Students ask Oklahoma State to punish 'insensitive' speech

A student group at Oklahoma State University is issuing a list of demands, including a bias response team capable of punishing “racially insensitive” language, to “enhance race relations.”

The Four Percent, a group of students that is “pushing to change the culture at Oklahoma State University,” tweeted a list of demands Thursday, urging school officials to do more in response to racist incidents on campus.

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“We submit that the President’s Office, Institutional Diversity, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and African-American Student Association release an official statement to the public which details all workings that the University plans to employ in an initiative to enhance race relations,” the group wrote.

The students also urged the school to create a “diversity training” program that must be “considered and thereafter implemented for all students (grad and undergrad), teaching assistants, faculty, and staff.”

Further, The Four Percent wants the university to “make an amendment to the Student Code of Conduct’s social justice legislation section” to add a provision that would make “racially insensitive and/or racist rhetoric and behavior” a “punishable action.”

“The individual(s) who violate this or any other clause under the social justice legislation would be subject to sanctions,” the ultimatum explains. “We request the consideration of the bias response team as outlined in the position paper to impose these sanctions on individual(s).”

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According to the activist group, the list of demands is a response to the university's failure to properly address several racist incidents that have taken place in recent years. Earlier in January, The Four Percent submitted an op-ed to the OSU student newspaper, explaining its motivations and future goals while accusing the university of being a “a racist institution.”

“For the second time, within a 1-year span, a student of our beloved university, Jake Pulliam, sent out an insensitive post on Snapchat where he captioned himself and another student, saying, ‘Bodak Black n******,’” the group wrote, further arguing that the African-American community “has been the target of racist activity.”

“There comes a time in each civil rights movement for those attacked and harmed by all forms of oppression to speak up, act out, and demand changes to this way of life,” The Four Percent added.

A mandatory diversity training program and a bias response team are not the only demands that the group mentioned in its list. Alongside the desired policy changes, the activists also campaign for a “minority history and diversity library and lounge for students.”

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“We submit the creation of more faculty, staff, and administration positions aimed at enhancing race relations on campus as well as selecting candidates with diverse backgrounds, diversity training, and/or experience working with multi-cultural groups to fill these positions,” the students wrote. “We also submit the active hire of more faculty and staff of color.”

Toward the end of the document, the group suggests that the school rename some of its buildings to honor “prominent social justice activists of color,” as well as hold a monthly meetings to “discuss this document and construct plans to enhance the cultural atmosphere at Oklahoma State University.”

In a statement to Campus Reform, a spokesperson for The Four Percent said that while the group “[doesn’t] want to take away” students’ right to freedom of speech and expression, it does want to “rethink how these things can and should be used most effectively in regard to higher education.”

OSU President Burns Hargis responded to the list of demands on Friday, highlighting the university’s achievements in the area of diversity and inclusion while acknowledging that “there is still more to do.”

"We will review the ideas presented by the students as we continue to look for ways to improve,” Hargis said in a statement provided to Campus Reform. “We remain committed to working with all Oklahoma State students to create a culture and environment that are welcoming to all and a model for others."

The Four Percent welcomed the school’s response, urging the administration to “[back] up its verbal willingness to improve race relations on campus by putting in the work necessary to change the culture here.”

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