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OU students and administrators join together in protest

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Unheard Demonstration

Human Relations freshman, Isaiah Flowers, came to North Oval to support Unheard demonstration event in the morning. He was walking by people to tape stickers.

Offensive. Disgusting. Bigoted. Disgraceful. Racist.

That’s what OU students and officials said in response to a racist video depicting members of OU’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity that surfaced late Sunday evening.

In the 10-second grainy clip, members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, dressed in suits on their way to a date party, emphatically sing the lines: “There will never be a n***** SAE. You can hang them from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me.”

Before midnight that Sunday, the fraternity’s national headquarters disbanded it. Before the sun rose on Monday, about one hundred individuals gathered on the North Oval to demonstrate against the video and the values it depicted. Demonstrations continued throughout the day as students and university officials alike agreed: The video and those it depicts do not represent OU.

OU Unheard, an alliance of black students who advocate for minority rights on campus, kicked off the day’s events at 7:30 a.m. Before executive members addressed the full crowd, OU President David Boren left his office in Evans Hall to meet demonstrators outside.

Someone handed Boren a megaphone, and he didn’t hold back.

“In my mind, you shouldn’t have the privilege of calling yourself Sooners,” Boren said to the students in the video. “Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners are not racists.”

After Boren’s speech, in which he severed the university’s ties with the fraternity, Unheard executives gathered students near Evans Hall’s front steps.

“The events that happened this weekend are extremely, extremely offensive and disgusting to our culture and to our people,” Unheard executive Chelsea Davis said to the crowd.

She and several other Unheard members stood on the steps to give recommendations. The executive members — along with many in the crowd — dressed in black. It was a sign of support.

The sun barely peeked over the top of the building as Davis spoke. The morning dew, made wetter by the day’s forecasted rain, was still fresh on the ground. It was hardly 8:45 a.m.

Davis gave the audience instructions: Grab some duct tape and close your mouth. Take a Post-It Note to write your concerns and make yourself heard. Then march so people will listen.

Three minutes later, Unheard executives led the demonstrators from Evans Hall to Oklahoma Memorial Union with one destination in mind: the Office of Student Affairs.

Demonstrators stuck notes on the office’s door in hopes that administrators would see their complaints. By the end of the protest, hundreds of notes adorned the door.

One note read: “Education is always the answer.” Another read: “I’m hurt.” Another: “Expel the perpetrators.”

Around the same time members of OU’s Athletic Department, including head coach Bob Stoops and linebacker Eric Striker, demonstrated on the South Oval. The individuals stood near Lindsey Street, standing in silence as students walked past.

Later, football players and coaches didn’t practice in protest of the video. Instead of practicing, the team, lead by Stoops and athletic director Joe Castiglione, entered the Everest Training Center walking arm-in-arm and dressed in black.

An OU spokesman said Stoops and other team leaders made the decision to forgo practice.

Unheard member Kumba Sicarr said she was happy with the student turnout and support at the group’s demonstration, but that the university should continue discussions about race.

“It doesn’t stop at this protest. I believe the university still needs to have a plan of action. This is not the first, and it’s not the last,” Sicarr said.

Members and demonstrators said the video is only one example of issues minority students deal with daily, which is exactly why Davis and other Unheard members demand change — even after the fraternity’s punishment has already been doled out.

“We need the university to understand that this is a cultural change that needs to happen,” Davis said during the demonstration.

Joining the droves of students at the event were campus administrators, including Clarke Stroud, university vice president for students affairs and dean of students, whose office-building door the demonstrators covered with notes, and Student Life director Kristen Partridge. 

They seemed to be listening.

Stroud said he was happy with the turnout at the protest but that he was both hurt and outraged by the video.

“There’s just no room in our community for it,” Stroud said.

Partridge echoed Stroud’s statements about student turnout, adding that she hoped the demonstration showed students that racism still exists on campus.

“Students who have not experienced that may not understand what students in minority communities face everyday. I hope that there’s a greater sense of awareness,” Partridge said. “I also hope that students in our cultural communities realize how many allies they have. It’s our honor to stand with them against things like hate and racism.”

Staff reporters Andrew Clark, Daisy Creager and Joe Buettner contributed to this report.

Paighten Harkins is a journalism senior and the digital managing editor for The Daily. She has previously served as campus editor, assistant campus editor and a campus reporter.

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