An Open Letter: FACE Supports the Four Percent
This semester kicked off with yet another viral racist student social media post created by a white student leader. In response, the Four Percent formed to challenge the pervasive indifference to racism on campus. Named after the percentage of Black students at OSU, the group wrote an open letter to the administration calling for change. Soon after, they released an impressive list of demands. The list includes creating mandatory diversity training for students, hiring more faculty and staff of Color, changing the names of buildings that memorialize white supremacists, and formalizing consequences for students who commit public acts of racism, among others. President Burns Hargis responded by issuing a statement that included reference to the “numerous national awards for our extensive work [in becoming more diverse and inclusive],” and that administration would “review the ideas presented by students.”
There are many administrators, faculty, staff, and students dedicated to working for a campus that values its Native communities and communities of Color and many initiatives in place toward this aim. Yet, the continuous and repetitive acts of blackface, the recent presence of white supremacist fliers throughout campus, and the fact that so many students of Color feel frustrated suggest these (often underfunded) initiatives are not enough.
We strongly urge the administration to work seriously and earnestly with students to implement the changes the Four Percent are asking for and more. Below, we address myths we anticipate may contribute to the impression that the Four Percent’s demands are either “already being met” or “impractical”.
Myth #1: OSU Cannot Show Preferential Treatment to One Racial Group
Four Percenters have called for the active hiring of more faculty and staff of Color. While federal and state laws prohibit hiring based on race, the use of this as justification to avoid addressing the lack of faculty and staff of Color at OSU is a mistake. One way the administration can substantively address this problem is to create more faculty lines and offer robust, long-term funding in areas that center the intellectual traditions of critical inquiry, women and LGBTQ people, people of Color, and Native peoples. These areas — Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, American Studies, and Gender and Women’s Studies, among others throughout OSU — are currently underfunded. Most operate with no administrative staff, staff courses with affiliate and adjunct faculty, and exist only as a minor program. At many other comparable universities (and even many smaller colleges and universities), these programs exist as undergraduate majors and graduate degree programs. Better funding and adequate staffing for these programs would contribute to addressing the Four Percent’s calls for more faculty and staff of Color, increased capacity for students to study marginalized intellectual traditions and histories, and more faculty and staff committed to responding to racial tensions on campus.
Myth #2: Consequences for Public Acts of ‘Racism’ is Infringement on Students’ Free Speech Rights
The failure of many universities to adequately address racism on campus has led to an unprecedented rise in white supremacist activity on college campuses since 2016, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Following the demands of the Four Percent, OSU must recognize that public acts of racism are a form of abuse that “jeopardizes the safety and educational opportunities” of students of Color and Native students. The student code of conduct includes “harassment, threats, and bullying” and racial discrimination as Prohibited Conduct that “detracts from the effectiveness of a university community.” The code can include stronger and more specific language that acknowledges the impacts of public acts of racism by students on minority students’ educational experiences and success and formalize consequences that are satisfactory to harmed communities. Further, the labor of initiating procedures for sanctioning students who violate this code should not fall on the shoulders of students of Color. US labor law holds workplaces, including universities, responsible for preventing acts that are intimidating, hostile, or offensive; this must include working to address, prevent, and sanction racist language and behaviors from all community members, including students.
Myth #3: Changing the Names of Buildings will Erase History
Romanticizing the legacy of white supremacists by continuing to honor them with buildings and memorials perpetuates the trauma they have committed against our communities. Their removal will mark in the historical record that OSU is committed to honoring the many women, people of Color, and Native people whose valuable contributions and memories have been excluded and made nearly invisible on campus. Where are the buildings named after Civil Rights leader Clara Luper? Oklahoma native Ralph Ellison? Cherokee leader Wilma Mankiller? Murray and North Murray halls, at this moment, memorialize former governor William Murray, a man who frequently made claims that all Jewish people should be relocated to Madagascar and that Black people who expect equality should be met with violence. Instead, OSU should collaborate with the Four Percent and other minority student groups on campus to identify worthier individuals who worked to create a more just higher education and state environment. In doing so, OSU would join company with many universities and cities–including Tulsa, OU, and Norman–around the nation who have renamed or are renaming streets and buildings and removing statues to address past wrongs. There are many ways of preserving and acknowledging histories that do not require continued reverence for those who actively worked to oppress people of Color and other marginalized groups.
