Administrators will create a new task force as a result of a photo that surfaced last week on social media.
A student is seen in the photo at a party dressed as Jay Z 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 photo Oct. 8 and immediately launched an investigation, said Dr. Amy Ayres, vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
“It may have very well just been that she didn’t know what she was doing,” Ayres said. “But that is not an excuse.”
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.
The photo was unrelated to any officially-sanctioned sorority event.
“Our organization does not tolerate this kind of behavior,” Doherty wrote in an statement Oct. 9 to Student Publications. “The chapter is currently using the disciplinary tools at our disposal to investigate the facts of the occurrence and determine consequences for the members involved. This event has demonstrated that we as an organization have the opportunity to be more proactive and forward-thinking when it comes to diversity education and cultural appreciation.”
OCU has a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination, according to an email sent Oct. 8 to the campus community from President Robert Henry. The university also has a duty to “educate not only in academics, but in moral conduct,” the email reads.
Henry also announced the creation of a universitywide diversity and inclusion task 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.
“At this point I don’t see it necessarily being a completely new course, but more so infused into our current courses,” Ayres said.
Officials are accepting nominations for the task force until 5 p.m. Friday, according to an email sent to the campus community Oct. 12 from Henry.
The first meeting will be hosted next week.
“Trying to wrap our arms around everyone in this community is very important right now,” Ayers said. “I am still confident that the university stands prepared to utilize this as an educational opportunity for the campus community.”
Joey Croslin, university compliance coordinator, will complete an investigation and pursue remedies, the email reads.
Croslin was unable to comment on the investigation.
“I definitely think there needs to be more education about this,” said Montray Fox, political science senior. “People are seeing this and understanding that their actions could be offensive to someone else. I hope that some education can come out of this.”
Visit MediaOCU.com for more.
Contributing: John Hiller, copy editor.