COLUMN: Let's invest in "OUR Oklahoma"
There are many ways for Oklahomans to influence policy. Here’s a way to do so in about 15 minutes.
X-Out Exclusion! Inc., a Tulsa non-profit organization working to stimulate economic advantage through change and diversity, seeks to encourage economic and social stability through inclusion and multiculturalism. A new survey facilitated by the OUR Oklahoma campaign — X-Out Exclusion's flagship project — seeks to gauge Oklahoman's views and perceptions on diversity and inclusion within the state.
The anonymous survey asks questions pertaining to equal opportunity employment and diversity in the form of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and disability.
The survey, which began April 1 and will end December 31, will be a template for a plan of action that will increase awareness about diversity and inclusion as a strategy to further the economy, according to X-Out Exclusion's website.
To date, about 600 respondents have taken the OUR Oklahoma survey. According to Alaina Jones, public outreach director for X-Out Exclusion, college students are important respondents because of their fresh perspective. “We really want to make sure schools are involved in the survey — that’s where the future really is in Oklahoma,” Jones said.
Jones said students have a key role in addressing diversity because they are the incoming work force and voters.
The survey and non-profit is backed by an impressive board of advisors, including but not limited to former Governor Brad Henry, Jari Askins, former lieutenant governor and the associate provost of external relations for OU, Secretary of Veteran Affairs Rita Aragon, OSU-OKC President Natalie Shirley and Sheryl Lovelady, CEO of Lovelady and Associates and former director of Women's Leadership Initiative.
Quite simply, diversity has begun to pervade our culture: the Hispanic population is now the largest minority in the U.S., numbering 52 million and Latinos are now the largest minority on college campuses.
Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other minorities accounted for 50.4 percent of births in 2011, according to the Census Bureau. Further, census data project that by 2030, four of every 10 Americans will identify themselves as a member of a racial or ethnic minority group. Clearly, employers need to be cognizant of the changing demographics and administer their workplace accordingly.
Though the U.S. is a statistically heterogeneous and diverse "tossed salad," Oklahoma can do better. The 2011 University of Oklahoma student population was more than 62 percent white, according to the OU Factbook. Just ten years ago, though, OU's student population was more than 71 percent white. Oklahoma is making gains, but to continue to succeed, the university and the state cannot loose sight of the larger picture: minorities are quickly becoming the majority and equal representation is vital on all fronts.
OU should most accurately represent an innovative community. With access to top-notch professors, scholars, programs and research, let’s create a top-notch community.
Becoming engaged in policy and communicating with decisionmakers is one way to craft such a community.
Multicultural associations should not be novelties and the majority of the student population should not have to study abroad to experience various cultures. For example, is it fair to boast of a Hispanic American Student Association when only five percent of OU is listed as Hispanic?
Invest in Oklahoma's future — and your own — by taking the OUR Oklahoma survey.
Kayley Gillespie is a literature and cultural studies senior.