OU sees uptick in Native American inclusivity efforts despite Land Run traditions

By Bailey Lewis

The Norman community is shrouded in crimson and cream to watch OU football play on its home turf. Soon 85,000 erupt as the Sooners score a touchdown.

The sound of the “Boomer Sooner” fight song blares in celebration as the Sooner Schooner rolls out of a tunnel pulled by two horses — Boomer and Sooner — onto Owen Field and runs in a loop.

In the name of school spirit, OU students, faculty, staff, fans and community members sing along and watch the horses run without a second guess. 

But the meaning behind these words and actions strike a different chord for many of the 366,706 Native Americans in Oklahoma. In a semester filled with more efforts for inclusivity and acknowledgment of the Native American community, OU traditions still represent a period of history that devastated their people.

“The university is steep in Land Run culture,” Sarah Adams-Cornell, an OU alumna, citizen of the Choctaw Nation and Native advocate in Oklahoma, said about the university’s traditions.

Beginning in 1817, what was then known as Indian Territory slowly became a new home for tribes relocated by the U.S. government. But in March 1889, President Benjamin Harrison agreed to open nearly two million acres in the territory for white colonization, which eventually took away Native American control and ousted many from their homes.

The Oklahoma Land Run, or Land Rush, began on April 22, 1889, when white settlers entered Indian Territory to stake claims in the land, which created towns like Oklahoma City, Norman, Guthrie and Kingfisher. 

Settlers who entered the territory to claim land before the designated time were called “Sooners,” and the effort in the late 1870s that led to the Land Run was called the “Boomer” movement, which supported white settlement of Indian Territory. 

The Sooner Schooner is a replica of conestogas, or covered wagons, used by settlers around the time of the Land Run, according to Sooner Sports.

“The fact that the Land Run is re-enacted every time the football team scores a touchdown is a slap in the face,” Adams-Cornell said. “And the fact that the call there is ‘Boomer Sooner’ — that’s also indicative of Land Run history.”

Adams-Cornell said there needs to be a greater level of responsibility in higher education to move away from traditions that represent “institutionalized racism.”

However, the uptick in efforts throughout the semester to better serve OU’s Native American community started in the Undergraduate Student Congress.

On Sept. 10, the Indigenous Land Acknowledgment Act, which was authored by SGA President Adran Gibbs and co-director of SGA’s inclusivity department Taylor Chiariello, was passed. The act implemented a statement that is now read before all SGA events and thanks indigenous people for allowing them to gather, acknowledging that OU students are “visitors on this land.” 

“While this land acknowledgment isn’t something that’s going to solve Native problems, I think it raises the awareness of what land we’re on and how we’re intentionally engaging with that community,” Gibbs said. 

In fall 2018, there were 1,160 Native American students enrolled at OU, which made up 4.1 percent of the student body, according to the 2019 OU Factbook. OU Native American staff and faculty made up 3.7 percent of the workforce in fall 2018 with 463 Native American employees.

The act created a template for the statement, Gibbs said, to fit any event it is read at. It was created in collaboration with the former American Indian Programs and Services adviser, Gibbs said.

“I can’t speak on behalf of anyone, but Native Americans or American Indians have long been underrepresented and marginalized in Oklahoma,” Gibbs said. “And I think this is just one thing to show that we’re serious about recognizing that and trying to find ways to reconcile with that history.”

While the passing of an indigenous land acknowledgment statement in SGA applies only to SGA events, on Sept. 26, OU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion held a town hall for students to give input about implementing an official OU land acknowledgment statement. 

During the town hall, students discussed how the story of OU’s founding should be changed to recognize that indigenous people were on the university’s land before OU was created and that when OU’s first President David Ross Boyd arrived in what would become Norman, it was not vacant. 

A narrative often told during campus tours, according to OU’s website, is when Boyd came to Norman in 1892, he saw “a barren expanse of prairie, no tree in sight,” and said, “What possibilities!”

Two other town halls were also held in early November — one with faculty and staff on the Norman campus and the other with faculty and staff on the Health Sciences Center campus, Warren Queton, OU’s tribal liaison and citizen of the Kiowa Nation, said.

“We talked to our Native faculty and staff on the Norman campus and the Health Sciences Center campus, and they understand what we’re trying to do, but they want to make sure we are bringing people together around this issue versus dividing people,” Queton said. “All three of the town halls have been a really good discussion and dialogue. There have been some really great ideas exchanged.”

So far, the town halls have consisted of listening sessions, Queton said, and they are only in the initial stages of creating the statement. Queton said the focus right now is to continue educating the OU community about Oklahoma’s Native American history.

“(At) the University of Oklahoma, we celebrate this idea of pioneer culture and colonialism that really paints an inaccurate picture of our Native people,” Queton said. “I think that it glosses over the true history of Oklahoma — that Oklahoma was once Indian Territory and home to these people who were forcibly removed here.”

Queton said OU administration has been supportive of the Native American community’s efforts and has shown that “they’re wanting to listen.”

