Incoming freshmen and students transferring to The University of Oklahoma are required to attend a three-hour special training program – the result of a video lasting less than a minute showing members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity singing a racially derogatory song in March 2015.
“You have to be sensible, you have to be respectful to those around you because the world is changing. We are coming out more diverse, and we are becoming more aware. There is a lot less tolerance for intolerance.” said J.D. Baker, president of the OU Student Government Association.
In response to the video and the unrelenting backlash, the Diversity Training Program was established to help ease the tension. Formed by the Department of Outreach, Diversity Training is a program that teaches incoming freshmen and transfer students how to respect people with different backgrounds.
Diversity Training is broken up into three sessions that covers the topics of identity and how to respectfully address and treat those identities. Each session is filled with activities and scenarios that keep the teaching upbeat and relatable to the students. The students are split into small groups to allow the sessions to be more hands on. It also allows the students to be more interactive with each other to better understand each other.
“You and I might be different, but there are a lot of things we can share,” said Baker, who
has been involved with the Diversity Training program since he was a small group leader for Camp Crimson in summer 2015.
Social Identity is one of the main topics that is covered in the training, along with active listening and perspective. The session around identity encourages students to be open about their sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic class.
Amy Jenkins, the coordinator for the Freshman Diversity Experience, said, “(The freshmen) are coming out of high school and into something different.”
Students who have undergone the Diversity Training program have differing opinions about the training program. Some students in the LGBTQ community had very critical views of the program.
Jay Tyus, president of the Queer Student Association said, “(We) were automatically ridiculed by others for being different.”
Other LGBTQ students said they felt Diversity Training missed the mark in terms of the language used because they thought many insensitive comments were made by both students and leaders during the sessions. Some said they thought they were being outed by choosing to pass on certain training exercises. They said they believe diversity is not a concept that can be forced or taught in a limited time frame.
On the other hand, incoming freshman Teddy Ramey of Boise, Idaho, said, “I am looking forward to OU, to have experience with more diverse people.”
Incoming freshman Kaitlyn White, of Dallas, said, “It was an eye-opener of how important diversity really is.”
Baker, the OU Student Government president, said, “This is just one small step; we still have a lot of work and a long way to go.”