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Oklahoma: Students for a Democratic Society vocal for change on campus
The Oklahoma Daily
Laney Ellisor & Hillary McLain

May 9, 2011
View the Original Article

Students for a Democratic Society campaigned for change this semester in a number of ways.

The organization’s living-wage campaign was intended to ensure university employees were paid enough to maintain a normal standard of living.

“We were able to pressure the administration to table a vote on changes to the employee handbook, which would strip out the grievance procedure and remove assurances of stable employment,” organization spokeswoman Elizabeth Rucker said.

The organization will continue to advocate for a living wage and worker empowerment in the fall, said Rucker, international studies and interdisciplinary perspectives on the environment junior.

The organization also worked with Goddard Counseling and Testing Services to design and implement Talking Helps, a program modeled after the university’s Sooner Ally program, to help OU students become mental health advocates, according to Daily archives.

The first Talking Helps training session was offered in April, Rucker said. Many more are planned for the fall semester.

“We will be holding multiple training sessions next semester, as well as mobilizing mental health allies to advocate for mental health issues on campus and in the community,” Rucker said in an email.

The organization plans to mobilize these new allies to advocate for mental health issues on campus and in Norman, Rucker said.

In addition to its living-wage and Sooner Ally initiatives, the organization also lobbied for funding for the College of Arts and Sciences.

After President David Boren announced a $1.7 million cut to the College of Arts and Sciences budget for the 2012 fiscal year, the group wrote a letter to Paul Bell, dean of the college, according to Daily archives.

The letter itemized the organization’s concerns regarding where the budget cuts would be made. In response, Bell wrote a letter back to the organization addressing its concerns and explaining his college’s plans.

Most recently, the organization has tackled the issue of gender-neutral housing.

The campaign’s goal is to promote gender-neutral housing, which would allow students to room with members of the same sex in the dorms, according to Daily archives.

To spread the word about their campaign, organization members approached Prospective Student Services campus tours and talked to potential Sooners about the campaign, Rucker said.

“People in the dorms are moving out, so the housing and the administration doesn’t really have to deal with them,” Rucker said. “The prospective students coming in, they are the ones who are going to be encountering the problem.”

In addition to speaking directly with prospective students, the organization also held a sleep-in at the Oklahoma Memorial Union with OU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer student group and the Women’s and Gender Studies Student Association on April 18, Rucker said.

“Around 40 students attended,” Rucker said. “We did homework, played games, sang karaoke and danced in our [pajamas].”

Members attempted to affix a protest sign to university property and move a bunk bed into the seating area near Crossroads Restaurant, according to Daily archives.

Responding to a complaint about the protest affecting the restaurant’s business, OUPD responded, and the bed and signs were removed from the area. Protesters were not allowed to affix the sign to university property or bring the bed indoors.

The organization plans to continue this campaign next semester via meetings with university administration, public events and social media attention, Rucker said.

“In the fall, we plan to organize freshman residents to file requests for different rooming accommodations in accordance with the existing, inadequate policy for freshmen, who would be served by our proposed gender-neutral housing policy,” Rucker said.