Administrators launched an investigation Oct. 8 after a photo of a student in blackface circulated on social media.
The student went to a party dressed as Jay Z and posted about it on Snapchat. She is seen in the photo with her face painted black, a practice known as “blackface.” Blackface represents a time when white Americans would put dark paint on their faces and act out racist stereotypes of African Americans.
University officials learned about the post Oct. 8, said Dr. Amy Ayres, vice president for student affairs.
“We have been in meetings all morning trying to figure out what our next steps are,” Ayres said. “We determined that the issue will be handled by the human resources department.”
The incident is first being investigated under the university’s nondiscrimination policy. The investigation will determine if the incident may also violate the Student Code of Conduct. The nondiscrimination policy states:
“Oklahoma City University is committed to providing its students, faculty, staff, guests, visitors, and applicants for enrollment full and equal access to its activities, educational services, classes, and programs free from discrimination based on sex (gender), race, age, ancestry, color, disability, genetic history, national origin, marital status, medical condition, religious creed, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression pregnancy, parenting status, status as a veteran, or the perception that a person has one or more of these characteristics.”
President Robert Henry initiated a formal complaint with the human resources department after learning about the event, according to an email he sent to the campus community Oct. 8. Joey Croslin, university compliance coordinator, will complete an investigation and pursue remedies, the email reads.
OCU has a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination, according to Henry’s email. The university also has a duty to “educate not only in academics, but in moral conduct, the email reads.
“When confronted with evidence of a deep need for teaching, we must respond to the opportunity carefully and properly.”
Henry also announced the creation of a universitywide diversity and inclusion taks force that will include administrators, faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The task force will “be responsible for creating academic programming for all university stakeholders to further the development of our campus cultural competence,” according to the email.
There have been no other formal complaints regarding the issue so far, Aryes said.
“We just know that it is wrong, and we wanted to make sure that we are educating our students about how, even if you didn’t mean to, it is offensive to others,” Aryes said.
Ayres refused to release the student’s name, saying doing so would violate the university’s disciplinary policy. The woman is a member of the Alpha Phi sorority, said Tamara Doherty, the organization’s president.
Editor’s note: Student Publications editors decided not to rerun the photo that is the subject of this story. We think using the photo, although it created a news event, would be unethical and further contribute to the problem.