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Undergraduate Student Congress discusses Sooner Freshman Council name change, increased signage for alternative food options at OU

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Undergraduate Student Congress

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

The Undergraduate Student Congress saw legislation authorizing a name change for the Sooner Freshman Council, among other things, in its Nov. 12 meeting. 

Student Government Association President Adran Gibbs, who authored the act mandating a name change for the group, said the words “boomer” and “sooner” are inherently offensive to the Native American community. Gibbs said the act was written to expand on the indigenous land acknowledgement passed earlier this semester. 

“(The) motivation was just to be consistent with the indigenous land acknowledgment we had passed to be more cognizant of some of the language ... we are using in our code annotated,” Gibbs said. 

The acknowledgment, also written by Gibbs, will be read at all SGA events and states that OU students are “visitors on this land,” recognizing any Native American students present. 

While introducing the act, Gibbs called on representative Taylor Broadbent, a Native American student, to provide historical context for the use of “boomer” and “sooner.” 

Broadbent said the words were originally used to describe settlers in the Land Run of 1889, which facilitated the theft of tribal land. 

Gibbs said he wants to make clear that the act is not a mandate for the university or other organizations on campus. 

“(The) next steps are for the co-chairs to think about how they want to change the name, of course, in collaboration with the rest of the executive branch,” Gibbs said. “So over the summer, they will choose a name, some new colors — if they want to — and then the rebrand will begin.” 

The act passed with a roll-call vote of 19-8-7. 

“I was excited that a lot of people felt the same way and were ready to empathize with our community. I was saddened by the amount of ‘noes’ and ‘abstains’ in the voting process,” Broadbent said after the act was passed. “I think it’s likely due to new members ... not really wanting to take a stand on issues that they feel are controversial. But I really don’t think human lives are controversial.” 

The congress also saw a resolution increasing signage for halal, gluten-free and vegan dining options on campus. 

Congress members Lauren Miller and Nishit Garg co-authored the resolution, which Miller said originated from a student concern brought to the Campus Outreach, Safety and Concerns committee.

“We utilized Mark Mayes. He’s the chair of (the Campus Outreach, Safety and Concerns committee), and he got a student concern through the SGA website over this lack of signage ... and we just ran with it,” Miller said. 

Miller and Garg said they found there were plenty of options for students with various dietary restrictions, but they were not being advertised enough. 

The authors said the current plan for restaurants with clearly displayed menus is to identify halal, gluten-free and vegan options on the menus themselves. For dining halls like the Couch Restaurants, pamphlets identifying the options for various diets could be created. 

Miller said the authors of the resolution met with OU Housing and Food employees to decide on realistic goals and learn what options were already available to students. She said the signage project should be complete by May 2020. 

“We said that we would have another follow-up meeting in January of next year. ... I think things like this just take a continuous conversation,” Miller said. 

The resolution passed with a roll-call vote of 33-0-0. 

During the meeting, votes of no confidence for chair, vice chair and secretary failed, meaning that chair Emma DeAngeli, vice chair Mahak Merchant and secretary Savanah Patterson kept their respective positions. Acts reauthorizing the various committee chairs were passed unanimously. 

The congress also saw a resolution to promote diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within the various committees. 

DeAngeli, one of the authors of the resolution, said it was a revised version of the resolution condemning blackface passed earlier this semester. Miller, another author, said the resolution lists different, specific ways each committee can become more inclusive. 

The resolution passed with a roll-call vote of 35-0-0. 

Miller said she was aware of the lack of support from black congress members for the original resolution condemning blackface and was disappointed that the congress still passed it. She said collaboration with members of the black community was important in revising the resolution. 

“Hennessey Chism — she really did a great job about helping us write this redraft to mean something more than it did last time,” Miller said. “And she was actually the one to speak up and say, ‘Hey, the black community didn’t want this in the past anyways,’ and so she was really helpful and pivotal in that.” 

Miller said the goals for each committee were created by examining what each committee does and how it can be improved. 

“I’m hopeful that ... all of the committees will look at this resolution and really derive project ideas for next semester,” Miller said. “And I think that would go a long way in making these goals that we put in place for ourselves happen on their own.”

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