“The fact of the matter is this idea of colonization over indigenous people was very traumatic to our communities,” Queton said. “So I think our students have raised a concern that they want to see OU do some sort of truth and reconciliation to really teach and educate people about this idea of colonization over Native people and how traumatic it was.”

Following the November town halls, on Nov. 12, Undergraduate Student Congress passed another act authored by Gibbs to change the name of the Sooner Freshman Council. Gibbs said he created the act because the words Boomer and Sooner are offensive to the Native American community and to expand on the indigenous land acknowledgment statement.

“We wanted to make sure that we are being consistent with the language we are using,” Gibbs said. “And essentially, we’re just going from there. We’re just using it as an example, if you will, as a way to be more consistent with the language we are using.”

Efforts to eradicate the use of Boomer and Sooner took place in fall 2015 when members of Indigenize OU asked for them to be removed from the university’s identity.

In response to the group’s outcry, former OU President David Boren said in a statement that the only way the university could change the words is if the nearly 245,000 alumni at the time asked for it.

“The university was not even in existence when the western lands of Oklahoma were open to settlement by homesteaders,” Boren said in the statement. “The term today stands for a spirit which is very inclusive, sets high standards of excellence and represents a strong sense of a common family.” 

In the statement, Boren also said he believed the “vast majority would be opposed” to changing Boomer and Sooner. 

“The history of the term is not nearly as important as what it stands for today,” Boren said in the statement.

During the SGA meeting, Taylor Broadbent, University College representative and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, spoke to give the historical context of the words Boomer and Sooner.

“President Gibbs and really all of the Student Government Association has really taken a real interest and initiative in making the University of Oklahoma strive to be the most inclusive place for not only Native students but all students,” Broadbent said of the acts that have been passed during the semester.

Queton said many people are not aware of what the words Boomer and Sooner mean in their historical context.

“People see (Land Run settlers) as go-getters or can-doers,” Queton said. “Those Boomers and Sooners went in and took Native land via land runs. So to our American Indian students who understand that history, it’s like you’re stealing the land every time you hear Boomer and Sooner being yelled, and you see the Sooner Schooner run across the field.”

Broadbent said there have been other examples of acts that have been passed in SGA that reflect more inclusivity of the Native American community as well. A resolution co-authored by Broadbent passed during SGA’s Oct. 15 meeting to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 14. 

During the same meeting, another resolution co-authored by Broadbent passed to support Kimberly Teehee’s appointment as the first Cherokee Nation delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the resolution, the Treaty of New Echota allows the nation to appoint a representative, but Teehee has not been “officially received” by the House. 

“I think that Native people as a whole have gotten more recognition,” Broadbent said. “At OU, I think it is in part due to our efforts to develop a more diverse and inclusive environment at OU.”

Gibbs said the goal of all the acts has been to show the Native American community that it is supported at OU.

“I know that sometimes change like this just seems unattainable,” Gibbs said. “And I think what we’re trying to say is that it’s not, and it takes a collective effort for those who are not Native to pick up the torch and fight for them.”

On Dec. 4, the Native Peoples Initiative was launched to strengthen Native Nation research and relationships with OU and included the creation of three new Native American Studies Department faculty positions and two endowed chair positions.

Amanda Cobb-Greetham went from chair of the Native American Studies Department to the director of the Native Nations Center, Queton will serve as the chair of the new Native Nations Center Advisory Board and Native American Studies professor Raymond Orr is now the interim chair of the department. 

The initiative includes four primary goals: To provide a digital and physical clearinghouse for those interested in Native initiatives, create a research hub or think tank, and provide research opportunities and better OU’s relationship with Native nations. 

There have also been other efforts to better serve OU’s Native American community, including the creation of indigenous education programs in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, the opening of the Native American student lounge in Copeland Hall, the hiring of Antonia Belindo by the Office of Student Life as the coordinator of American Indian Programs and Services and Admissions and Recruitment’s hiring of Jared Wahkinney as an admissions counselor. 

Next semester, Queton said OU’s Native American community and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will continue to hold town halls and take more steps toward implementing a land acknowledgment statement. 

“I don’t think you make sustainable change by shocking people, in my personal opinion,” Queton said. “I focus on educating and trying to help people understand the problem before they can actually render an opposing opinion. So I think that’s what the institution needs to kind of see to change that rhetoric and train people on how this does impact our Native community.”

New Campus Corner restaurant 3rd Base, formerly Kong’s, continues to rack up high numbers of police calls

By Bailey Lewis

The sound of “My Type” by Saweetie pierces the ears while walking through the open front entrance and, with only the dimly lit bar as a visual guide, it is nearly impossible to see anything but the silhouettes of those gathered to let loose on a Friday night. 

Welcome to a reopened Campus Corner establishment called 3rd Base Norman, formerly Kong’s Tavern. After Kong’s mixed beverage permit was suspended by the city of Norman in July and officially closed, ownership was reorganized, and 3rd Base opened in the same location at 563 Buchanan Ave. on Aug. 27. 

The location, before and after the change, has been known to stir things up on Campus Corner. 

In 2019, the Norman Police Department has been called to the location of Kong’s and 3rd Base a total of 116 times, according to data from the department through Oct. 15. 

