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Students Respond to RSU President’s “Moving Forward Together” Statement

Victoria Middleton

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RSU President Larry Rice attends a pardoning ceremony in Claremore, OK, on November 7, 2019. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.

RSU President Larry Rice released a statement on June 4, 2020 addressing the current social climate in the United States and calling for inclusivity. The statement came in an email to all RSU students.

The statement was issued 10 days after the death of Minnesota resident George Floyd. Floyd died after being arrested by the Minneapolis Police Department on suspicion of forgery.

In his statement, Rice called on the RSU community to recognize the rights of others and “to do our part to finish what was started so many years ago and for which many of our friends, alumni, and family members fought and died,” referencing RSU’s past as Oklahoma Military Academy.

Rice referred to “this time of discontent” and stated “we at Rogers State University are committed to ensuring equality for all by fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for every community member…”

“Respect and tolerance can only be achieved through a free and open exchange of ideas. Only in this way, speaking and listening to each other, can we achieve a culture of caring, understanding, and complete the American masterpiece.”

Within a day, students began responding to the statement on social media.

Student Paxton McKeever took to Instagram to voice their response. “I found it extremely disappointing in how noncommittal it was in regard to disavowing white supremacy,” wrote McKeever on the post shared on Thursday.

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McKeever has since began a campaign calling on RSU students and alumni to voice their concerns about the “Moving Forward Together” statement. “The only other thing I’ve found interesting is how RSU’s statement compared to other local university’s statements- specific OU, TU, and UCO, all who specifically acknowledged the issues going on in their statements,” said McKeever.

McKeever has publicly shared an email template for students to use.

RSU SGA Director of Diversity and Inclusion Yleana Esparza shared a similar statement. “Many students have reached out asking for my comments in regard to President Rice’s letter,” said Esparza.

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I won’t stay silent, will you? #blm

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“Although I am appreciative that Rogers State University released a statement, ultimately, I was gravely disappointed. President Rice sets the frame work for RSU and the values we hold. Our educational leaders need to be held accountable to ensure the Black Lives Matter Movement is supported on all three of our campuses. ”

Esparza continues with a call to action, reminding students that they have the “right and responsibility… to demand respect.” She encourages RSU students to continue the discussion on the Black Lives Matter movement and our campus’s responsibilities.

The discussion on race and college campuses has continued with former RSU students.

“I think it [the statement] was definitely not enough. Without even realizing it, my first thought after reading it was ‘Wait? Was this in response to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement?” said alumna Taylor Sanderson. The “Moving Forward Together” statement has also been shared through RSU social media accounts.

“You can definitely tell that they were definitely trying not to step on any toes. I was disappointed when I realized that there was no mention of any sort of support of any kind. RSU is in support of diversity, but to what extent? There needs to be action,” said Sanderson.

The Hill News has reached out to the RSU Office of Public Relations for an interview with Rice. At 4:58 PM on Friday, the Hill News’ request for an interview was responded to.

This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available.

Editor’s note: this article was updated at 11:33 AM on June 6, 2020, to more accurately reflect the distribution time of the “Moving Forward Together” statement.

Tori Middleton is a sophomore studying history and public affairs. She serves as a reporter for the Hillpost covering athletics and campus life. After RSU, she plans to attend law school and pursue a career in public service.

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Campus Life

Gallery: Fairest on the Hill Draws Crowds and Dazzles

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Juniors Trent Siever and Skye Fairbanks welcomes students and community members to Fairest on the Hill. This year, the event was held on the lawn of the Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
Skye Fairbank welcomes everyone to Fairest on the Hill. Fairest on the Hill continued this year as a tradition of President’s Leadership Class. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
Tammy Ryan of the Oklahoma Military Academy Alumni Association raises her hand. Judges, from left to right, include Katie Warnick, Tammy Ryan, and Lori O’Malley. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU student Atticus Wise waves to the audience during his introduction. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU student Caden Coleman (right) performs a dance routine during a lip-sync performance. Coleman represented the Student Ambassadors program. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU student Joseph “Josie” Gaither sings during his talent portion. Gaither sung a satirical song on his experiences in the Honors Program. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
Fairest on the Hill organizers look onward, as RSU student Joseph “Josie” Gaither sings. Fairest on the Hill is organized, annually, by the RSU President’s Leadership Class. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
A group of RSU students cheers during Joseph “Josie” Gaither’s performance. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU student Brandon Xiong strums a guitar while singing a song. Xiong was assisted by fellow contestant Duy Pham. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
A crowd of student athletes clap after Brandon Xiong’s performance. Over 50 students and community members attended this year’s Fairest on the Hill. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU Student Duy Pham sang during his talent portion. Pham represented the Association of International Students. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
Three students rock their phones while Duy Pham sings You Raise Me Up. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU student Katrina Christian signs during performance. Christian is a redshirt junior playing women’s basketball at RSU. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
Katrina Christian points outward to the audience while RSU student Lily Garner dances in the background. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU student Charity “Paige” Adams plays a singing bowl. Adams represented Alpha Sigma Tau. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU students Molly Rhames and Taryn Thompson sit on lawn in front of the Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center. This year, attendees were required to wear masks. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.


