Ghosting prominent among millennial

By PAXSON HAWS

After talking to a girl for over six months, Sammy Najib, a management info systems junior, realized this girl had decided to ghost him. Their communication had been consistent. They talked every day and had hours-long Facetime calls every night but when she hadn’t opened Najib’s Snapchat in five days, he knew it was over.

Despite suddenly being cut off, Najib was not hurt. Najib said being ghosted is something that has happened several times to him and stems from simply losing interest in a person.

“You get really involved in the conversation and then it just dies,” Najib said. “It’s just the conversation dies. You have to keep putting effort in to make a conversation. At that point, it’s not worth it anymore.”

Ghosting is ending a relationship by suddenly cutting off all contact with a person with an emphasis on electronic communication, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. While ghosting is not a new concept, the increase of technology and how it has simplified communication prompted Merriam-Webster to add the word ghosting to the dictionary in February 2017.

According to a survey from 2015 by the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of American adults have tried online dating. Online dating of those between the ages of 18 to 24 is up to 27 percent compared to 10 percent in 2013.

“It’s so much easier with social media and cell phone communication to simply avoid dealing with the end of a relationship than it was when you would run into a person you had been dating at parties or other gatherings of friends,” psychologist Diane Barth, who runs a private practice in New York, said. “But ending a relationship has always been hard and even in the days of just telephones for communications, people would stop calling and just disappear from your life without letting you know why.”

A study conducted by Gili Freedman and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships on Jan. 12, 2018, focuses on how theories of relationships relate to ghosting. According to Freedman’s website, she is an assistant professor in the psychology department at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and focuses on interpersonal processes.

Part of the survey asked 554 participants about their knowledge on ghosting. A little less than half were familiar with the term. Of those that were familiar with the term, 95 percent believed not responding to phone calls and text messages were behaviors associated with ghosting.

Participants were familiarized with ghosting and were asked to agree on which scenarios they believed it was acceptable to ghost a romantic partner. Some of the scenarios included were for a short-term relationship, a long-term relationship, before or after physical intimacy, and whether they have been or have ghosted someone. One hundred and forty participants said they had been ghosted while 120 said they had ghosted.

While Najib could easily tell he was being ghosted, Zain Anabtawi, a management info systems junior, did not realize he ghosted someone until years later when the girl called him out and told his sister.

Anabtawi started talking to the girl again during his senior year of high school. He didn’t think anything between them was serious, which is why he didn’t talk to her when he went out of town.

That’s when he started talking to, and soon started dating, another girl, Avery. The first girl was in college in Waco, Texas while Anabtawi went to high school in Grand Prairie. She had her own life and did her own thing so Anabtawi thought nothing of it. Two years later, she called him out.

“She reached out to me two months after me and Avery broke up, basically just checking up on me,” Anabtawi said. “She was like ‘Do you remember when you ghosted me’ or whatever. She brought it up and it was super awkward. I just really don’t remember it like that.”

Anabtawi has been on the other end of ghosting as well. He sent a direct message to a girl on Twitter after he moved to Norman and they started talking. This girl worked a lot and soon quit responding. Anabtawi thought nothing of it because he knows people just lose interest after a while.

“I feel like I’m at that point in my life where I’m not going to waste my time being hurt over someone who has moved on,” Anabtawi said. “So you just move on too.”

Alexandria Prothero, an international relations junior at Lindenwood University, used online dating apps several times before meeting her current boyfriend. She meet a boy named Jordan on the app Whisper, which is an app where people can share thoughts, advice and chat directly. Prothero was honest with Jordan about having an open relationship but he still bought her a ring despite the fact they had not met in person.

She was close with Jordan and his family until she learned he was seeing other people and kept it a secret. Prothero wanted to be taken seriously and she wasn’t going to get that with Jordan. She cut off his family and soon after told him she was in love with a different boy, her current boyfriend, and was moving to Seattle.

“I blocked him because I didn’t want him to respond,” Prothero said. “Every time something like that happened, he’d try to sweet talk himself back in just so I’d be some sort of security for him and it was just draining and mentally exhausting. I never got my closure.”

Jordan was blocked from a variety of different social media platforms and because they never saw each other in person, social media, texting and calling was their only form of communication. It made it easy to cut off contact.

“Social media makes it easier to ghost people,” Barth said. “You can just block someone or unfriend someone and that’s the end of the contact.

While just over nine percent of those who took part in Freedman’s study said they would consider ghosting someone, Trevor Bryant, an international business junior, said ghosting seems pretty common.

“I think it’s just like a thing where millennials don’t like confrontation sometimes,” Bryant said. “So they don’t want to be like that. They don’t want to say that to someone. It’s just easier to not reply.”