That is four and a half times higher than the number of NPD calls at other popular bars and restaurants on Campus Corner so far this year.

In comparison to the 116 calls to Kong’s and 3rd Base, NPD has been called 25 times to Logie’s On The Corner, 24 times to O’Connell’s Irish Pub & Grille, 24 times to Seven47, 17 times to The Porch, 10 times to Volare and six times to The Deli in 2019.

A manager at 3rd Base, who would not give his name to The Daily, said he was surprised by the high amount of incident calls because they have “a letter of support from the city.”

“(The letter says) that our turnaround and our effort has produced results and … made it a more positive situation,” the manager said. “So, we’ve done everything we can. We’ve gotten better. We’re still getting better.”

Shyon Keoppel, one of the two co-owners of 3rd Base, said the majority of calls would occur even when “something wasn’t happening,” and some people “just call and make false reports.” 

“When it comes down to actually police and fire and any of those types of people coming in, that has definitely gone down tremendously,” Keoppel said.

Holly Morris, elementary education junior, described 3rd Base as a “vibrant place to go to” that has “the best music in town.” Dory Lieber, early childhood education senior, and Morris said 3rd Base is very loud, and Lieber said her experiences at 3rd Base have been “lackluster.” 

“During the night, it’s dark,” Lieber said. “The music is considerably louder than it was at Kong’s. The smells are the same — sweaty, pretty gross, liquor. The outside of 3rd Base is the same as it was with Kong’s — 3rd Base is Kong’s with a new name.”

Lieber said she wasn’t surprised Kong’s shut down, but she was “surprised to see how fast 3rd Base went up.” 

“I’ve actually talked to some people who worked there and told them that I thought it was the exact same as Kong’s, and they responded defensively, claiming that it was completely different,” Lieber said. “I guess I don’t see the major differences because I’m on the consumer side, and the physical setup of 3rd Base is the same as Kong’s.”

The manager said 3rd Base has worked with the city and has done what has been asked of them. 

“It is a completely different situation,” the manager said, “and sure, there are things that are bound to happen in a place that gets so busy. But it’s a lot better than it was. It’s getting better every day, and we don’t condone the things that were happening before.”

Physical differences aside, the location still brings in a significant amount of incident calls: 13 of 3rd Base’s 116 calls have taken place between the restaurant’s reopening on Aug. 27 and Oct. 15, which is around double the amount of calls to each of the six other restaurants and bars in the same period.

By contrast, during that period, NPD was called to O’Connell’s seven times, Logie’s six times, Volare four times, Seven47 four times, The Deli two times and The Porch once.

The severity of the calls in this period also differs between 3rd Base and the other six locations. NPD has been called to 3rd Base two times for fights and once each for an alleged assault, a noise complaint, a suspicious individual and a domestic disturbance. The other eight calls consisted of following up on previous calls, welfare checks and one 911 call of an unknown nature.

Five of the seven calls to O’Connell’s were due to parking problems, one was for vandalism and the other for a domestic disturbance. All six calls to Logie’s were for alarms, and each of the four calls to Seven47 were for different things — a missing person, a welfare check, vandalism and a parking problem.

All four of Volare’s calls were for alarms. NPD Capt. Brent Barbour said these cover any type of fire or burglary alarm that goes off at a location. At The Deli, one call was for public intoxication and the other for a domestic disturbance. The single call to The Porch was for larceny.

But these numbers — or lack thereof — can be deceiving, Barbour said.

“For bars, you may have a bouncer or a manager who says, ‘I’m calling the cops every time,’ and other ones who say, ‘We’re dealing with this in-house. We only call them if we need them,’” Barbour said. “But we are (at 3rd Base) a lot. I mean, it’s not a secret by any means.”

In 2019, however, 14 of the calls to Kong’s/3rd Base were for noise complaints, 12 for alcohol violations or public intoxication, 10 for fights and eight for assaults.

All six of the other bars and restaurants have had no assault calls in 2019, and O’Connell’s has had one call for a fight. A fight, Barbour said, is if someone gets shoved or hit by another individual, which may or may not result in an assault charge.

The Porch and O’Connell’s have both received one noise complaint. The Porch has had three calls for an alcohol violation or public intoxication, O’Connell’s has had two, The Deli has had one, Volare has had one, Seven47 has had one drug violation and Logie’s has had none. 

Most of the calls at the other bars and restaurants were due to parking problems, bar checks and alarms.

Hannah Stephen, nursing and biology junior, said she went to Kong’s once in the spring when a fight broke out. 

“I didn’t feel unsafe when I was there, but it was a little scary that a fight broke out and the cops had to be called,” Stephen said. 

In April, The Norman Transcript reported that Kong’s Tavern was cited for being over capacity, along with citations and arrests for alcohol violations, which were discovered during two NPD proactive projects for safety on Campus Corner. The projects took place on Friday, March 29.

One of the projects was in collaboration with the fire marshal, and Kong’s was found to be over capacity by 51 people, according to The Transcript. Former co-owner of Kong’s James Vu told The Transcript at the time it was raining outside when the fire marshal came to the restaurant to address a noise complaint, so the bar was overcapacity because “outdoor patrons” were taking shelter inside. 

