Going Greek, Gay: The Experience at OU in 2018

By Mike McCareins

For years, fraternity life in America had a reputation – fair or not – that it is a place where masculinity dominates.

At OU, a football school that emphasizes Greek life more than most Big 12 schools, being gay and in a fraternity may sound like a bit of a conundrum for outsiders.

Whether or not gay students in fraternities at OU are out, they are in a unique situation where they get to see for themselves from the inside whether the Greek community treats gay members differently.

Alec Armer, a 2018 OU graduate who was a member of Sigma Nu, complimented his house on being one of the more open and tolerant on campus.

“I know that my fraternity was very accepting,” Armer said. “I knew that they’d be accepting because they like me for me and that wasn’t about anything. That’s probably generally true for fraternity culture, but there are probably some (fraternities) that wouldn’t have felt that same way.”

However, Armer noted that while his house and many others are respectful toward either openly gay members or members who come out while in the house, that the overall culture of Greek life may still be harmful.

“The one problem for me was just the whole culture that existed – it’s just a very straight culture that’s challenging to be different,” Armer said. “Most conversations would just follow the typical, ‘oh this girl is so hot,’ whereas you’re never going to be able to say the same thing about guys.”

Earlier this year a fraternity at Syracuse University, Theta Tau, saw 15 members suspended after performing racist, homophobic, and Anti-Semitic chants in a video of a hazing ritual that was made public, according to the Washington Post.

Javi Ramirez, a junior and member of Sigma Nu, is openly gay but says his brothers have shown him nothing but support and respect.

“I truly believe that my entire fraternity respects me to the fullest extent of what they believe to be respectful, regardless of any differences we may have in identities,” Ramirez said.

However, Ramirez said that he contemplated dropping while rushing as a freshman because of the potential problem his sexual orientation could cause – he was not out at the time. But once he told that in private to one of the members on the executive board, he was told he should still rush because his fraternity would never discriminate, and that being a good brother is much more important.

He went on to say that Greek life the culture can still be toxic, but can be a good thing for gay students,

“I think having genuine friendships with a bunch of guys just being guys is something that gay men typically miss out on, which is really unfortunate because I find so much comfort in the concept of brotherhood,” he said. “But another important aspect to consider is how inappropriate and toxic fraternity culture can be.”

One student at OU who is gay, but not in a fraternity, commended the fine arts community and residential life mentors and staff at OU for being progressive, accepting and interested to find out how LGBTQ members at Oklahoma are treated.

However, the same student – who wished to remain anonymous – has seen hostility and ignorance toward the community, and he says most of that has come from members of fraternities at OU.

“I have many friends who have experienced slurs thrown toward them by fraternity members driving past them on the street, referring to them as fags and queers,” the student said.

This student did not particularly blame the Greek community at OU for that, rather putting the onus on many students in fraternities being kept in a very small bubble most of their lives, and finding people who grew up in similar bubbles once they get to OU.

“It is very unfortunate, but I must remain compassionate, as they don’t know better,” he said.

The topic of homosexuality also hits home at OU, as last December, OU Board of Regents member Kirk Humphreys said he believes homosexuality is wrong. Humphreys would later resign due to his controversial comments.

This semester, OU helped to combat the potential problem of LGBTQ members in Greek life by organizing a “siblinghood” chapter, Rho Koppa Delta, that will be a non-gender-specific organization.

“It shows LGBTQ people on campus there is a space that is specifically made for you and to help you,” Oliver Luckett, the founder and president said in an interview with the OU Daily. “And it shows other people that OU is not a place to push them out.”

This new chapter has seen support from many of the higher-ups and student leaders at OU in an effort to make sure all people with different identities feel comfortable becoming a part of the community.

On the other hand, one sophomore at OU who is gay and wished to remain anonymous said he personally has been welcomed with open arms by the whole Greek community.

“The gay community is shockingly supported and represented for a large public university in the south,” he said. “Here, you can find a group that loves and supports you, and everyone for the most part seems to mind their own business.”

While his experiences have been mostly positive, he agreed with other gay fraternity members in that he was initially very hesitant to rush due to the stigma and history of fraternities being a place where gays would not feel comfortable.

“There is such a negative stigma of homophobia related to the modern-day fraternity,” he said. “It’s about brotherhood, not about who I find attractive – just as it would be with a biological brother.”

The sophomore acknowledged that he would never be able to be just, “one of the guys,” but his house gave him the chance to experience a new culture, surrounded by loyal brothers who support him.

