For the first year in its long history Oklahoma Christian University has formed a group in line with the U.S Department of Education’s Title 6 compliance as a reporting mechanism for students of color who are discriminated against because of the color of their skin.
Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that nobody should be discriminated against on the grounds of “race, skin color or national origin be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Oklahoma Christin has adopted DOE’s Title 6 reporting method with the goal of ensuring that its students of color have a safe place to go and report the injustices they face daily.
Chris Rosser, associate professor of library science at Oklahoma Christian, is a part of the group of faculty members serving as “advocates” for students of color.
“The idea is that the advocates are people who — if the student encounters something that they interpret as racially discriminatory or racially harassing — they can come to at first to kind of determine what the best path forward is in terms of what kind of action needs to be taken,” Rosser said.
Oklahoma Christian has had numerous problems with racism in the past. From the expulsion of 18 Black students in 1969 to as recent as March of this year when Cedric Sunray, a former Oklahoma Christian recruiter, had students line up from “darkest skin complexion to lightest… and nappiest hair to straightest.”
Rosser said that there has to be advocacy and reporting structures in place for students who encounter any kind of discrimination, harassment or microaggressions.
“They have to be able to report those somehow and there has to be a reporting mechanism in place,” Rosser said. “I think in the past [reporting] has been going to find somebody they could kind of trust and confide in but none of that has been official.”
With Title 6 students will now have an official mechanism to report racial attacks.
“Even though I don’t think the university has done a lot of communicating yet about this Title 6 advocacy group, nevertheless it really is important that there is an official mechanism in place for how students can go about letting the university know that this is happening and you need to be aware,” he said.
Oklahoma Christian has begun what Rosser describes as “the first sustained conversation about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
“We know, even this semester we’ve heard more and more about the experiences of students and the experiences of faculty and staff on campus and they’re very negative experiences,” Rosser said. “We say that ‘OC is Home’ and we say that we all have kind of these uncommon stories to share but we kind of envision that everybody has a similar story to share here at [Oklahoma Christian], but it’s not true.”
The experiences of the Black students on campus and the students of color are very different from the “norm and conditioned” stories on campus, Rosser said.
“It is really important for us to pay attention, we have to start listening to each other and we have to start centering the voices of the marginalized — those who are most affected — and until we do that we keep those marginalized voices on the margins where they don’t really get listened to.”