During its second project, which focused on reducing underage drinking, NPD arrested two people for public intoxication, cited seven for minor in possession and two for possession of a fake ID, and arrested a 17-year-old for using a fake ID to get into the restaurant, The Transcript reported.

Lieber said she has been to Kong’s about 15 times, and 3rd Base around three to five times. 

“I personally haven’t had any bad experiences at 3rd Base, but some of my friends have had terrible ones when it was Kong’s,” Lieber said.

Jeanne Snider, Norman’s assistant city attorney, said Kong’s liquor license was suspended in July because it would not provide documentation requested by the Norman city clerk to prove it fell under the qualifications of a restaurant.

“Kong’s was licensed as a restaurant, which requires 35 percent or more of sales be food,” Snider said. “Kong’s did not provide all required documentation to make that determination.”

Rather than providing the documentation, Kong’s Tavern closed for about a month, and 3rd Base opened in its place. 

The new 3rd Base is also licensed as a restaurant, and Snider said, as of now, “the city has no information that it is not operating within that license.”

Carrie Hendricks, executive director of the Campus Corner Association, declined to comment about Kong’s closure or 3rd Base’s opening, saying the association “does not comment on individual businesses.” 

Keoppel said he and the other owner wanted to start a new restaurant in place of Kong’s to reboot things. 

“We wanted to start off fresh with new names, all new management and employees,” Keoppel said.

Vu was one of the three co-owners of Kong’s and stepped down in July after it closed down, The Transcript reported. There are now two co-owners of 3rd Base instead of three, Keoppel said, but he would not give the name of the other co-owner.

“I’d ask to leave his name out of it,” Keoppel said in a text to The Daily. “He’s a quiet guy and would like to stay that way.”

Lieber said while she has never personally felt unsafe at Kong’s or 3rd Base, she is not shocked by its high amount of incident calls.

“Hearing that the police have been called to 3rd Base is not surprising because it was the same way with Kong’s — I guess old habits die hard,” Lieber said. “I’ve never felt unsafe at 3rd Base, but I’ve also never felt super comfortable there.”

Dustin Huckabe: A journey from addiction to advocacy

By Bailey Lewis

Dustin Huckabe had a “moment of clarity” while pouring his fix into his veins through a needle one night.

He had been shooting up heroin every day for three months, watching several friends overdose and one die.

But shooting up that day was different — the high and euphoria he was addicted to were gone, and “it was just a means of survival.”

He called his mom and told her he needed help, but he hated her response because it was the truth. 

“You know,” she told him, “where the answers are.”

A day later, he walked into a 12-step recovery meeting in San Antonio wearing a long-sleeved shirt to cover his track marks, and heard a sentence that changed his life forever.

“This guy said in the meeting, ‘How free do you want to be?’” Huckabe said. “And he was talking to the group, but I felt like he was talking to me. I just remember thinking to myself, ‘What does that look like? I have a lot of shame, and I have a lot of guilt. And I feel inadequate, and I feel all of these things, and I don’t know how to stop that, and I want some freedom from that.’”

He has been sober from that day — May 26, 2011 — on. 

Huckabe, now 31 and a social work senior at OU, started Students in Recovery, a support group for students recovering from addiction, in fall 2018 and is the president of the organization. Now, he is advocating for OU to create a collegiate recovery program after being a part of Texas Tech University’s program, which helps students struggling with addiction get their degree while in recovery, according to the Association of Recovery in Higher Education.

After speaking with OU administration and being told “no” repeatedly, he decided to hold an event called “A Night of Recovery” on Sept. 27, where Students in Recovery put together a panel to talk about collegiate recovery. Before the event even started, the organization received a $10,000 donation from the Charles and Cassandra Bowen Charitable Foundation to help its fight to convince the OU administration to create the program. 

“(I decided) we’re going to invite everyone I’ve ever met doing this work, and we’re going to make it to where they have to listen,” Huckabe said.

‘I instantly felt at home’

When Huckabe was 25, he moved to Lubbock, Texas, after his girlfriend, Emma Lewis, got accepted into Texas Tech.

Huckabe met Lewis, whom he married in October 2018, while they were in the 12-step recovery program together in San Antonio. He had been sober for two years, and she had been for three.

They immediately joined the recovery community and kept hearing about “how amazing” the collegiate recovery program at Tech was. Lewis was accepted into the program and received a $3,000 scholarship.

“It’s everything that they said it was,” Huckabe said, describing seeing the program’s facility for the first time as a visitor. “There was like a huge building that was three stories tall for students that are just in recovery from everything — eating disorders, gambling, sex, drugs, alcohol, depression, whatever.”

The facility has offices, meeting rooms and a lobby, according to TTU’s Collegiate Recovery Program website. But the basement of the facility, reserved for the program’s members, faculty and staff, has a meditation room, kitchen and breakroom, computer lab, study areas, game room and TV lounge. The program also holds various meetings every day except for Saturday. 

Huckabe started attending a local community college in Lubbock and got a job at an addiction treatment facility called The Ranch at Dove Tree as the “urinalysis guy.”