 

E-cigarette use among​ young adults is on the rise

By KATELYN HOWARD

Reoccurring sights on a college campus include students riding their bikes or organizations handing out flyers, but another common sight at the University of Oklahoma is vapor clouds, which are often accompanied by scents like mango or creme.

Whether walking to class or studying in the library, an increasing number of students can be found using electronic cigarettes like the brand JUUL, but efforts to decrease nicotine use among minors and young adults might change this.

JUUL devices, which hit the market in 2015, can be used discretely since they resemble in both style and size a USB flash drive. JUULpods, which are cartridges that are placed into the top of the device, contain a salt-based nicotine e-liquid formula, according to JUUL’s website. When the e-liquid is heated, the vapor is generated and inhaled.

The nicotine in one JUULpod is equivalent to a whole pack of cigarettes, but about 37 percent of 15- to 24-year-old JUUL consumers are unaware of whether the product contains nicotine, according to the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

In November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that the agency is seeking to have all flavored e-cigarette products, other than tobacco, mint and menthol, “sold in age-restricted, in-person locations and, if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification.”

Two days before this announcement, JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement that the company would discontinue selling fruit and desert-flavored JUULpods to retailers and will only sell them to stores that scan IDs to ensure the customer is 21-years-old. For online purchases, the company will use more age-verification measures.

Alex Weeks, a 21-year-old Norman resident, said he started smoking cigarettes when he was 15 and started using e-cigarettes when he was 18. He used the JUUL for about four months and would use about one JUULpod a day, with mint being his favorite flavor.

“It was nice to feel that rush to the head and that tingling sensation again after not feeling that from smoking for a long time,” said Weeks.

He still alternates between vaping and smoking cigarettes

According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, more than half of e-cigarette users are under the age of 35-years-old, and consumption is the highest among 18- to 24-year-olds with about 2.8 million users in this age range.

JUUL is more popular than any e-cigarette brand made by big tobacco companies, according to the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. Garrett Lee, an associate at the vaporizer store The Intake in Norman, said about every 3 out of 5 customers buys JUULpods or a similar pod system. He said people of all ages purchase JUUL products at the store, but many are 18- to 20-year-olds.

The Intake is about four miles away from OU. A pack of four JUULpods cost about $16, according to JUUL’s website.

Lee said the restrictions have not impacted the store’s business yet since they have a large supply of flavored JUULpods. Once their supply is gone, they will have to wait to get an ID scanner and will only be able to sell JUULpod flavors like mango, cucumber, creme and fruit to customers 21-years-old or older. Customers between the ages of 18- to 20-years-old will still be able to purchase mint, tobacco and menthol-flavored JUULpods.

Weeks now uses a cheaper e-cigarette, but he enjoyed using the JUUL since it was small, simple to use and could easily be charged by using a USB port.

“I didn’t have to mess with buying juice and filling it up or anything,” Weeks said. “I would just buy the pods, buy the JUUL and go.”

Julie Bisbee, director of public information and outreach for the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, said it is fair to say e-cigarette usage can be higher in a college town like Norman since it houses a larger number of 18- to 24-year-olds.

Nicotine typically does not have an appealing flavor, Bisbee said, so flavored products ease the harshness. She said placing more restrictions on fruit and desert-flavored nicotine will hopefully lead to fewer young people experimenting with e-cigarettes.

“We know that the person’s brain is still developing until they are 25 so those things that you start doing in adolescents and young adulthood can be hardwired into your brain and make it even more difficult to quit nicotine, which in and of itself is highly addictive,” Bisbee said.

Nicotine can have long-term damaging effects on adolescent brain development and can affect the cardiovascular system, according to the Youth Engagement Alliance For Tobacco Control.

Even though the JUUL and e-cigarettes can be used to help people stop smoking cigarettes, it has also attracted many non-smokers. Out of all e-cigarette consumers, 15 percent never smoked cigarettes, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust funds services like 1-800-QUIT NOW, which is a 24 hour, seven days a week hotline where tobacco users can call and receive services and free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges. Bisbee said the trust is preparing to launch a campaign about the risk and harm of flavored nicotine products.

Trend: What is next for education spending in Oklahoma?

By OLAN FIELD

Seven months and a midterm election later, the lasting effects of Oklahoma’s teacher walkout in April remains anything but clear.

According to Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, 70 to 80 former teachers left their positions after the walkout in April to run for the state legislator. Rosecrants is a former teacher who was first elected in a special election in 2017, after his predecessor resigned, inspired to run after a decade of cuts to public education dating to 2007.

“I honestly had heard numbers, and people were telling me, ‘You know, that wasn’t going to be a big blue wave, but it was going to be a big educator wave,’ and we saw that,” Rosecrants said.

