undergraduate Student Congress discusses building compliance, professor's use of racial slur

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Undergraduate Student Congress (copy)

Members of the Undergraduate Student Congress at a meeting in Devon Energy Hall on March 5.

The Undergraduate Congress heard discussion of on-campus buildings’ compliance with ADA regulations in its Feb. 11 meeting. 

During the time for committee chairs’ reports, campus outreach, safety and concerns chair Mark Mayes mentioned that his committee was almost done assessing buildings on campus to see if they met Americans with Disabilities Act standards. 

With only 12 buildings left to assess, Mayes said his committee has found that about 68 percent of on-campus buildings aren’t ADA-compliant. 

“We got a lot of complaints last session … that a lot of the buildings on campus were not accessible to many students, faculty members, staff members who were deemed as being handicapped,” Mayes said. “So what we’re doing right now is going through many of the buildings on the main part of campus and the research part of campus to see the status of all these buildings. So far, what we found out is the vast majority of these buildings are not up to code at all.” 

To determine the compliance of the buildings, his committee had to familiarize themselves with the ADA requirements. Mayes said his vice chair, Alexis Marvin, skimmed through the main parts of the ADA ad outlined every condition buildings were required to meet.

“Our committee is taking those conditions, marking them, going to buildings and marking down whether or whether not the buildings meet these conditions,” Mayes said. “There is absolutely zero reason why any building on this campus in 2020 should not have full accommodations.”

After the committee is done assessing each building, Mayes said they will send a report to the university administration. 

“(We want to) ensure that they fix these problems because, in the end, it’s about fixing these issues for disabled students on campus,” Mayes said. 

During the meeting, the congress saw legislation appointing congress members to committees for this session and allocating funding to student organizations. Both acts passed with a roll-call vote of 26-0-0. 

The congress also discussed Gaylord director of graduate studies and Gaylord Family endowed chair Peter Gade’s use of a racial slur when comparing the word to the phrase “OK, boomer” in a Gaylord senior capstone class Tuesday morning. 

Congress member Hennessey Chism brought up the incident during a time for student concerns during the meeting, and the issue was directed to the human diversity committee. 

Chair Emma DeAngeli said she’s disappointed by the latest racist incident on campus. 

“The best thing that we can do now is just to move forward and keep fighting the good fight that we are in congress,” DeAngeli said. “And that was directed to (the human diversity committee), so I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do about it and following up on that because it was really disappointing to see that another incident like that happened.” 

Before the congress meeting on Tuesday night, SGA President Justin Norris released a statement on Gade’s use of the racial slur, in which he said that derogatory language and hate speech will not and should not be tolerated at OU. 

“To the students directly affected by this incident, I firmly stand with you in this time of need,” Norris said, according to the statement. “To my fellow black students and students of color, I see you. We are not invisible nor are limited due to our racial identities.” 

In the statement, he said this incident proves that the OU community has more work to do to fight racism and derogatory language. 

“It is not the sole responsibility of students of color to continue to do this work alone, but rather it must be a truly united effort by all of us within our community,” Norris said in the statement. “We can achieve tangible change together.” 

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