Jonathan Small | June 8, 2021
Did OU punish a female student for wrongthink?
A federal lawsuit filed against the University of Oklahoma and two of its coaches by all-Big 12 volleyball player Kylee McLaughlin raises some fundamental questions about OU, the rampant woke and cancel-culture epidemic on its campus, and what role an institution of higher learning should play, if any, in molding and even mandating specific political views among its students.
The endemic rot at OU is far worse than most Oklahoma parents and taxpayers realize. McLaughlin’s complaint provides another glimpse into this toxic climate, and there really is no substitute for reading it for yourself.
In short, Kylee McLaughlin, one of the team’s standout players, ran afoul of political correctness in the wake of the George Floyd case when she dissented from some claims in a documentary about so-called white privilege and social justice the team was forced to view.
For that, her lawsuit alleges, she was cast in a false light—essentially accused of racism—by some teammates and volleyball coach Lindsey Gray-Walton and her assistant coach (and husband) Kyle Walton. When McLaughlin added some laughter emojis to her social media post on the controversy over the University of Texas school song, “The Eyes of Texas,” being supposedly racist, she was ordered to remove those emojis.
According to her lawsuit, McLaughlin was told she “didn’t fit the culture of the program” and was given three options: (1) Keep her scholarship, redshirt, and practice only with the coach while receiving input from the “psychological research organization” as well as undergoing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training; (2) keep her scholarship but just be a student; or (3) transfer to another school.
McLaughlin eventually transferred. Before her departure, she was ordered to follow a “growth plan” that included 10 hours of indoctrination on topics such as privilege, “trans and homosexual negativities,” and other core tenets of the woke religion.
This, and other revelations about OU’s corrosive culture, raises several important questions.
Is holding a specific set of political views required to be a member of or play on a university athletic team? If so, what are those views and how are they measured? If not, why was Kylee McLaughlin told she could no longer play volleyball, despite her status as a team star, for holding specific views not in line with leftist orthodoxy?
Former football player Joe Mixon was reinstated to the team after hitting a woman in the face with such force that it fractured multiple bones in her face, requiring eight-hour surgery that left her jaw wired shut. Other football players have been allowed back on the field after running afoul of the law. Meanwhile, an athlete whose supposed offense involved no lawbreaking was forced to attend at least 10 hours of “growth” training—though it appears none of her teammates were forced to undergo the same training. By singling her out for “growth” training, did the program discriminate against her for holding unapproved views?
If mandated “growth” training is now a campus norm, will we see such mandated training for faculty and staff needing to grow in their understanding of the First Amendment and of OU’s own policies and procedures? If not, why not?
Kylee was ordered to remove laughter emojis from social media posts commenting on the University of Texas controversy over that school’s official song having supposed racist roots. At the time, this discussion drew considerable humorous comment from many people, and the university, after an extensive review, has found that “The Eyes of Texas” has and had no racist connotations. If emojis are now subject to review and forced removal by university authorities, will OU establish an emoji police force to scrutinize and launder future expressions by students? How many employees will such action require?
Kylee’s complaint says that coach Lindsey Gray-Walton despises President Donald Trump and once posted on social media: “Not all Trump supporters are racist but all of them decided that racism isn’t a deal breaker.” Doesn’t university policy ensure that students enjoy the same First Amendment protection that faculty and staff enjoy?
We’re told that higher education is a public good deserving of taxpayer subsidies. But if a university actively undermines political freedom and our American way of life, is it time to heed the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman’s suggestion that perhaps we should be taxing universities rather than subsidizing them?
Parents, students, and taxpayers deserve transparency. I and my fellow Oklahomans look forward to answers to these questions from OU regents Mike Cawley, Frank Keating, Phil Albert, Natalie Shirley, Eric Stevenson, Anita Holloway, and Rick Nagel.
[For more articles about higher education in Oklahoma, visit AimHigherOK.com.]
Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.