NORMAN — A student rally in response to a racist video from two former University of Oklahoma students hosted in the student union Tuesday featured calls to action by multiple student leaders, responses from university administration and an explosive call to resign from a recently dismissed dean.
Suzette Grillot, who remains at OU as tenured faculty but is no longer the dean of the College of International Studies, called for OU President James Gallogly to resign. It ended a speech in which she championed her college's programs as increasing diversity on campus, something that is particularly important in light of the recent events, and pointed to OU's history of racism that has "been baked into the layer cake of administration for generations."
"If I have to explain why we need a diverse student body to the president of an institution of higher education, then I think we all know what kind of leader we have and what kind of trouble we're in," Grillot said.
She then dropped papers in front of Gallogly and handed him the microphone. By then, he had received criticism from multiple students, about both his administration's handling of its response to a racist video showing an OU student in blackface and the decision to dismiss Grillot as dean and make cuts to international studies departments.
Initially, Gallogly said he asked about diversity and inclusion efforts when he was first named president and that in response, Grillot said she was "too busy" to report.
"So many people gave me ideas that they were working on. I'm doing this, I'm doing this, I'm doing this," Gallogly said. "And by the way, I did this not through me as the president, but through the head of our diversity and inclusion office. One dean wrote back: 'I'm too busy I don't have time for that,' and she just asked me to resign."
Following the news Monday that Gallogly and Provost Kyle Harper had made the decision to terminate her position as dean, Grillot came streaming out of the crowd in the packed Molly Shi Boren Ballroom during the open mic portion of Tuesday's rally. Audible gasps turned to shouts when event organizer and international student Eduardo Campbell called Grillot's name off the list of speakers.
"I just came up here so I can make some eye contact," Grillot said. "I stand with you today not, as most of you know, as a university dean or administrator but as a principled and passionate person who lives and works every day in solidarity to enhance our common sense of humanity. To recognize and respect all members of our community, to call out injustice wherever we see it, and to working in collaboration, my dear friends, to make this campus, this community and this world a better place for all of the generations to come."
Grillot said she showed Gallogly and Harper how her college's programs increase diversity at OU. The response she said she received was not to her satisfaction.
"Why, for example, when I show this administration, this president and provost how our study centers in Latin America have helped us recruit students from Brazil or Mexico to our campus in Norman," she said, "to be a part of our diverse and vibrant community, is the response, and I quote -- I have it in an email -- 'Why do we need to source students from Brazil or Mexico, given strong demand that we already have here?'"
She then went on to say that OU's problem with race goes beyond its current administration. Grillot quoted poet Maya Angelou before wrapping up her remarks by demanding Gallogly resign.
"You are not alone, I am not alone, we are not alone. We are in this together," Grillot said. "No more racism; no more, no more, no more. I'm not going to be as kind as the people who came before me and, say, a year from now, we're going to ask for your resignation. I'm going to f*****g ask for it now."
Some students said they want to hold OU administration, including Gallogly, accountable for the changes they want to see on campus. A few said they would expect his resignation if they did not see improvements on diversity and inclusion issues.
Another student was more direct in her criticism of Gallogly, mentioning staff layoffs and budget cuts. When the president spoke, he said some of the words spoken about him did not represent who he is.
"Sometimes it's a reminder of all those insults that people talked about on the stage today, all those things that did not go right, all those tiny things that are not tiny, all those things that try to define who we are but they are not who we are," Gallogly said. "And those comments I was sitting there listening to, about me and the things that I do, are not who I am or what I do. I want to be very clear about that.
"I have been asked to come here and solve a problem, and I'm doing my very best. And maybe I don't deserve your respect. Maybe I don't. I'm working very hard to make this university a better place."
Gallogly said he was in a meeting with Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis about cooperation between the institutions Friday when he was first shown the video. He said it hurt him "to the very core" to see it.
Gallogly said after the university's response was crafted and sent out Friday, he went to church and prayed about it and about how to find the words to properly respond. Later, he called George Henderson, an emeritus faculty member and prominent local civil rights figure, asking for his advice.
"I may be 66 years old, but I have so much more to learn, just like you (students), so much more to learn," Gallogly said. "George said, 'Do not fall prey to hate. Do not react in an aggressive manner. Do not expel those students. It is the wrong thing to do. That does not solve this problem. It isn't even a step in the right direction.'"
Gallogly said the university's response to the latest racist incident is one that will define the institution.
"This is a defining moment in our university. And will we do this as one, or will we be fractured, and will we fight among ourselves and make no progress, because we will look for the divisions first instead of the commonality?" Gallogly said. "I love each one of you. And I'm happy to look you in the eye and tell you that. That's why I'm here, and that's the only reason I'm here. We are better than this moment. Let's prove it."