Being gay and in a fraternity is an interesting conundrum for outsiders looking in, as Greek life has been well-known for a culture of masculine, heteronormative values. While many individual members of Greek life at OU generally seem to be accepting, that overarching culture in fraternities is what may be the biggest issue, according to the students interviewed.


**NOTE FOR SETH**: Unnamed sources = Noah Nichols (sophomore) and Joseph Campbell (junior). If story goes to OU Daily, Javi would like to be anonymous.

Norman’s Police Chief Reflects on His Path and Perspective

By Mikey McCareins

Keith Humphrey has been racially profiled in his own neighborhood, which unfortunately, does not seem uncommon for an African-American in 2018. However, what is uncommon is for that African-American to be a city’s chief of police.

Humphrey, the police chief for the city of Norman, knows he doesn’t have a normal job – because normal jobs don’t require working for over 100,000 people. They also usually don’t require working over 12 hours most days, managing over 150 people – officers – and developing plans to improve a city’s safety all while trying to maintain a life outside of work. More notably, he’s doing all of that as an African-American in a field where many employees are labeled as discriminatory against African-Americans and other minorities.

It may not sound enticing on first glance, but it’s something Humphrey always aspired to do.

His Story

Humphrey’s day starts around 8 am and lasts long.

“I haven’t left the office before 9 pm yet this week,” Humphrey said on a Thursday.

A native of Dallas, Humphrey has been in law enforcement for 30 years, starting his career in Fort Worth before moving to Arlington, Texas, for 14 years in mostly patrol operations. In 2008, he became the police chief of Lancaster, Texas, a suburb of Dallas with nearly 40,000 residents. Working his way up the ladder in becoming a police chief has always been a lifelong goal of Humphrey’s.

“My goal is to eventually be a major city chief if that’s where God wants me to go,” Humphrey said.

Despite a lengthy career in law enforcement, Humphrey didn’t always plan on going into law enforcement. He said that many people, even some close to him, don’t know that he initially was a pre-med major at Texas A&M-Commerce. Soon after, he decided he couldn’t commit to the lengthy career in education the field requires, so he changed majors to earn a degree in business administration – also earning his MBA at Amberton University in Garland, Texas.

Even with the career change, Humphrey still serves to save and protect lives, pioneering his department’s vision of making Norman one of the safest cities in America.

His Focus

“We keep our crime rates down, but the main thing is continuing to develop proactive relationships in the community and getting citizens involved,” Humphrey said. “The main thing is community engagement, getting people involved and aware of what’s going on in their city and immediate areas.”

Citizen interaction and education is what Humphrey in particular has focused on since arriving in Norman. Since his arrival seven years ago, over 300 Norman residents have gone through the citizen police academy program, and Humphrey stressed the importance of knowing and developing positive relationships with neighbors to prevent crime in communities.

Norman resident Andy Rieger was in Humphrey’s first citizen police academy class in 2011 and 2012.

“He’s been very good in trying to involve the community in the police department,” Rieger said. “The citizen’s police academy involves about 20 people a year, and they take you through the steps of what police officers go through on a daily basis in their practices, patrols and reports.”

Sgt. Jeff Casillas, who has been at the Norman Police Department for over 11 years, has worked closely with Humphrey for most of his tenure and spoke highly of the chief’s level of interaction with his staff and the community.

“The chief is always modest,” Casillas said. “I’ve noticed that since he got here, he’s gotten to know everybody on a personal level. He will always take people to lunch. There’s been more of a family atmosphere.”

Humphrey stresses the importance of trust in his department.

“I want them to trust me. I don’t want employees to be intimidated by me. They know when I mean business, but if I’m going to officers directly, I’m going to them to praise them,” Humphrey said.

Respect and trust is something that goes a long way in the particular line of duty, especially in 2018 as police brutality, misconduct, and racial injustice continue to be major topics of discussion across the United States.

Rieger, the former editor of the Norman Transcript, commended Humphrey’s transparency about touchy issues, having developed a relationship with him through years of covering stories on the Norman Police Department.

“He’s always been very open and transparent when they have an issue,” Rieger said. “He addresses situations head on. He also sees police work in a bigger lens than most police officers do. Most police officers don’t look at the bigger picture of, ‘why are we doing this?’ He has a bigger-vision approach than most police officers.”

His Perspective

Humphrey in particular has a unique role – he’s an African-American man serving as the chief of police for a city where African-Americans account for just 4.1 percent of the population, according to normanok.gov. That’s almost 50 percent less than Oklahoma’s total African-American population of 7.8 percent.

