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Department Chair Statement on BLM Protests

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Department Chair Statement on BLM Protests

I have, rightly, been called to express where I stand on issues related to racial justice and inequalities across a range of policy issues. As the chair of the Department of Political Science, I oversee a unit that teaches courses that engage subjects as far ranging as social movements, minority political behavior, and fundamental theories of justice. The department is entrusted with a course that introduces these and many other subjects to all students at the University of Oklahoma. I cannot remain silent or rely on the tradition of our department not making statements on current political controversies. While I cannot speak in an official capacity, I can speak for myself (and invite others to join me).

I stand with those calling for fundamental reform of our criminal justice system and investigations into inequalities in many other areas such as health care access and education. I stand with those calling for attention to a pattern of abuse that has cost the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many more. I stand with those who march in our cities demanding action. I stand with those that demand that we act like #blacklivesmatter -- and not just pretend that our system protects all lives equally.

This calls for fundamental reform that engages our communities in all of their diversity.

One source of my hesitation to speak out is how easy it is to say all of these things. It is easy to say that we should reduce inequalities in our community. I am tired of statements of principles - regardless of the value of the principles - that are not backed up by actions. For this reason, I will conclude with a set of actions to which I am committed. These actions have been proposed by many people -- notably the Graduate Association in Political Science group - but I am honored to carry the burden of implementing these commitments. I will ask those who share these commitments to join me and will list those interested after this statement.

  1. We will transform the entryway to our department on the second floor of Dale Hall Tower. One of the walls of this entry includes the images of retired members of our department, a set that exclusively includes white male faces. This will be replaced with a space in which our current students can express themselves and represent their own voices. When funding permits, the historical pictures will be moved to a setting more appropriate for the protection and expression of this history. The second phase of this plan (the permanent removal and movement of the photos) will likely require the cooperation of the college and central administration.
  2. We will create a formal mechanism for complaints related to bias and discrimination so that such complaints will be sent to our personnel committee (Committee A). This mechanism will likely be a web-based form that will allow students to submit comments anonymously and ensure that no single person is a gatekeeper for such complaints.
  3. In the fall of 2020, we will begin the discussion of whether to add a course required for our majors on issues of race, civil rights, and inequality. We will also increase the frequency with we teach our current courses related to these topics across both our undergraduate and MPA curriculum.
  4. We will do more to advertise courses offered by our affiliate faculty -- many of whom teach classes relevant to race, politics, civil rights, and inequality. These courses can be a valuable component of our (undergraduate and graduate) students' curricula and should be more visible as options.
  5. We will seek more opportunities for scholarships supporting students from groups that have been subject to pervasive discrimination. If this cannot be accomplished with current funds and scholarship requirements, we are committed to asking donors for permission to change qualification requirements to reflect these priorities.
  6. We will call upon faculty to renew and extend our commitment to recruiting diverse students and faculty. This includes increasing the transparency of the process by which graduate students are encouraged to participate in faculty searches and the targeting of graduate student recruitment in ways that is likely to reach students from historically disadvantaged groups - including racial and religious minorities, first generation students, and others.
  7. We will work with the undergraduate and graduate student groups to create linkages that catalyze expression of shared interests. This will include facilitating coordinating between our undergraduate and graduate student organizations to help connect students for possible mentoring. This may also include the creation of a space (like a blog) wherein students can discuss their personal experiences and situate those experiences within the research in our field. This will help students find and develop their voices.
  8. Finally, we will work with faculty and graduate students in the development of new material for use in our general education course -- P SC 1113 American Federal Government. This will include the development of materials to support instructors efforts to bring discussions of race and civil rights to various points in the curriculum from voting behavior to the role of the bureaucracy in policy implementation. The goal will be to make issues of race, equity, and civil rights relevant throughout the course rather than a specific topic or an issue of only historical relevance.

I invite all of those who teach in our department -- from Full Professors to graduate student assistants -- to join me in these commitments. This statement has been shared with both our faculty and graduate students. The list of all of those who join in these commitments is below.

Thank you for your attention to read such a long statement. This is the most recent step in a long struggle -- and we have many struggles ahead. This is an opportunity to renew our commitment to our fundamental values and to use our privileges as teachers of political science to pursue and support these values.

Scott Robinson


Signing list:

  • Colin Barry
  • David Blatt
  • Daniel P. Brown
  • Tyler Camarillo
  • Deven Carlson
  • Michael Crespin
  • Charles Finocchiaro
  • Aimee L. Franklin
  • Alisa Hicklin Fryar
  • Michael Givel
  • Allen D. Hertzke
  • Bradley Housh
  • Tyler Johnson
  • Hank Jenkins-Smith
  • Charles D. Kenney
  • John Kuk
  • Meeyoung Lamothe
  • Scott Lamothe
  • Peter McLaughlin
  • Meg Myers Morgan
  • John D. Rackey
  • Joe Ripberger
  • Melody Huckaby Rowlett
  • Travis Ruddle
  • Allyson Shortle
  • Carol L. Silva
  • Ann Marie Szymanski
  • Kathleen Tipler
  • Justin Wert
  • Johnathan "Noah" Wolff
  • Morgan V. Woodle
  • Samuel Workman