Thursday, December 21, 2023

OCPA president calls on Kayse Shrum to honor OSU’s ‘historic values’

OCPA president calls on Kayse Shrum to honor OSU’s ‘historic values’

OKLAHOMA CITY (December 18, 2023)—Recent events have demonstrated to Americans the extent of the rot in higher education, especially in elite institutions. But the problems are here at home, too—including at Oklahoma State University—and it’s time for policymakers to act, OCPA president Jonathan Small said today.

“I applaud Gov. Kevin Stitt for his executive order seeking to reduce the influence of poisonous ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ (DEI) ideologies in Oklahoma colleges,” Small said. “Unfortunately, OSU president Kayse Shrum’s dismissive response to the executive order—‘an initial review indicates that no significant changes to our processes or practices are needed’—shows that she’s hopelessly out of step with the Oklahomans paying the freight.” 

After the OSU Office of Multicultural Affairs decided to “celebrate LGBTQ Pride” last year by hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour “geared towards ages 2-8,” Shrum admitted that “the event did not complement our institutional mission” and vowed that going forward “we must consider if events and programs complement our historic values” at the university. Small said it is time for President Shrum to do so. 

“Poisonous DEI doctrines—racist, collectivist, and antithetical to reason and biology—do not complement OSU’s mission and values,” Small said. “DEI needs to be torn out root and branch. And though Gov. Stitt’s order sets the right tone and direction for the executive branch, in 2024 both legislation and a clear message from appropriators are needed.”

Small pointed to a handful of examples which fail to honor OSU’s historic values. More could be cited.

  • OSU is currently facing a lawsuit over the university’s harassment, computer, and bias-incidents policies, which plaintiffs say violate students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. OSU’s bias policy allows students to be punished for comments in class, including “incorrect name or pronoun usage.”
  • An OSU diversity-training program taught students that “gender is a large spectrum and does not only include male and female.”
  • OSU is one of 12 Oklahoma colleges and universities accused in a federal civil-rights complaint of having programs that exclude students based on race.
  • An OSU professor filed a lawsuit against the university claiming she was denied a promotion because of her conservative views and her service in the Trump administration. The lawsuit appears to have been settled quietly.   
  • A 2021 report by the Heritage Foundation showed that OSU had 26 DEI dedicated personnel, compared to 17 history professors.
  • OSU job postings—ranging from Development and Diversity–Psychology to Inequality-Race/Ethnicity to plant physiology to an associate dean for equity and inclusion in the College of Education—send the clear message that conservatives need not apply.
  • In 2022, the OSU Writing Center sought undergraduate tutors to serve as “Antiracist Cluster Hires,” indicating the tutors had to adhere to the ideology of “antiracism,” which notoriously posits that an endless cycle of racial discrimination is required to address past racial discrimination. Applicants were expected to exhibit a “willingness to accept all Englishes.”

Small called on state lawmakers to explicitly ban viewpoint discrimination in Oklahoma colleges and allow for a private cause of action, with attorneys’ fees and punitive damages allowed for winning plaintiffs, for any student who faces illegal discrimination at schools that continue to endorse DEI radicalism. “It’s time to subject university employees to private civil liability when they disobey the law and violate people’s rights,” Small said.

“Personnel is policy, and it has become abundantly clear that many Oklahoma college officials will not give up their obsessions with bizarre racial and gender theories unless the schools and the officials personally face severe sanctions,” Small said. “It’s time that lawmakers act and impose those penalties so Oklahomans get what they deserve for their taxpayer funding and children’s tuition payments: a higher education system that produces a truly educated workforce.”

Also, any settlements reached in litigation—such as with the professor who served in the Trump administration—should be public record for transparency purposes, Small said.

Small also encouraged state lawmakers to reduce appropriations to higher education until regents and administrators get the message. “Oklahomans should not be forced to subsidize their own demise,” Small said. “It’s time to take a stand against the politicization and indoctrination which are undermining American freedom and the American way of life.”

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) is a free-market think tank that works to advance principles and policies that support free enterprise, limited government, individual initiative, personal responsibility, and strong families.


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