RSU student Carleigh Stallcup sings Se Tu M’ami. Stallcup represented Alpha Sigma Alpha. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU student Gabe Seiler waves his “wand” during his talent performance. Seiler performed a magic trick for his skill. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU student James VanOrsdol walks off stage after assisting Gabe Seiler. Seiler represented the Campus Activities Team. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
Scooba performs an unreleased single Through the Night. Through the Night released on Spotify and Apple Music on Friday night, October 2, 2020. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU alumna Ashli Davis dances during her performance. Davis performed a series a synchronized hula hoop tricks as a part of her talent portion. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
RSU student Luke Huen sings Sixteen Tons. Huen represented the Student Threatre Organization. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
Trent Siever announces a door prize drawing during Fairest on the Hill. This year, multiple door prizes were given to attendees ranging from a QuikTrip gas card to a gift card to 918 Nutrition. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
Scooba thanks everyone for coming and supporting his career after winning first place. During his acceptance, Scooba recognized his faith and partner Vuye. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
The winners of Fairest on the Hill stand on stage. (From left to right) Scooba took first place, Caden Coleman took second place, and Joseph Gaither took third place. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.

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Campus Life

Student Government Holds First Meeting: Recognizes Black Student Association

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In their first meeting of the academic year, 36 students attended the Student Government Association Congress meeting. “We’re excited to have you hear, especially in person,” said student government vice president Darci Johnson.

Beginning at 1:21 p.m., the SGA called the meeting to order. All officers of the student government gave reports on their offices. SGA Public Relations Director Caden Coleman announced a freshman council and shared his social media account as a source of information. SGA President Madison McLaughlin and SGA Director of Diversity and Inclusion Yleana Esparza also shared their social media accounts.

Currently, the SGA Congress has not approved appropriations or formally established a freshman student government council. New business included recognizing two student organizations at RSU.

“We hope we get this student organization back on track,” said RSU student Giovanni Wahome. He represented the International Student Association and spoke about the perspective of international students at RSU. The International Student Association has previously been recognized as a registered student organization at RSU but fell into bad-standing with the SGA.

Wahome described disparities in international student services offered at RSU compared to other institutions under the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents. Vice President Johnson objected to further questions by the Hill News regarding the association’s experience attempting to be recognized as a registered student organization again.

The International Student Association was officially recognized by the SGA Congress and passed unanimously. RSU student Kira Carter then presented Brothers and Sisters for Excellence, a proposed black student association, to the SGA Congress.

“It’s going to allow students to make connections,” said Carter. RSU has not had a recognized black student organization since being accredited as a four year, regional university.

“We can spread diversity across campus,” explained Carter. She described that Brothers and Sisters for Excellence as an inclusive student organization for RSU students. The proposed student organization was recognized and passed unanimously.

SGA President McLaughlin recognized incoming RSU Student Activities Coordinator Katie Warnick to share announcements. Warnick began working on August 25, 2020, and oversees campus events, student organization support services, and other university recreational activities.

Warnick announced that student organizations at RSU will be expected to adhere to COVID-19 activity guidelines. Warnick also announced that the SGA will be hosting the Student Organization Leadership Retreat on September 11, 2020. This annual event is traditionally required for student organizations in the spring semester but was not held to COVID-19.

RSU Libraries shared information about upcoming campus events, and President McLaughlin adjourned the meeting at 2:02 p.m.

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Academics

Gallery: Students Return To Campus for First Day

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An RSU freshman flashes a peace sign while walking from the Health Sciences Building. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
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Two RSU students walk from Loshbaugh Hall to the Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center after class. Students returned to class today for the fall semester. Photo by Jake Brillhart, the Hill News.
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