Students present letter addressing campus diversity to administration

The open letter addressing diversity on campus was signed by 292 Oklahoma Christian students. Photo by Jenny Rigney.

The open letter addressing diversity on campus was signed by 292 Oklahoma Christian students. Photo by Jenny Rigney.

A group of Oklahoma Christian University students presented an open letter to the administration yesterday after asking other students on campus to write their signature in support of the ideas outlined in the letter.

According to the letter, the purpose is to “alert the university of [their] hope for OC particularly concerning race and diversity.”

“Students see that it is all too common to complete an OC education without deeply engaging racial issues, even though understanding race is a crucial element of well-rounded Christian service and scholarship,” the letter said.

Senior Landon Hester, one of the organizers of the letter, said the goal is to build upon the foundation of diversity already existing at Oklahoma Christian.

“The administrators, the professors, the student body has already done a lot to secure that diversity and to build that up,” Hester said. “What I see here is just a lot of opportunities. I think there’s lots of good things already happening and through conversations with other students and spending the past year brainstorming with people, we’ve been able to find several really good opportunities for how OC can grow even further.”

After collecting 292 signatures, five students delivered the letter and met with President John deSteiguer, Vice President of Academic Affairs Scott LaMascus and Vice President of Advancement Kent Allen.

“I am really grateful this diversity issue is important enough for [students] that [they] want to do something about it and make a difference,” deSteiguer said. “I think engagement and involvement in things that are important is really a very special thing. I am so impressed with Oklahoma Christian’s students because of how much they care about people and how much they care about causes.”

deSteiguer said this is not the first time increasing diversity on campus and in faculty and staff has been talked about within the administration.

“Dr. LaMascus and people on the academic side have been working to put some things in place and it’s been slow,” deSteiguer said. “This [letter] is good because of the added impetus and I am going to share this with some opinion leaders and decision makers across campus who are in charge of hiring.”

The letter commended Oklahoma Christian for “being a school that cares deeply about diversity,” and for its focus on the existing Diversity Plan, History Speaks and the leadership of Gary Jones.

“I love the fact that [they] praised Gary Jones so much,” deSteiguer said. “For the last four years, he’s the guy that developed and championed History Speaks and its incredible the speakers we have had for that.”

Senior Tanner Robbins helped collect signatures for the letter and also met with administration.

“I really think that part of a liberal arts, four-year degree is learning and understanding different cultural perspectives and I think that diversity is a major part of that,” Robbins said. “I think we have a responsibility to ourselves and to others in our culture and our society to be respectful and to understand as best as possible. I think this is one way to do that really well.”

Robbins said the letter communicates to the administration the importance students place on diversity within the Oklahoma Christian community and learning opportunities.

“I think if we can communicate this to them, anything that they would do moving forward would be good, because they would recognize that this is what we want and this is something we see as important,” Robbins said. “[The letter] talks about integrating more diverse perspectives in classes and adding dates to the civil rights tour and hiring diverse faculty in the future. If we can accomplish any of those things through this, I think it would be well worth the time.”

The full letter is available online.

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