We acknowledge that it often falls to students of Color to initiate and labor to change the conditions of their own exclusion and marginalization. We stand in solidarity with the Four Percent and are deeply inspired by their willingness to make their voices heard.
If you are in support of the Four Percent’s efforts to make our campus a more inclusive and just place, please consider adding your name to our open letter.
Feminists Advocating for Community and Equity (FACE) and Supporters
Erin Dyke, Assistant Professor of Curriculum Studies
Hillary Coenen, Doctoral Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition
Stacy Takacs, Associate Professor English and Director of American Studies
Anna Sicari, Director of the Writing Center and Assistant Professor, English Dept
Kevin Dyke, Assistant Professor, Edmon Low Library
Lisa Hollenbach, Assistant Professor, English
Anna Zeide, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, History
Liz Deegan, Master’s Student in Screen Studies
Megan Burke, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Gender and Women’s Studies
Kate Hallemeier, Assistant Professor, English
Laura Tunningley, Writing Center Coordinator
William Tunningley, Doctoral Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition
Dakoda Smith, Adjunct Composition Instructor
Jenna Neece, MFA Student in Poetry Writing, Writing Center Assistant Director
Lynn C. Lewis, Associate Professor, English
Janine Joseph, Assistant Professor, English/Creative Writing
John M. Kinder, Associate Professor of American Studies and History
Richard Sears, Visiting Assistant Professor, English
Nicole Kammerlocher, Master’s Student in Mental Health Counseling
Elizabeth Grubgeld, Professor of English
- Drake Portillo-Swails, MFA Student in Fiction
Jacob Euteneuer, Doctoral Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition
Bianca Martucci-Fink, MA, Graduate Student of Art History
Amy Carreiro, Lecturer American Studies and History
Bryan L. Jones “jonesy,” VAP English
Galen D. Bunting, MA, Master’s Student in English Literature
Michael J. Beilfuss, VAP English
Natasha Tinsley, MFA Student in Fiction
Clarissa Bonner, Undergraduate Advisor, English
Clemonce Heard, MFA student in Poetry
Joshua Daniel-Wariya, Assistant Professor, Rhetoric and Professional Writing
Rebecca Brings, Doctoral Candidate in English Literature
Maria Beach, Assistant Professor of Theatre History, Literature, and Criticism
FACE presents: Community Letter Writing to Free Tondalao Hall
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Student Union 460 (Regency Room)
Supplies and snacks provided, children welcome!
Join us to support Project Blackbird OKC in their community letter writing campaign to free Tondalao Hall. We’ll have all the supplies you’ll need, (and snacks!). Just bring yourself!
Read below for more information about the campaign from Project Blackbird OKC (https://www.facebook.com/projectblackbirdokc/)
You can also find more information here: http://freetondalaohall.com/
The goal of this campaign is to show solidarity for domestic violence survivor Tondalao Hall, who was sentenced to 30 years behind bars for the crimes her abuser committed against their children.
Oklahoma has a dangerous problem incarcerating women, particularly women who have been survivors of trauma. As the state with the highest incarceration of women, our gender justice is a necessary part of movement building and ensures we are represented in the fight for criminal justice reform.
Letters drafted at events across Oklahoma will be addressed to District Attorney David Prater, Tondalao Hall, and members of the OK Pardon and Parole Board to call her time served to end. She has spent 13 years behind bars for a crime she did not commit while the actual abuser is free to live his life.
We are a group of feminist students, staff, and faculty at Oklahoma State University, and our focus is to grow and nurture intersectional queer and feminist spaces on campus and in the wider community.
March 8, 2017 Women’s Strike Event:
Check out here for more resources and information on strikes:
To learn more about us visit our ABOUT page:
**FACE is a committed branch of the Women’s Programming Advisory Council and the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Oklahoma State University