Education was a top issue discussed in the run-up to the election, with every candidate being questioned about their plan to its restore funding. Oklahoma cut the education budget by 26.9 percent between 2008 and 2017, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute. According to the latest data from the National Center of Education Statistics, Oklahoma spends $8,096 per student.

Former educators ran as both Democrats and Republicans, illustrating that this was not a partisan issue for voters. With many of these educators beating their incumbent opponents who voted against measures that would increase taxes and be allocated toward public education.

This is what newly elected Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, did when she ran against incumbent Bobby Cleveland, an opponent of the teacher walkout who voted against HB 1010 and stated during the workout that “The the teachers should be in the classroom.”

With funding to public education being a significant influence on the election, an educated assumption would be that it will be a focus of the coming legislative session, but some representatives say that the topic may take a second-row seat.

“We will have to wait and see if more revenue will go to education, or if it’s time to move on to something else,” Rosecrants said. “Criminal justice reform and mental health issues are the two big issues, and I think you’re going to see that with this particular session rather than education.”

Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, believes that more effort needs to be placed on finding revenue measures that can increase spending for public education.

“We had 10 years of cuts to public education equaling about a billion dollars. There is no way that one year of increased funding is going to make up for that incredible loss,” said Priest.

The Oklahoma Education Association, through a coalition called ‘Save Our State,’ proposed a variety of budget revenue options in what they call a “blueprint for a better budget.” This plan includes raising the gross production tax on oil and gas by another two percent and reforming the corporate income tax.

On March 29, four days before the start of the teacher walkout, Gov. Mary Fallin signed both HB 1010 and HB 1023 under threat of an impending teacher strike.

HB 1010 was the largest tax increase ever to be passed in the state of Oklahoma. The revenue packages totaling $474 million through a variety of revenue measures including an increase in the gross production tax to five percent, a $5 hotel/motel tax, and an increase to the sales tax on gasoline and diesel. HB 1023, allocated revenue from HB 1010 to fund the $5,000 raise to first-year teachers.

Over the weekend, it was unsure if the teacher walkout would continue on Monday as planned. Teachers would still show up, demanding an increase in funding for the classroom. The walkout would end after nine days as some of the state’s largest districts resumed class, without any significant legislation being passed.

Morgan Russell, a teacher at Westmoore High School who attended the teacher walkout, believes the “education crisis is still a crisis.”

“(Teacher raises) are not the sole reason we were at the Capitol,” Russell said. “We didn’t get funding for the classroom. That means our students are still using textbooks that are ancient and that we still have too many students in our classroom that are still falling apart.”

Russell understands that education is not the only issue facing the state, but believes that it is a root cause for many of the other issues.

“We incarcerate more women per capita than any other state, and the data clearly shows that when education goes up, incarcerations go down. Our state, in particular, has a school to prison pipeline, so we need to address the problem from both ends,” Russell said.

It is still unknown if the newly elected legislators who ran on an agenda to increase education spending will have their way in the coming session, or if they will have to negotiate their votes with the leadership in favor of having education funding measures heard on the floor.

“I don’t personally believe education will be pushed aside in the near future,” said Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee. “Win or lose, Republican or Democrat, start looking at the big picture of things that we need to fix. Many different areas across the state, including education and prioritize them. Until then, our state will continue to be at the bottom of all of this.”

Education will certainly be on the minds of many at the Capitol, but whether or not any legislation for more spending on public education remains to be seen.

Trend — Uber, Lyft services increase in college towns

By KELCI McKENDRICK

Getting into a car with a stranger after a night of partying is one thing Moms everywhere probably never wanted their kids to do, but it’s becoming a safer trend in college towns across America.

For most college students, Uber and Lyft are a fast, safe way for them to get home from wherever they are. Other students without vehicles have a quick, easy way to get to Walmart for shopping or to a restaurant to meet with a friend.

“(Uber and Lyft) offer a safer opportunity for especially people who do drink a lot because you can’t always depend on the (designated driver) or you may not be able to find one,” said Cheyenne Wiley, a psychology junior at the University of Oklahoma who uses Uber or Lyft around three times a month. “ It’s safer than drinking and driving.”

Wiley doesn’t own a vehicle in Norman and said she’s increased using Uber and Lyft this year than during her first two years at OU because she goes out a lot more. Her friend group has gotten smaller, so she said she can’t always depend on them for rides like she can with reasonably-priced Uber.

Lili Escandon is another Uber rider who said she uses Uber around four times a month and a lot more around finals week when her friends are busy.

“I don’t have a car,” Escandon said. “Sometimes I have to go grocery shopping … and when I don’t have any friends to take me, the only option I do have is Uber. Because this is such a college town, it’s not too expensive.”