He remarked that it’s his job to educate his employees on those topics, and use his platform and situation to be an example.

“I would be remise if I did not sit down with officers and provide history on why there’s this feeling right now between African-Americans and law enforcement,” Humphrey said. “I have to educate my department – I have a lot of millenialls who are not in tune with the civil right era.”

“It’s toward me also. Hell, I probably catch it worse than anybody because at some point I may be considered a traitor, but it’s my job to educate them,” Humphrey added.

While America’s eyes focused on former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s movement, Humphrey hasn’t held back from having conversations about the topic in his department. Sparking conversation and educating officers and trainees about Kaepernick’s purpose is what Humphrey said his responsibility is. It’s up to them to make up their mind on if they agree.

Humphrey opened up about his experiences being discriminated against, being called racial slurs and being profiled even in his neighborhood since his arrival in Norman. Once, a man in his neighborhood asked what he was doing in the area while he was walking his dog.

“I don’t take it personally, I take that as a learning moment and as an opportunity to make myself a stronger person and pass that on to people here.”

His Goal

While Humphrey has made clear that he is happy in Norman, he has also been open and honest about his desire to become a chief of a major city of over 500,000 people, his long-term goal.

That opportunity nearly came for him last year, as he was one of two finalists for to be Kansas City’s police chief, even reaching talks about salary and relocation with the department before they decided to take the other candidate.

“I’ll stay here as long as God will have me here, because I like it here,” Humphrey said. “Sometimes, the job can get frustrating, but I’d like to see the department expand and a lot more of these guys (in the department) move up and promote.”

Although he came close in 2017 with the Kansas City job, Humphrey still has his sights set on becoming the police chief of a major U.S. city. He also didn’t hold back when acknowledging the Norman Police Department’s success under his tenure.

“We have other departments that come and shadow what we’re doing, we get requests for officers all over the country and we have employees on national boards. I think we’re the best department in the state.”

Chandler Wilson: Saying Goodbye to Soccer

By Mikey McCareins

Self-admittedly, Chandler Wilson was never the best, or biggest soccer player, but she prided herself on being the most driven. That drive led to her ultimate reward, as Wilson’s dream of playing for a Big 12 women’s soccer program came to fruition in 2014 when she accepted a scholarship offer to play for Kansas State.

Now, Wilson is a senior at The University of Oklahoma, no longer playing the sport but still using that same determination and persistence to discover her true callings in life.

I sat down with Wilson, an Edmond, Okla., native, to hear about the journey soccer took her on and to discuss the challenge that tested her faith three years ago – saying goodbye to the game she grew up with.

Q: When did you start playing soccer?

A: I started playing soccer when I was five and I was like born into soccer, my sister played so basically from the time I was born. I started playing and I immediately knew I was good at it from a very young age. I played on a rec team and when I went and played competitive I realized everyone was better than me and I wasn’t as good as I thought I was.”

Q: You started at an early age, but what made you love the sport?

A: I’m naturally competitive and love sports in general. I played all sports, but what made me love soccer was the camaraderie and the athleticism it took to be good. Everyone played, but there were very few people who were good at soccer. I tried to chase those people who I knew were going to play on the national team and play at some of the best colleges in the country. Eventually over time, every other sport fizzled out and I quit everything else. I was actually probably better at track than soccer, but I just loved the game and loved my teammates.

Q: Give us some background on your career before you received the offer from K-State:

A: I wasn’t always that incredible at soccer, but I was good and worked hard. In middle school, my teammates started getting recruited and I wasn’t getting recruited at all. I was tiny and nobody thought I was good enough. Beginning of high school at Edmond North, I started getting talked to by some mid-major D-1 schools, which was really fun because I was kind of important for the first time ever.

Playing in the Big 12 was always my dream, but sophomore year, I tore my ACL, MCL, PCL, meniscus and patella. I thought my career was over – the doctor told me it could take 18 months to be fully recovered, and right then I thought my chance of playing in college was gone.

But by the grace of God, I was back in five months playing with a knee brace.
Q: What was your recruiting process like?

A: Because of that injury, I didn’t get recruited to K-State until the beginning of my senior year. Recruiting is terrifying. There’s the pressure of getting one chance in one game and if you don’t impress them, they’ll never talk to you again, but I guess I did enough.
Q: Talk about your 11 months spent at K-State:

A: When they recruited me and when I went on a tour of campus, I told myself that I loved it, because it was basically my only opportunity left and I forced myself to fall in love with the idea of being there. I had to take the offer because I’d be wondering, ‘what if,’ for the rest of my life. I went and tried to get involved on campus, I joined a sorority, but it quickly became evident that I was only there for soccer.

