In moments of calamity, we are provided the rare opportunity to gain clarity. This week I have witnessed the character of Oklahoma Christian University unfold.
Character is not defined by life’s inevitable trials, but rather by how one reacts to waves of uncertainty crashing upon their shore. This week, Oklahoma Christian reacted to an incident involving former recruiter, Cedric Sunray.
There are students, faculty and staff who immediately felt outraged after the news broke, rightly so. We also have students, faculty and staff adamantly defending the university due to the harsh criticism received from Oklahoma Christian alumni and those unaffiliated with the school.
Many students took their defense of Oklahoma Christian to social media. Those who posted in this manner are likely navigating new feelings of having every person in America immediately criminalize them because of the actions of one ignorant man.
They say, “students and faculty did not hire Cedric or have a say in his employment. How dare the public have a single-minded perspective of my school based on the actions of one individual.”
Welcome to life as a minority. A life where generalizations reign and everybody judges your integrity based on the actions of a single person.
While Cedric Sunray presented alone, he is not the only person to hold accountable. Sunray comfortably operated under a system enabling him to continue his harmful activity on more than one occasion.
In evaluating the situation, I am disappointed with Oklahoma Christian’s faculty and staff who failed to speak up when they witnessed the prejudiced activity on this campus on Feb. 13. I have struggled with this realization. Why was he not fired the first time? Why did they not care?
But Oklahoma Christian cannot change the past. The institution must learn from its mistakes and move forward, looking back only for preventative measures. There is always room for growth, and I refuse to give up hope.
Last year in an article titled “Almost Every OC Professor is White,” I wrote: “When there are no professors who can empathize with me and other black students when a crisis strikes in our community, I find it disheartening.”
A crisis struck in our community. But this time, I attended a class with a minority professor, Robert Edison, where he addressed and discussed the controversy. Two years ago, I would not expect to hear this message in an academic setting. I appreciate the university for taking a baby step in hiring Edison, but one visiting professor does not appease Oklahoma Christian’s need for greater diversity.
We have to stop pretending big events like History Speaks make up for daily racial occurrences on campus. We have to hire qualified minorities as administrators, professors, staff and members of the board, not because of their color, but because of their excellence and ability to make this campus an inviting place for everyone.
I urge this community to recognize not every student enjoys their time here. Not because of the size of the school or difficulty of classes, but because of the color of their skin. They feel ostracized as the only person of color in their organizations and their classmates make hurtful and ignorant comments.
I love this school, but I will never put my love for a man-made institution above speaking up for what is right. We hold those we love accountable. I urge every person who claims to love Oklahoma Christian to hold this institution accountable, to hold its students accountable.
Frankly, if you care more about the image or reputation of an institution rather than the well-being of students affected, you are a part of the problem.
As a student body, we can own up to the failure of this university. It is appropriate for us to do so. Accountability does not equal hate. Change only persists through challengers, people willing to call out perpetrators and stand alongside those whose voices are hushed. In the place of complacency, be a challenger.