Escandon said she and some of her friends from freshman year didn’t bring their vehicles from their hometowns because parking is an issue on campus. She also said she appreciates having the services there to avoid drinking and driving in Norman.

In Norman, Uber and Lyft are on the rise as a main way of transportation students at the University of Oklahoma and other Norman citizens.

The concept of these companies is similar to taxis. However, services like Uber and Lyft are cost-reducing for riders and help people earn extra income.

“(Uber and Lyft) are reasonably-priced, so it’s easy, and you only have to pay for one way,” Wiley said. “If you have a friend who can take you back home, you don’t have to pay for a round-trip.”

Aili Johnson is a Lyft driver with an anxiety disorder. Driving with Lyft allows her to work in an environment she is comfortable in.

“It’s hard to find jobs,” Johnson said. “A lot of places that are hiring typically have stuff where you have to be doing 100 things at once … which would probably cause me to have a panic attack … It just took forever to find a job where it wouldn’t be so bad.”

Johnson also said one benefit to Uber and Lyft compared to taxis is having the destination already in place. She said this allows riders who are mute to avoid the hassle of communication with drivers.

Phil Rulls is an Uber driver who has been driving for almost a year and almost has 3,000 rides. With a 4.77 rating on the app, Rulls said driving for Uber is a great way for him to earn an income while he’s applying for physical therapy schools at OU and Langston University after graduating from both OU and Oklahoma City Community College.

Rulls also said he believes Uber and Lyft will push taxis out in the future due to Uber and Lyft being cheaper.

“Why pay $100 to go to the airport when you could get an Uber for $40 to get to the same place?” Rulls said.

In the years since Uber first arrived, its sales have increased. Uber alone has 3 millions drivers and 75 million riders, with about 15 million trips completed each day.

According to an Uber Newsroom article, a study found that “Uber is adding substantial (and measurable) value to people’s lives.” Uber contributes $17 billion to the U.S. economy. Uber saves time and money, and a report from Uber states 33 percent of Uber riders pay for car parking less often.

In 2013, Uber and Lyft began specifically targeting colleges and universities. Uber offered promotional deals and visited campuses such as MIT and Boston University during orientation week. The company also partnered with Chegg to place a new rider gift card in textbook shipments.

Lyft joined in on that movement, partnering with universities and greek organizations in Los Angeles and Boston to provide rides to students.

Although Uber and Lyft are competing companies, the two are on the rise and are making their riders safer. Both companies do background checks on drivers and have requirements on vehicles. The Uber app also has features to share location with a friend and, in the event of a crash, to make sure the rider is OK and gets help quickly.

Uber is a San Francisco-based company that launched in 2011. It came to Oklahoma City in 2013 and drew scrutiny from taxi and limo services. The controversy was Uber providing services without proper licensing.

With cars toting a pink mustache on the grill, Lyft, another San Francisco-based company, joined Uber in Oklahoma City in 2014.

In 2015, Uber and Lyft both received business licenses to operate in Oklahoma City. That same year, The Norman Transcript released an opinion article explaining why Norman should also welcome the companies.

“The current generation of college students are to be commended for having the wisdom to use Uber and Lyft to shuttle between their residences and the various venues they attend where drinking alcohol may be a part of the evening’s festivities,” the article said.

Norman Uber and Lyft drivers operate without a license. In November, City Hall Clerk Brenda Hall brought complaints about that to City Council Community Planning and Transportation Committee members, with the conclusion that a decision to take action will happen next year, according to a Norman Transcript article.

Despite the issues the companies faced, Uber and Lyft drivers in Norman like the opportunity to have a job where they make their own hours without a boss, and riders, especially college students, appreciate having a safe, inexpensive way to get home.

“Lyft and Uber are the future, for sure,” Johnson said.

Trend: Academic freedom

By DREW HUTCHINSON

Adorning the University of Oklahoma seal is the image of a man, shaded from the sun by his hat, sprinkling seeds on the plowed earth. Below the image are the words “Civi et reipublicae,” which translate to “For the benefit of the citizen and the state.”

OU Provost Kyle Harper said this phrase reflects OU’s dedication to preparing students for both civic life and careers — a mission he said public universities should embrace.

Part of this mission, he said, involves upholding the principles of academic freedom, which give faculty full freedom in research and publication. Harper said this protects free inquiry, which he said benefits students and promotes deep-rooted values of democracy.

“Universities ought to be places where people are exposed to different ideas, where there’s respectful disagreement, where students form their opinions and are challenged to think about what they believe … ” Harper said.