But he never expected the phone call that came shortly after he took the job.

Vincent Sanchez, who has been the associate director of Texas Tech’s collegiate recovery program for 24 years, was “someone everyone in the recovery community” heard about, Huckabe said, and he was “this ‘Wizard of Oz’ character that I’d never met.” 

“I had no idea how (Sanchez) got my number — none of that,” Huckabe said. “And he goes, ‘I don’t want you to take that UA job,’ and I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got bills to pay, man,’ and he goes, ‘I want you to become the director of the Outdoor Adventure Program for The Ranch at Dove Tree. I want you to take these clients on camping trips. I want you to teach them life skills, and I want you to show them that recovery is possible.’”

Huckabe took the job — his first management position — and started leading a staff of about seven people. 

“It changed my life forever,” Huckabe said with tears in his eyes. “Because that doesn’t happen to me. And I don’t know why he asked me to do that, but it changed a lot.”

Sanchez said he chose Huckabe for the position because he heard countless times from his students “what an amazing person” Huckabe was, and how he was “really willing to do whatever he could to help other people.”

“Everything I’d heard about him was so positive, and I thought, you know, this is the kind of guy that would inspire young people in recovery,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez started “hounding” Huckabe to apply to get into Texas Tech, but Huckabe didn’t feel he was academically “on that level” and never saw school in his future. He failed first grade, didn’t learn to read until fifth grade and “barely made it through high school.” 

Lewis said Huckabe had always felt inferior when it came to school, and his family never encouraged him to try higher education.

“And so it wasn’t ever talked about,” Lewis said. “And if somehow the topic was brought up, it was always, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t do that. You should do something else.’”

Lewis was in school when she and Huckabe started dating and encouraged him to try it, so he enrolled in an English class at a community college in San Antonio.

“And so I sit at the front, and I’m taking notes, and I really don’t know how to take notes,” Huckabe said. “I’m overwhelming myself, but I’m showing up like I did in recovery. I was going to treat school like recovery. I’m just going to show up every day, and I’m going to sit in the front, and I’m just going to ask questions. I’m just going to be here.”

He made a B in the class — the first B he ever made.

Sanchez eventually convinced Huckabe to apply to Tech, and he was denied.

But two weeks later, he got an acceptance letter with a $1,200 scholarship into Tech’s Collegiate Recovery Program, which would override the denial. 

“And then all of a sudden, I’m at a huge university surrounded by 18-year-old kids in biology lab class,” Huckabe said. 

Huckabe said the classes were much harder than what he was used to at community college, but one thing helped: He was able to lean on his peers in the collegiate recovery program.

“The beautiful thing is that I have this community that I could go to in between classes, before classes, after classes, with people that were just like me,” Huckabe said. “People of all different ages and all different backgrounds and had one fundamental identity — and that was that we were in recovery. And because of that, I instantly felt at home, and I felt instantly capable of doing whatever.”

‘I instantly felt isolated’ 

Lewis graduated from Texas Tech in May 2018 with a degree in chemical engineering and landed a job in Oklahoma. Huckabe started attending OU and “instantly felt way out of my element, instantly felt isolated, instantly felt marginalized, instantly felt stigmatized.”

“I go from being highly supported, and I could like lean on these people, emotionally, physically, whatever, to nothing  — to absolutely zero recovery support at all,” Huckabe said. “I needed something.”

Huckabe said the prevention programs OU offers at Goddard Health Center are not enough, and the university perpetuates stigmas about addiction by “fining someone for a mental illness” like alcoholism with its “three strikes” policy. Each strike results in consequences such as fines and suspension. 

He started looking at research about collegiate recovery programs and found statistics that showed how beneficial the programs were, and that Texas Tech has materials other universities can replicate to create their own.  

“I start finding amazing statistics that students that are in these collegiate recovery programs out pass their peers of their institution in GPA’s, retention rates and graduation rates,” Huckabe said. “Because they’re supported, and these are really resilient people.”

He started meeting with anyone on campus who would listen to him about implementing a collegiate recovery program. He met with Jane Irungu, interim vice president of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, David Surratt, vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, and Kristen Partridge, associate vice president for Student Affairs and associate dean of students, along with multiple deans and administrators at Goddard.

But all Huckabe was told by members of OU administration was “no” — whether it be because of “budget restrictions” or the administration was “too busy.” 

He started to get frustrated and decided to “back off” the university.

‘I’ll keep knocking on their doors’

Huckabe described himself at 13 as “that kid” — whom he said was constantly in and out of in-school suspension, smoked weed, drank alcohol and was regularly sent to behavioral and mental health clinics and therapy. 

By the time he was 16, he ran away from home and started using almost any drug he could get his hands on — methamphetamines, cocaine, weed, Xanax and alcohol. 

He started robbing and stealing to pay for his addiction, and he didn’t care “about anybody or anything.” He was in and out of jail, on probation or in zero-tolerance boot camps or lockdown treatment facilities from 18 to 23. 

“Once drugs came into my life, that was it,” Huckabe said. “That’s what I was going to live for.”