I ended up dropping my sorority, got out of all of my involvements because my grades were falling apart and all I had was soccer. I loved the early morning practices – it was never too hard. I thrived on that stuff. I loved pushing myself and proving I was better than people.

I knew I wanted to transfer in September, but I stayed the entire year. That was hard. I was in this limbo period of both transition and waiting to be happy. I told my family in December but didn’t tell my coaches until April.

My coach actually pulled me aside before the last spring game once he found out I was transferring and he said, ‘hey, you’re going to go in and play the rest of the game. You’ve shown you’ve given a lot to this program, and we’re not mad at you,’ and I cried on the sideline before I went in. That meant a lot to me. But, it ended up being the best thing to happen to me.
Q: Talk about transferring to OU:

A: When I transferred in, I was excited to leave my freshman year at K-State behind because I felt relieved that after waiting months, it was finally here. But then, it sucked. I had so many doubts and thought I made a big mistake because soccer was the one thing I was really good at and left best friends at K-State behind for here where I had no friends. I regretted ever having gone to K-State, but I also regretted transferring, and my faith disappeared and that was a really big part of my life. I remember declaring that I didn’t believe in God anymore and I was so unhappy.

But once I stopped having a pity party and put myself out there, I did settle into the university and ended up loving it here. I became involved with Soonerthon, Crossover and campus ministry and I’ve found friends. Every once in awhile it still hits hard, but looking back I have best friends from all over this campus and that would not have happened if I would have gone here as a freshman, rushed a house and immediately been in a sorority.
Q: How have you changed since you came to OU?

A: I think it really shaped me into who I am right now. I don’t think my faith would be as strong as it is if I hadn’t experienced such a low, so it’s ended up being such a big blessing.
Q: Do you still have regrets?

A: That’s honestly a really good question that I still struggle with. I wouldn’t say I have regrets, but if I could go back I maybe would change it, and that sucks and I hate feeling like that because I would not have the life, friends, faith or experiences that I have now. I wouldn’t want to trade those, but if I could go back I maybe would have gone to OU as a freshman.

I hate feeling like that because I feel so blessed and I love how my life is now, but it could have been simpler and maybe coming here first wouldn’t have actually have been better, because the grass isn’t always greener. I have to remind myself that when I sometimes start thinking how it could have been different and be at peace with my life.

Essay: Changing seasons

By Mike McCareins

Crossing the ocean that Sunday in early December was like crossing into a new life. A life where my most important secret for over 21 years would now be out there – no going back.

I was on the train returning from a weekend exploring Copenhagen, Denmark, back to Aarhus, Denmark, where I was spending the fall 2017 semester studying abroad at Aarhus University. It was nearly midnight, the last train to town, and there were only a few other people in my train car. I felt more alone than maybe ever in the pitch-black night, zooming through rural Denmark. But I didn’t feel lonely.

Late at night, my usually carefree attitude often shifts to an emotional, more serious state of mind. Not necessarily in a bad way – I just think more about things at night. I think about life, and the important things about it. I can tell when I’m in that mood, because my love for rap music is pushed to the side and I’ll start listening to soft indie music. That night was no different, only I began thinking about perhaps the most important thing at that moment.

As we crossed the Great Belt Bridge, which connects the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen over a strait in the Atlantic Ocean, I pulled out my phone and starting drafting a message. “I know we joke about stuff a lot, but I’m being 100% dead serious. I promise I’m not playing right now.” Copy, pasted, sent to six of my most important friends at OU. Followed up by another, much shorter text, where I told them my secret.

My family already knew. After a night out in Brussels in mid-August – albeit with an assist from alcohol – I had the courage to tell my sister over the phone. The next day I gave her the thumbs up to tell my parents. But for some reason I had always been more nervous when it came to thinking of telling my friends.

Now, those six friends, a mix of rich and poor, liberal and conservative, religious and irreligious, all knew.

It was time to trust my friends and trust myself that I’d surrounded myself with accepting, open-minded people. Despite being nearly 5000 miles apart, I felt as close to those people as I ever had.

Regardless, I could feel sweat dripping down my sides. I was so overcome with nerves that I turned off notifications on my phone and sat there for five minutes listening to my Indie music, peacefully looking out the tinted window as we had crossed the bridge and were now on land. All I could think about was what they were thinking about. If they already knew. If how they thought about me would change. If my friendships forged with them the past three-plus years would be affected in any way.