This year, more than 30 colleges and universities have revived their chapters of the American Association of University Professors, an academic freedom advocacy group, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. OU is not among these institutions, a faculty member said. But the issue of academic freedom is alive at the university, for better or worse.

Academic freedom at OU
Megan Elwood Madden, OU Faculty Senate chair, said she estimates academic freedom comes up once per year in her organization, often in differing contexts.

“For example, one of the questions we posed to President (James) Gallogly … focused on the potential effects of private funding and gifts on academic integrity and academic freedom at OU,” Elwood Madden said. “In other cases, Faculty Senate discussions about syllabi and course materials have also included questions about academic freedom.”

Harper also said very few run-ins with academic freedom come to his attention annually. Harper, who earned a degree in letters from OU and a doctorate in history from Harvard University, has been provost since 2015, according to his webpage.

“(Academic freedom is) something that is so fundamental that it frames everything we do in a certain way, and it’s deeply embedded in the institution and practices like tenure,” Harper said. “But at the same time, how many controversial academic freedom issues ever arise? Very few.”

This year, OU has had two known run ins with the issue, one more explicit than the other, when the OU Daily uncovered and published stories on Brian McCall, former associate law dean, and Tom Orr, former school of drama director.

The Daily discovered McCall to be affiliated with three Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate groups: Catholic Family News, where McCall serves as editor-in-chief, The Remnant and The Fatima Center.

McCall also published a 2014 book called To Build the City of God: Living as Catholics in a Secular Age. The book contained controversial passages about women’s dress, women’s voting rights, separation of church and state, gay marriage and education.

“… if there is something really impossible to do in a skirt, does this not indicate this is an activity inappropriate for a woman to perform?” McCall wrote in the book. “A simple test of modest and feminine behavior can be summarized: if you can’t do it modestly and gracefully in a skirt, you shouldn’t do it at all.”

Cary Nelson, former president of the AAUP, said in The Daily’s story that McCall’s publications were protected under academic freedom as a professor but not as an administrator.

Shortly after the story ran, McCall resigned his associate deanship amid public pressure.

“Brian McCall has voluntarily resigned his position as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, effective immediately, because of the controversy about his personal statements,” Joseph Harroz, OU College of Law dean, said in a statement.

Some readers praised The Daily for exposing McCall’s views. NonDoc, an Oklahoma City news outlet, published an opinion piece by Lori Walke, a minister and Oklahoma City University law school graduate, on Oct. 5. Walke said in the piece that religious fundamentalists had no place in positions of authority.

“As disturbing as McCall’s beliefs are, Oklahomans should be relieved at the outing of these religious fundamentalists,” Walke wrote. “Their ideals are harmful and embarrassing.”

Others were outraged and said the incident was an attack on free speech and academic freedom. The Journal Record published an opinion piece by Andrew C. Spiropoulos, a frequent guest columnist for the publication, on Oct. 10. He said in the piece that the controversy surrounding McCall might make other traditionalists feel excluded from the OU community.

“We don’t know whether McCall was forced out, but we do know that a community genuinely dedicated to the principles of free inquiry and intellectual pluralism would never have let this story end this unhappily,” Spiropoulos wrote.

Harper said many cases of academic freedom arise from areas related to other campus policies.

“Academic freedom is generally something that might be invoked in the course of a conflict or controversy that’s about some other policy,” Harper said. “There are appropriate professional expectations that might be embedded in other policies, for instance, policies against harassment or discrimination, and … students, faculty, employees have mechanisms to pursue issues or problems through those channels.”

Academic freedom allows professors to conduct their classes however they please, unless their teaching displays an incompetence for their area of study, Nelson wrote in “Defining Academic Freedom” for Inside Higher Ed. Academic freedom also does not protect harassment, Nelson wrote.

Tom Orr, OU Helmerich School of Drama professor and former director of the department, also became a controversial figure after The Daily reported that multiple former students had accused him of sexual misconduct. The students said he would often make references to his sexual tastes in class, even disclosing that he was attracted to some of his students.

“Ray said one day, not many students showed up to class, so Orr took them to the campus Starbucks and bought them all coffee. They then sat down in the courtyard of the Oklahoma Memorial Union for class, and during this time Orr said his favorite students were always the ones ‘he’d like to fuck,’” The Daily reported.

In the same story, The Daily reported that a Title IX investigation did not produce substantial evidence of a policy violation on Orr’s part. He has since retained his professorship.

History and future of academic freedom
The provisions of academic freedom can be complicated and at times rely on case-by-case evaluations. In 2010, Inside Higher Ed published Nelson’s piece to break down the idea.

“Academic freedom gives both students and faculty the right to express their views — in speech, writing, and through electronic communication, both on and off campus — without fear of sanction, unless the manner of expression substantially impairs the rights of others or, in the case of faculty members, those views demonstrate that they are professionally ignorant, incompetent, or dishonest with regard to their discipline or fields of expertise,” Nelson wrote.