But the story of Huckabe’s battle with addiction from 13 to 23, he said, is what drives him to keep going and fight for students just like him.

“I’m just that kid, man,” Huckabe said. “I’m that kid who went to ISS, and I’m that kid who got in fights every Friday, and I’ve been told ‘no’ a lot. And they can continue to tell me ‘no,’ and I’ll keep knocking on their doors.”

Huckabe invited important stakeholders to be part of the panel for “A Night of Recovery,” including Tim Rabolt, executive director for the Association of Recovery in Higher Education, OU student leaders and Oklahoma judges and politicians. 

“I was like, ‘All right, if the university can’t go anywhere, or they’re unwilling, or they can’t or whatever — I’m just going to bring them here,’” Huckabe said.

Huckabe said there were about 100 people at the event, including Partridge and two other university officials of the Student Affairs division — Maggie Pool, assistant director of clinical services at Goddard Health Center, and Kye LeBoeuf, Comprehensive Alcohol Program coordinator, Alcohol Strike One health educator and general health educator at Goddard Health Center.

Partridge was taking “crazy notes” at the event, Huckabe said, and also spoke with Sanchez, who flew to Norman to attend the event. 

Huckabe said he is “very hopeful that there will be tangible steps going forward from the university.”

“Currently, we have raised $14,270 from private donations,” Huckabe said. “I have a meeting with Dean Wrobel of the College of Arts and Sciences, who is interested in learning more and will be meeting with the Southwest Prevention Center to look into grants.”

Sanchez said Huckabe was always someone who stood out to him, and he knew would do great things, and he has loved watching him “take this mission and run with it.”

“I hate to say that it was expected, but it kind of was,” Sanchez said. “But he did it in Dustin’s way, and he made it bigger than what all of us expected.” 

Lewis said she’s “just really proud of” Huckabe and where he is now compared to when she first met him when he was “not super serious about anything.”

“He would joke around just so that he wouldn’t have to be vulnerable or authentic,” Lewis said. “So he’s shed that mask he was using to protect himself. And he’s going out and advocating for people that can’t advocate for themselves fully and advocating for people that don’t know they need to be advocated for.”

Huckabe said he was once asked where his passion comes from. The answer, he said, is simple, “because I don’t think I should be here.”

“If you were to look at the history of my life and where it was going, I shouldn’t be here,” Huckabe said. “So I’m not going to squander this moment. I’m going to live in it, and I’m going to embrace it.”

A moment I’ll always remember

By Bailey Lewis

I’ll never forget the rose-colored shirt I was wearing that day. 

I’ll never forget the relief I felt when my mom drove me to school, and only I knew it would be for the last time. I went through the motions in my classes and laughed with my friends who had no idea they would never see me again. 

I’ll never forget numbly walking to my mom’s car after school in the crisp, chilly November air. I answered my mom’s questions as if it was just another ordinary day. When we walked inside of our home in Flower Mound, Texas, I gazed into my mother’s sky blue eyes as I slowly wandered upstairs, knowing she was oblivious to the fact she would later find my body hanging lifelessly in my closet. 

I’ll never forget how meticulously yet absent-mindedly I arranged my death. 

I hung my favorite brown leather belt between two shelves. I put the step stool designed to help my petite frame reach those shelves under my feet. I watched my hands tremble as I wrapped the belt tightly around my neck and positioned my body. I then shut my eyes and took a deep breath as I struggled to kick the stool out from under me.

I’ll never forget how almost an instant later, I was lying on my closet floor, bruised and cut from falling but alive.

I’ll never forget closing my tear-filled eyes that night before falling asleep — the only person who knew I just tried to end my life — hoping to feel what death was like at least until morning.

My mom was told when I was 3 years old I was the “textbook case” of someone with severe anxiety and depression — a mix of helplessly misconstrued DNA I was stuck with forever. She knew the life of struggle I had ahead of me because she had it, too. 

I was about 7 years old when I figured out I wasn’t like other kids. I regularly saw a psychologist and realized it wasn’t normal. I knew I would carry the burden of not thinking and feeling like everyone else my whole life.

I thought it would never end. I thought I was trapped in my mental illnesses with no other way out.

When I would look into the mirror at my 13-year-old self, I felt disgust and disappointment. I loathed my reflection — not only the outside but the inside. I absolutely hated who I was, from my skin to my genetics.

Five days after my 13th birthday, I knew it was time. I knew what I was — a scared, sick and defeated waste of space. 

I came home from school and sat down at my white desk, stained with the makeup I used every day to hide my face, and wrote notes to my immediate family and friends:

I don’t think that life is cut out for everyone, and I definitely don’t think life is cut out for me.

I don’t want you to ever blame yourself for what I have done.

I am so sorry for doing this to you because I know you do care about me, I just can’t do this anymore.

I was so lucky I had a mom who was open to any resource she thought would help me and wanted nothing more than my pain to stop.  

But my depression hit at the worst time possible.

It was 2010, and my parents were still dealing with the financial hit from the 2008 recession, which put extreme stress on my parents’ relationship and ultimately resulted in the loss of college funds for my brother and me. 