Minutes past, and I summoned the courage to check my phone. Eventually, the replies began to roll in.

I went six for six.

I was infused and overcome with appreciation – eventually even feeling somewhat regretful. Could I have told them sooner in my college career? Probably, but ultimately, I told them there and then, and it felt natural. We all have those random moments throughout our lives that we look back on and remember. That was one of those moments for me. No matter where my relationship goes with those six people, they will always hold a special place in my heart.

My dorm was about a 15-minute walk from the train station in Aarhus. I vividly remember walking back in the wee hours of that Monday morning, seeing more rats (one) than humans (zero) the entire walk home. No noise, very few lights – just my music and my thoughts. I remember listening to, “Fallss,” by ‘Bayonne’. It was the same song I’d listened to months prior during a drive back to my hometown, Chicago, from Memphis in May. That day, the tranquility and feel-good vibe the song provided while cruising in rural Arkansas along the Mississippi River came at the same time I’d really accepted the person I was, and been OK with it.

It took me dozens of more listens to that song to understand the lyrics of the faint chorus. “Find the words I need to see – I can feel my fever start to break. Taking time to hesitate – I know the season’s about to change.” It’s like that song was written for me – for my circumstance.

It was as if the train reaching its destination was a change of seasons in my life. Not because anything physically changed around me, but it was day one of me being truly honest in every sense of the word.

That cold, damp December night in Denmark, my friends accepted the person I was, and they were OK with it – with me.

I don’t like to say my friends found out who I was, because as cliché as it is I don’t think it defines you. I do think my friends found out a very important part of me. A part that I believe is important because it’s a real-life example of, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

It’s tough to hide my immense passion for sports and rap music around classmates, co-workers, family and friends. However, I value the aspect of me that might surprise people.

Now, since that three-hour train ride, I’m just as OK letting people know I have a 59-hour-long rap playlist as I am with letting people know that I’m gay.

Story Behind the Story: Joe Buettner

Joe Buettner, a 2017 Gaylord graduate and longtime OU Daily staffer, capped off his college career with what he described as his most time-consuming and extensive story to date: an eight-part series surrounding the history of Oklahoma’s six Heisman Trophy winners.

A six-month process, Buettner found difficulty in managing his time among work, school, and the Heisman Evolution piece. Yet, his persistent commitment to completing a perfect product led to a story that would ultimately receive, and be nominated for, numerous awards.

“I wanted to end college doing something big. I actually initially kind of wanted to do a Bob Stoops book, where every chapter was for every season he coached there,” Buettner said. “My next idea was to do a feature on every OU Heisman winner, and we rolled it out in April of 2017, way before we knew Baker was going to actually win it.”

Now working as a digital content producer at KOKH FOX25 in Oklahoma City, Buettner managed to get in contact with five of Oklahoma’s six Heisman winners for the piece – Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White, Sam Bradford and Baker Mayfield. Billy Vessels was the lone former Sooner Heisman-winner who was not used as a source, having passed away in 2001.

“Billy’s was actually really easy (to write), because he had one of the first Heisman moments for OU to pinpoint and write about, which was in a game against Notre Dame, and one of his teammates (Merrill Green) gave me a 30-minute interview that kind of wrote the story,” Buettner said. “Bradford’s was tough because it was hard getting him on the phone, and he’s not a big fan of the media. I had to find a way to make him comfortable talking.”

The entire process from start to finish took eight months, from April 2017 to December 2017, completed on the same night Mayfield won the award.

While Buettner reported everything on his own, he relied on several members of the OU Daily to assist in completing the most polished final product possible.

“Six people helped me make this really awesome thing. Seth (Prince) was a huge help – he edited just about everything,” Buettner said. “I don’t think this project would have worked with any other advisor. We have a really good relationship.”

That working relationship is one thing Buettner, an Oklahoma City native, stressed as crucial in completing long projects such as his Heisman Evolution series.

“You need to surround yourself with really good people and make sure you’re working with good people,” Buettner noted. “You need to have people who trust in you, but also be open to their suggestions because they have good reason to want it to be great. It taught me to not be so independent as far as my writing, and be open to more suggestions.”

Part one, “Manufacturing a Winner,” was the national winner in the 2017 Mark of Excellence Awards for online sports reporting. The second part of the series, detailing Billy Vessels’ run to the 1951 Heisman, finished as the winner for sports writing in Region 8 (Oklahoma and Texas) in the 2017 Mark of Excellence Awards. The series can still be found on the OU Daily website.