President Robert Henry is addressing racial prejudice on campus.
Broderick McQuarters, flute performance sophomore, accused campus police of racial profiling after he was awakened at 2 a.m. Sept. 27 by two officers accusing him of a crime.
Students and alumni later shared negative experiences they had with campus police in response to the incident.
Henry responded to the allegations in an Oct. 4 email to the campus community.
“These are matters that I take very seriously. The Oklahoma City University family should expect a fair, just, and safe environment. Our campus must be an inclusive place that encourages diversity and turns away racism,” he wrote.
McQuarters said the officers were looking for a black man and a woman who were seen on surveillance breaking the Methodist Hall parking garage sensor. They questioned him because his truck was the last vehicle to pull into the Methodist Hall parking garage that night.
There is no report of officers going into McQuarters’s room. The police report about the broken sensor only mentions one suspect—a white woman who later admitted it was her.
McQuarters said he had a meeting with Bradd Brown, chief of police, and Lesley Black, associate dean of students, to discuss the report’s discrepancies. He said he didn’t want the officer fired, but wanted more than just a “slap on the hand.”
“They shouldn’t get away with it and walk away like nothing happened,” he said Oct. 2.
McQuarters said he met with President Henry later, who showed concern about the situation.
“I appreciated the concern he showed throughout the entire time that I met with him, and also the fact that he took the initiative to bring this matter to light instead of just letting it pass over. He actually did something about it and took action,” he said.
McQuarters received a formal apology from Henry but said he received no apology from campus police in any form.
Henry met with the Black Student Association and other campus community members Monday for a Q&A session involving the incident, the circumstances around it and other racial issues.
Henry said at the meeting that he was unable to recall any other incidents of racial profiling or discrimination during his presidency. He also said he views the university as a place that “celebrates diversity.”
McQuarters said he feels like his concerns were properly addressed at the meeting. He also said the handling of his experience will set a precedent for similar incidents in the future.
“We are humans, and people do make mistakes. However, the way it was handled this time was kind of a gray area in the sense that this has never really happened before, and there wasn’t a clear-cut understanding,” he said. “Now that something like this has happened, it sucks that I had to be the guinea pig for the situation, but there’s going to be an accurate representation, there’s going to be documentation of what happened, and people are going to understand what’s allowed and what’s not.”
BSA President Leondre Lattimore, studio art sophomore, said that he will meet with Chief Brown to address all of the concerns raised at the meeting.
An investigation into McQuarters’s allegations against campus police revealed that the “actions of the officers involved fell short of our standards,” Henry wrote in the Oct. 4 email.
“The police department will ensure compliance with proper policy on entering university housing and will also continue requiring diversity training for all officers. The officers who were the subjects of the allegations have been placed on restricted duty pending the completion of additional training. Restricted duty allows those officers to work in the campus police station, but removes them from field duty,” he wrote.
In a different email to Student Publications, Henry wrote that OCUPD works hard, often in “trying circumstances.”
“Whether helping students with car problems, or dealing with potentially dangerous campus intruders, our police help us every day, 24/7,” he wrote.
Henry also wrote that the responsibility to have an open and diverse campus rests on everybody.
“Although I believe that the early morning entry into a student’s room based on a property crime was not in line with our standards, the investigation found no evidence of racial profiling or racial bias,” he wrote. “I would ask everyone to take a deep breath and have a respectable dialogue about the kind of campus we have, and how to build on its strengths and correct its weaknesses.”
Henry encourages students to contact university staff to discuss concerns about racial prejudice or any sort of discrimination.
For confidential discussion, students should use OCU Counseling Services. To contact their office, call 405-208-7901.
To report instances of discrimination, contact Joey Croslin, chief human resources officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-208-5075.