I watched my parents, who had been in love my entire life, grow to resent each other. They fought relentlessly, and my home that had been full of love slowly became full of tension. 

My mom still drove me to therapy every day, but she was fighting her own battles and unable to see mine progressing.

My previous psychologist also retired that year. I started seeing a new psychologist, and the idea that my mental illnesses were the result of my personal failures was planted into my head. I thought it was my fault I was suffering, and I didn’t know how to make myself stop. 

It’s not that I hadn’t already been sick my entire life, though. From the minute my brain had fully developed, I was petrified of everything around me. As a child, I watched my friends ride bikes, swim, roller skate and play on the playground, but all of those things terrified me because of the possibility of getting hurt. 

I was constantly trapped in fight or flight mode, and it would’ve taken getting hit over the head to make my thoughts stop racing. To add to it, my body was slowly shifting into adulthood, and my susceptibility to depression emerged. 

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t just anxious. I was also hopeless.

I began burning myself first by heating a bobby pin with a lighter and pressing it against unseen skin to distract myself from the emotional torture. When that didn’t give me relief anymore, I started brainstorming. I remembered seeing a TV crime show where a man hanged himself. I decided that was the answer. 

But then one side of the belt that was supposed to relieve my pain slipped free. I fell into the closet wall in front of me, the textured paint scratching my legs and hitting my arms in ways I knew would create bruises. I remember sitting on the floor for a few minutes, and after the initial pain, I thought: I can’t even succeed at killing myself.

I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel remorse or relief. I didn’t even feel sad. 

I just felt the same hopelessness as before — only this time, worse. I was almost at the finish line but still didn’t win.

In an almost drugged-like state, I stood up, walked to my bed and sat down, staring blankly at the wall. I sat there completely still for a while, waiting to see if anyone had heard me fall.

No one did.

Nobody knew what I had done, and I decided to keep it that way. 

I didn’t want to see the looks on my parents’ faces if I told them — seeing the tears roll down my dad’s usually expressionless face and watching my mom blame herself for not knowing. I couldn’t bear to multiply the stress my parents were already going through by adding on mental hospital bills.

I didn’t want to see the look of heartbreak and terror if my friends found out. I didn’t want their parents to think poorly of me and not allow them to hang out with me anymore.

I was scared my life would be altered too drastically for me to handle. 

Not telling anyone was what ultimately led to mental anguish in the years that followed. I wonder what would’ve happened if one of my parents or my brother had heard me fall and saw what I had tried to do. Maybe I would’ve received the help I needed at 13 instead of 19. 

But that moment of failure sparked momentum inside me to keep going. 

As hopeless as I felt afterward, there was something about experiencing moments that weren’t supposed to happen — my hands touching my soft comforter, hearing tree branches lightly tap against my windows, seeing the night sky through cracks in my blinds — that filled in some of the brokenness I felt. 

I subconsciously saw the beauty of the reality I was living in, even though I so badly wanted to die. 

I never attempted suicide again. 

I wish I could say the moment I hit my closet floor was the moment I knew suicide was not the answer, but it was not even close.

I kept living in silent agony, hoping someday things would be better. Every year it was two steps forward and one step back.

Over the course of those years, I was addicted to self-harm, hated my body, had suicidal thoughts, was bullied, lost friends, cried constantly, was always anxious and regularly fought with my parents. I felt unwanted, incompetent, broken, unnecessary, depressed, fragile, worthless and lonely. 

And I hated who I was.   

But also over the course of those years, I made lifelong friends, started dance classes, laughed a lot, met the love of my life, graduated high school, got accepted into college, started writing again and found my passion. I felt loved, peaceful, capable, optimistic, whole, intelligent, valued and strong.

Those beautiful, euphoric moments in between all the suffering gave me the strength to keep going, but they only masked the symptoms.

I came home for Christmas break after my first semester of college 20 pounds lighter than when I started.

My mind had been in shambles for years, but now my body reflected it. 

I looked in the mirror, and I saw that 13 year old again, only this time she had dealt with eight years of more pain. Years of hiding the depth of my brokenness had fully surfaced.

That moment of failure again sparked something inside me to keep going — but this time, I took control over my mental illnesses instead of letting them control me.

At 19, I finally threw in the towel and started taking medication and seeing a new psychiatrist.

And I accepted who I am. 

The change did not happen overnight, but I will never forget the moment I was sitting in my apartment alone with my thoughts about nine months after I started treatment, and it hit me that I wasn’t that 13 year old anymore. 

Now, I look back on that day — the darkest moment of my life — a year clean of self-harm, in the best mental state I’ve ever been in and finally understand I am worth something, and my mental illnesses do not define who I am. I will battle with mental illness for the rest of my life — and that is a promise I will keep. 

I’ll always remember that the moments of joy during the misery kept me going, but the moments of failure saved my life. 

I’ll always remember the rose-colored shirt I was wearing that day. 

And I’ll always remember that life is worth living.

Tres Savage, NonDoc

Most journalists never think they will break a story that will completely rearrange a public’s perception of one of its most loved figures, but Tres Savage did just that.