Academic freedom began to bloom in Medieval European universities, which were somewhat self-governing despite religious oversight, according to New World Encyclopedia. The concept gained traction with Martin Luther’s post on a church door — the Protestant Reformation created Protestant universities, which helped dismantle Catholic control of higher education.

But 19th century Germany is much to credit for academic freedom, University of Waterloo professor Shannon Dea wrote in a piece for Canadian news site University Affairs. Prussian philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt helped reform the country’s universities by coining “Lehrfreiheit” and “Lernfreiheit”: “freedom to teach” and “freedom to learn,” Dea wrote.

“(Academic freedom is) a value and an idea that develops in the early to mid 20th century with the modernization of the university … and arises out of efforts to exert political control over inquiry,” Harper said.

Dea wrote that in 1898, American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce gave a lecture at Harvard University, in which he criticized the vocational nature of American universities and praised Germany’s commitment to advancing knowledge. He even called German universities “the light of the whole world,” she wrote.

By 1915, the AAUP had formed and drafted its first statement on academic freedom, the 1915 Declaration of Principles, according to the organization’s website. The statement was revised in 1940 and again in 1970, according to the website, and more than 250 scholarly and professional associations now endorse it.

Rachel Larris, AAUP media and communications strategist, said the organization can redraft its academic freedom statement by joint action, but she said it’s impossible to estimate the likelihood.

Like many universities, OU derived its academic freedom policy from the AAUP’s statement, according to the faculty handbook, which contains a section on the issue. The handbook states that faculty members are “entitled to full freedom in research and publication.”

“As a citizen engaged in a profession that depends upon freedom for its health and integrity, the university teacher has a particular obligation to promote conditions of free inquiry and to further public understanding of academic freedom,” the policy states.

However, faculty should make every attempt not to speak for the university when exercising their freedom, according to the handbook.

“As members of the community, university teachers have the rights and obligations of any citizen,” the policy states. “They measure the urgency of these obligations in the light of their responsibilities … In speaking or acting as private persons, faculty members should avoid creating the impression of speaking or acting for their college or university.”

Shayla Powers, a senior English major at OU, said she was not aware of professors’ freedom of publication until this semester when she read The Daily’s story about McCall.

“I assumed that while (professors) may hold opinions in their personal lives, they would be limited in their ability to publish as representatives of the university,” Powers said. “The students of the university have moral and ethical standards that we are expected to uphold, and I guess I assumed that the professors would be held to those as well.”

She said she understands that universities rely on the free exchange of ideas, but she said professors should uphold the values of the institution.

Amid a perceived attack on academic freedom, more than 30 colleges and universities have formed or reinstated their AAUP chapters within the last year — most recently the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Elwood Madden said she hasn’t participated in any discussions of bringing an AAUP chapter to OU. But she said she and several other professors are members of the organization and participate in regional meetings.

Going forward, Powers said she thinks academic freedom should be scaled back. People must start to draw a line between right and wrong as society progresses, she said.

“I don’t think that academic freedom means that professors or whoever should be able to publish articles that perpetuate stereotypes or prejudices,” Powers said. “We should be better than that by now, especially here at a university that pushes the idea of inclusivity and diversity.”

Powers said she thinks unregulated freedom of publication can do harm, conscious or not, to students.

“As a woman, I don’t want to be taught by a professor that thinks women are inferior to men or anything like that,” Powers said. “Those kinds of beliefs are affecting the education that I pay thousands of dollars for and work extremely hard for, whether they want to acknowledge that or not.”

However, Harper said he has faith that academic freedom will stand the test of time. He said academic freedom may evolve, but it will likely remain embedded in the foundation of universities.

“On a day to day basis, most of us operate in an environment that is so infused with this value that we’re able to endure and benefit from this statement that’s now 78 years old,” Harper said. “In that way, it’s like many of the core values of our constitutional system that ultimately transcend any particular moment and endure challenges that may arise.”

Trend: Oklahoma state parks face uncertainty as funds decrease, cities turn to privatization

By Sierra Rains-Moad

Matthew Mears has watched his small town grow and flourish around the reddish brown sandstone of Red Rock Canyon for years.

The children of Hinton, Oklahoma learn to swim at the canyon’s pool, families take the day off to enjoy the natural beauty in their backyards and the town’s economy runs heavily off the revenue visitors bring in, said Mears, who serves as the town administrator.

“Everyday you go down there during the summer it is packed full of campers– it’s pretty much at it’s limit everyday throughout the summer,” Mears said. “It draws a huge crowd to the town.”

