By Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2020

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Dozens of University of Oklahoma students staged a sit-in that continued Friday outside OU’s administrative offices following two instances of professors using racial slurs in the classroom.

However, OU Interim President Joseph Harroz Jr. has rejected the demands of the school’s Black Emergency Response Team, known as BERT, for Provost Kyle Harper’s resignation.

BERT gathered Wednesday morning in Evans Hall and called for the resignation, mandatory equity training for faculty, semester-long diversity training and a new multicultural center on campus.

The group said it would remain there “until these demands are met” and the sit-in continued Thursday and Friday.

The sit-in comes days after interim Harroz announced that a history professor read from a historical document in class that used the N-word repeatedly. Earlier this month, an OU journalism professor stepped down from teaching the course for the rest of the semester after telling students during class that the N-word is no more offensive than the term “boomer.”

“We’re simply tired of not being treated as human beings on this campus,” BERT’s co-director, Miles Francisco, said Wednesday. “BERT will continue its efforts to disrupt oppression on this campus just as faculty continue to use offensive, harmful and traumatizing speech in the classroom for quote-unquote educational purposes.”

In a statement Friday, OU Dean of Students David Surratt said the students “raised legitimate concerns” and their demands “were actually solutions” the university has included in a strategic plan to be presented to OU regents. One idea was the creation of a student advisory committee.

Another demand that was off the table was Harper’s resignation, Harroz said. In a statement issued late Thursday, he said, “I have told them I will not meet this demand. My reasons are based on principle, fairness and precedent. As a matter of practice, we do not discuss personnel evaluations of employees in this public manner. We can never allow our desire for expediency to deter us from being fair in our evaluations.”

Almost a year ago, Harper asked to leave the administration and return to the OU faculty, Harroz said. Only when he asked Harper personally to remain as provost did Harper acquiesce, Harroz said.

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