Higher Education

Amid DEI backdrop, OU students condemn Israel

Ray Carter | October 27, 2023

The University of Oklahoma has often touted its “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) efforts as a method to make the school a place of “belonging” for all.

But on Oct. 25, about 150 students marched at OU to protest the nation of Israel’s response to recent terrorist attacks by Hamas, chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” according to the OU Daily, the campus newspaper.

The protest was one of many that took place at college campuses nationwide that day with such activism increasingly linked to growing antisemitism on college campuses.

Notably, one former DEI director recently said college DEI programs fuel antisemitism.

In a column in the New York Post, Tabia Lee, a black woman who previously served two years as a faculty “diversity, equity, and inclusion” director at De Anza College in California, warned that DEI programs can foster antisemitism and suggested she was driven from her position after working “to create an authentically inclusive learning environment for everyone, including Jewish students.”

“At its worst, DEI is built on the unshakable belief that the world is divided into two groups of people: the oppressors and the oppressed,” Lee wrote. “Jews are categorically placed in the oppressor category, while Israel is branded a ‘genocidal, settler, colonialist state.’ In this worldview, criticizing Israel and the Jewish people is not only acceptable but praiseworthy.”

She also noted, “Countless faculty and students on campuses nationwide have told me the DEI ideology encourages antisemitism.”

A letter released by the OU Student Coalition for Palestinian Liberation includes the type of language noted by Lee.

The OU students declared that Israel is “an apartheid state” engaged in “a genocide campaign” and “crimes against humanity,” and that Israel’s actions are “not self defense.”

The events referenced by OU students began when Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7. The Hamas attack included kidnapping, rape and the brutal murder of women and infant children.

The statement from the OU Student Coalition for Palestinian Liberation does not acknowledge or reference Hamas actions, and instead dismisses reports of Hamas terrorist atrocities as “unconfirmed accounts and AI-generated images published by Israeli media.”

Instead, OU students declared the “Palestinian liberation is a fight against colonization” and proclaimed themselves “ashamed of our University’s response to and our government’s enabling of the genocide of the Palestinian people.”

The OU students provided a list of demands to OU president Joseph Harroz, including that Harroz release “a statement about the crimes against Palestinians and express solidarity with Palestinian students, faculty, and staff.”

The students also called for OU to create “classes dedicated to Palestine, taught by Palestinian professors at the university,” stop offering “study abroad trips to Israel,” and cut ties with universities in Israel.

“We stand with the Palestinian people and firmly defend their right to exist free and dignified,” the OU Student Coalition for Palestinian Liberation declared. “We are unwavering in our commitment to the liberation of the Palestinian people, along with all colonized people across the world.”

The OU website includes messages and statements issued by Harroz. None currently pertain to Israel.

However, when state lawmakers were debating legislation (HB 1775) in 2021 that would prohibit requiring students to take any orientation “that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or a bias on the basis of race or sex,” Harroz declared the legislation “runs contrary to the goals we have laid out for ourselves as part of our Strategic Plan, and the initiatives we have established to make OU a place of true belonging for all.”

After that legislation became law, Belinda Higgs Hyppolite, OU’s vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the law was a “barrier” for OU officials and had created a “chilling effect” on “research” conducted by professors.

The issue of antisemitism on college campuses prompted members of the U.S. Senate to unanimously pass a resolution denouncing it. The resolution also urged college and university leaders, administrators, and faculty to voice their opposition to antisemitism on campus.

“We should unequivocally condemn any form of antisemitism in our nation, including and especially on our college campuses,” said U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. “Hamas is a terrorist organization that murdered children, the elderly, and the disabled without mercy. The spike in antisemitic events and actions taken by students, faculty, staff, and leaders on college and university campuses since the murder of Jews in Israel October 7 needs to be called out. I join my fellow Oklahomans to stand with our Jewish friends and neighbors. We should not tolerate antisemitism.”

[For more stories about higher education in Oklahoma, visit]

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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