But the quality of life and sales tax revenue the park brings to the small town, just an hour away from Oklahoma City, is under threat as the park has continuously made the “short list” of state parks slated to be shut down, Mears said. 

Red Rock Canyon is not alone. An increasing number of Oklahoma state parks are making this list as the state budget decreases, leaving several parks with either the option of ceasing operations or becoming privately owned. 

Increase in demand, decrease in supply 

With a remaining 62,000 acres of natural resources to explore, the number of state park visitors has continued to increase by 7.5 percent since 2014, reaching a total of around 9.7 million visitors in 2017, said Leslie Blair, public information officer for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

“Tourism is a big driver for the economy of Oklahoma,” Blair said. “We’re the state’s third largest industry, which brings over $8 billion to the state each year. State parks aren’t all of that, but they are part of that.”

In 2017, state parks brought in around $22.5 million, and an additional $23.3 million from sales by nearby businesses, Blair said. 

However, Blair said the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department has taken “significant hits” to its budget for several years, leaving the department to operate with nearly 45 percent less state legislatively appropriated funding.

Of the department’s $80.9 million budget, state parks receive around 76 percent, Blair said.

In March 2017, the Oklahoma legislature asked state agencies to consider the impact a worst-case-scenario budget reduction of 15 percent might have on their services; and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department feared this would cost the state around half of its 32 state parks.

Blair said the department faced a similar 10 percent cut in 2011 and, as a result, shed seven state parks.

However, because cuts to the department were not as drastic as imagined and due to a $1.4 million donation on behalf of the U.S. Department of Interior, the department was able to stabilize its budget for the first time this year.

But for some state parks like Red Rock Canyon, the damage had already been done.

The privatization experiment

Local businessman Rick Thiel spent most of his life growing up in Hinton, repelling down the red rock walls and cooling down in the pool. When Thiel heard that the park might be facing closure, he went to the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation with a business proposition.

Thiel wanted to run the park himself, but the only way he could do so is if the state leased it to the city, a county or a tribal affiliate, he said.

At this point, it seemed like the most logical decision as town administrator was to step in, Mears said. And because Thiel was a local resident, he had greater appeal than other private contractors might.

“As far as the town’s concerned, we don’t want to see it (the park) close so that’s one of the reasons we got involved, to make sure someone from town could be running it,” Mears said.

Upon reaching agreement with Mears and executive director of the state tourism department, Dick Dutton, in November 2018, the state leased Red Rock Canyon State Park to the town of Hinton, which then leased the park to Thiel’s company.

As a result, the park has shed its former title and become known as Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park.

When Red Rock Canyon was a state park it cost around $300 to operate it, but the park itself was only bringing in $160, Mears said.

“For the private company to make it work, they’re going to have to change something,” Mears said. “He’s going to run it more like a company instead of like a state park so it will actually break even or make money.”

Thiel said he wants to make several additions and improvements to the park, including the addition of a zip line, obstacle courses, concession stands, cafes and a dam which will increase the size of the pond.

It’s not unusual for struggling state parks to turn to private ownership as a means of preservation, Blair said. Five of the seven parks shuttered in 2011 are now operated by private contractors.

“It is to our understanding that local areas are still operating those very similar to how we had been operating them,” Blair said.

Conflicts in enterprise  

However, the arrangement with Red Rock Canyon did not come without opposition.

David Sutton served as park manager for Red Rock Canyon from 1986 until retiring earlier this year and is concerned about how operation as a for-profit enterprise might affect the park, according to The Oklahoman.

One of Sutton’s fears that the change will lead to reduced hours and access has already become a reality, Mears said. The park will now be closed at dusk, so that only paying campers may come in and out.

Whether it’s small or substantial changes, other Oklahoma state parks have faced great disappointment in promises of privatization.

In 2008, the state sold 750 acres of Lake Texoma State Park to a private development firm, which agreed to add condos, hotels, golf courses, restaurants, swimming pools, a gym, and other amenities to the park, but 10 years later the land remains nothing but an unkempt space of weeds and trees.

If Thiel’s company fails, Red Rock Canyon Adventure park will return to the ownership of either the city or the state, Mears said.

However, failure would mean a great amount of uncertainty for the park, a loss of revenue for the town of Hinton and an even greater hole in the hearts of residents.

“To lose that, to lose that quality of life– it would be a huge loss if it shut down,” Mears said.

Trend — The American church is changing

By CHANDLER WILSON

Most millennials can recall Sunday mornings in their childhood where they sang from a hymnal and listened to a male pastor in a clergy robe while sitting in a pew wearing a suit or dress next to their parents.

But culture is changing, and so is the church.

