Harding Charter Preparatory High School students raised concerns and posed questions to Oklahoma Christian University President John deSteiguer during an assembly held at the high school earlier today.
A week ago on Feb. 24, Oklahoma Christian admissions counselor Cedric Sunray visited Harding Prep on a regular recruiting visit. Instead of sharing information about the university, Sunray instigated an activity where students were forced to separate based on skin color and hair texture. Sunray and Oklahoma Christian parted ways shortly after this incident, according to university officials.
deSteiguer opened the assembly with an apology to Harding Prep students and faculty.
“I’m embarrassed, I’m ashamed and I’m mad at what happened,” deSteiguer said. “And I’m very sorry for what happened. Within an hour of it happening, the employee was no longer employed by the university.”
As reported yesterday, Sunray instigated a similar activity on Thursday, Feb. 13, during an on-campus Future Teachers Day event. University officials also learned of a third incident at Hennessey High School in northwest Oklahoma over the weekend.
The activities were short and intended to be an ice breaker, according to Oklahoma Christian faculty members who spoke anonymously to The Christian Chronicle. Sunray did not make the point of the activity clear prior to instigating it, the employees said.
Harding Prep students questioned deSteiguer on the initial response to the Feb. 13 incident, Oklahoma Christian’s hiring processes and how the university trains its admissions counselors.
In response, deSteiguer said the university will work to speed up investigations and create an immediate feedback loop where students and faculty can reach administrators whenever inappropriate behavior is encountered.
“You won’t have to fill out a long survey about something,” deSteiguer said. “Maybe it’s just a QR code, but it sends you somewhere where you can leave answers to three or four questions that talk about your experience in that very thing. I think there are things happening on campus that I’m not even aware of, and students have an opportunity to immediately flag and let me know of that so we can work quickly.”
deSteiguer also said Oklahoma Christian will reevaluate how its admissions counselors are trained. Prior to this incident, deSteiguer said admissions counselors were given information on important talking points to discuss but were not required to have entire presentations approved.
In response to the Feb. 24 incident, Sunray issued a statement this afternoon via The Christian Chronicle. In the statement, Sunray references his tribal enrollment and teaching at majority-black schools in Oklahoma City. He described his teaching style as “unorthodox, humorous, challenging and, most importantly, necessary.”
“Having done 87 of these exact presentations this year prior to this one, my only regret in reflection is not providing myself enough time to fully explain the purpose as I have been able to at other presentations, as some of the students and staff from what I understand felt like it was not explained thoroughly,” Sunray said in the statement.
“This situation should not discredit the institution,” Sunray added. “My words are my own.”
In response to a student question, deSteiguer said today he believes the intent of the activity is not relevant.
“I frankly don’t care about what the motive was,” deSteiguer said. “It was inappropriate, and the impact on people was something that should not take place.”