On March 26, Savage broke the news that one of former University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s male aides, Jess Eddy, accused him of sexual battery. The Oklahoman reported in February that OU hired the Jones Day law firm to look into allegations of sexual misconduct against Boren by former male assistants, but Savage’s story was the first time someone officially came forward about the allegations. Along with allegations against Boren, Eddy and another OU graduate, Levi Hilliard, accused former OU Vice President of University Development Tripp Hall of sexual battery.

Savage, 34, grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, and started working part time at The Norman Transcript right out of high school. He got a journalism degree at OU and worked for the student publication — The OU Daily. Savage covered two sessions of the Oklahoma Legislature for eCapitol.net and then worked in health care for six years.

Now, he is the editor-in-chief of NonDoc, an independent publication based in Oklahoma City. Savage has been the editor-in-chief of NonDoc since it launched in September 2015. 

Savage said while he started at The OU Daily with professional experience, he “really learned a lot” during his time working there. When he was the editor-in-chief at The OU Daily, he had the idea to tape condoms to the front of the newspapers that went out for national condom week.

“It accompanied a series of feature stories about, you know, sex on campus or STDs or student opinions about sex,” Savage said.

In terms of changes in his writing style and ability — from taping condoms to newspapers to breaking a shocking story — Savage said he isn’t sure that much has changed.

“I don’t know that that’s like a linear line between there and now,” Savage said. “I don’t know that I’ve gotten to be a better writer. I mean, I guess I have over time.”

By working at The OU Daily, Savage came to know Boren and said he was “grandfatherly” and “personable.” Savage told of how former President George H.W. Bush came to campus, and initially, Boren was not going to allow any public interactions or interviews. But when Savage met with Boren about letting him speak to the former president, Boren changed his mind. 

“I was one of a handful of people, you know, who got to meet and interview the former president at the time,” Savage said. “So, you know, he made you feel like you matter.”

Savage said people, himself included, knew for years that Boren was gay, even though he denied this when he was running for the U.S. Senate in 1978 by swearing on the Bible publicly.

He said he always knew there eventually would be a story about Boren’s sexuality, but he never thought it would turn into anything like this. 

However, he said he had heard rumors during his time at OU and afterward about Boren’s alleged sexual misconduct, but he was unsure they were true until Eddy told him his story.

In the story, Savage describes how Eddy battled addiction following his alleged encounters with Boren and Hall and the mental anguish he went through from the events. When Savage worked in health care, he got certified as a mental health first aid instructor, which he said is essentially “CPR for mental health issues,” and teaches people how to deal with individuals in a mental health crisis. 

Something he was taught was the best way to prevent suicide, which is to ask the question: Are you having thoughts of suicide?

When Eddy came into his office to be interviewed a week before the story broke, Savage could tell Eddy was anxious. Knowing Eddy’s situation, Savage asked him the question at the end of the interview to make sure he was OK.

“I suppose most journalists wouldn’t do that or think to do that,” Savage said. “But, you know, I think the gist is just to treat somebody like they’re human.”

That night, Savage said he took his notebook to a bar, something he often does, and came up with the idea to start the story with the “liquor store.”

“So I have written here in my notebook, ‘On a November afternoon in 2010, OU President David Boren’s red Jaguar pulled up to the Spirit Shop in Norman. Boren handed his 2X-year-old teaching assistant Jess Eddy a $100 bill. Insert quotation Eddy recalled Boren telling him,’” Savage read.

He said he then put in subheads, picked out the best quotes and wrote around them. 

Savage said writing the story wasn’t the challenge — the waiting was. He finished writing the story the day it was published and then anxiously waited until it was scheduled to go live at 6 p.m.

“So there were about three and a half hours where I just sat here in my living room, white-knuckled against my chair, just like reading the thing over and over again,” Savage said. “I called a buddy of mine at like 5:30 and was like, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be too dramatic, but I really could use you to pick up a bottle of whiskey and come over here.’”

Despite his nerves, Savage said the blowback from the story was minimal, but his section about Boren’s sexuality received some criticism.

“I’ve heard from a couple of people who didn’t like how I phrased (that section),” Savage said. “There were some posts in the OU LGBT alumni Facebook page that were saying, ‘Why are we not calling this out? This is not acceptable. We need to be making a statement.’”

Savage said including the part about Boren’s sexuality was not to highlight he is gay — it was imperative to the story because it showed Boren “would stand there and lie.”

Savage said he doesn’t think he would’ve been able to grasp a story of this magnitude 10 years ago.

“But at the same time, I got to be honest with you — I don’t know that you’re ever ready to write a story like this,” Savage said. “I mean, I wasn’t super thrilled.”

Savage said his advice to journalism students, especially when working on a breaking story, is not to focus on being the first to get a story out in order to gain recognition because it’s “self-serving and irrelevant.”

“The importance is not promoting one’s self or one’s work, or this is my accomplishment or whatever,” Savage said. “It’s, you know, this is a story worth — that needs to be out there because it affects people, and it’s not a competition.”

And Savage’s one journalism rule he hardly ever breaks?

“If the source cusses you quote it,” Savage said. “Because it means that they really care.”