Nearly one in five (19 percent) Americans is leaving their childhood religion and becoming religiously unaffiliated while only 3 percent of Americans who grew up unaffiliated are joining a religion, according to a 2016 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.

Across the country, churches are trading in suits for jeans, hymns for contemporary worship music and multi-hour sermons for shorter worship experiences and small groups in an attempt to reach an increasingly non-religious culture that lacks trust in authority and is governed by social media.

“People don’t actually have real relationships with people because they do it all behind a computer,” said Shaina Smith, executive pastor of ministries at Victory Family Church in Norman, Oklahoma. “People are craving relationship and craving connection. The church is changing because the culture is changing. People want real. They want authentic.”

Compared to the mere 6 percent of Americans claiming no religious affiliation in 1991, the now 25 percent and rising religiously unaffiliated people in the United States, according to the 2016 PRRI survey, leave many to wonder if Christianity will fade away or be revived.

Even in the most-religious states in America, such as Oklahoma, where only 18 percent of the 3.94 million population claimed no religious affiliation in 2014, churches are being forced to adapt.

In Norman, one of the state’s largest cities, less than half the population considers itself to be religious, despite living in the Bible Belt.

According to Rev. Rodney Newman, a pastor at Bridgeview United Methodist Church in Norman and a Theology instructor at Oklahoma City University, religion is becoming irrelevant in people’s lives.

“Many now find meaning in relationships and friend groups and turn more to entertainment options,” Newman said. “For instance, some find meaning through popular music, television shows and movies that seem to deal with real issues. Religion doesn’t seem to add anything they can’t get elsewhere.”

Congregation counselor and author Dr. Steve McSwain wrote in a Huffington Post article entitled, “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore” that too many leaders in church ignore the fact that the American church is dying.

Though the demographic of the country is changing at a fast pace, the demographic of most churches is failing to catch up.

***

While the church has struggled adapting and growing overall, many churches across the country are still experiencing growth with each Sunday.

According to a blog post from Carey Nieuwhof, pastor of Connexus Church in Ontario, Canada, those willing to reconsider their methods are succeeding in preserving their mission.

In other words, churches don’t have to change what they believe in order to attract today’s culture.

Victory Family Church, a local contemporary church with an influential presence across the metro area and within the University of Oklahoma student body, is located in a large building near the I-35 Flood Ave. exit and the Cleveland County Jail.

Head pastors Adam and Kristy Starling felt called to leave the church they worked at in Oklahoma City to launch Victory alongside members from another Norman church. Shortly after Victory’s January 2013 opening, Hobby Lobby donated thousands of dollars for expansion.

In Victory’s near six years, average attendance has gone from around 100 people to over 4,000 and continues to grow weekly, according to Smith. Now, Victory is doing its fourth building project as well as launching a second location in Newcastle set to open in January 2019.

The Starlings were hopeful their location, along with the different religious backgrounds, races, cultures, struggles and experiences of their 38-person staff, would attract a variety of people and grow their church.

With nearly a hundred small groups, ranging from soccer teams to prayer groups to a money management course, Victory has emphasized creating an environment of genuine inclusion where anyone can find what they are looking for.

“We want people to feel like family, so it doesn’t matter what they look like or what they are wearing,” Smith said. “We just want people to feel welcome no matter what.”

According to a 2017 Pew survey of more than 4,000 people, 48 percent of Christian interviewees said they do not attend church because they haven’t felt welcomed by congregations.

To better do this and create inclusion, Victory goes into the community as opposed to assuming the community will come to them.

“The modern church can offer an updated version of social engagement by servicing, giving voice to the marginalized and meeting the real needs of people,” Newman said. “This might include addiction recovery, criminal justice reform, community organizing and challenging embedded systems of injustice, including issues of race and gender.”

They do pop-up churches, park food trucks, speak with campus ministries and provide services to different members of the church and in the community, such as single mothers and economically disadvantaged people.

Because of this, along with their emphasis on diversity within their staff, their volunteers and throughout the church, Victory has found success in not only attracting a wide range of people, but retaining their attendance and involvement as well, according to Smith.

“Jesus himself certainly upset the current social order,” Newman said. “I don’t think social engagement will necessarily be through classes at the church but in home meetings, pub conversations, feeding the hungry and exploring new forms of prayer.”

***

Newer churches often find it easier to reach people because they are beginning with the most up-to-date strategies as opposed to older, more traditional churches who may have to change their approach, according to McSwain.

But traditional mainline Protestant churches do not have to hang flashy lights and hire a worship band to perform in their stained-glass sanctuaries to better connect with a changing culture, he discussed.

McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church has been in its original location behind Campus Corner and near downtown Main Street since 1924 and has a strong, traditional presence in the Norman community.

“I’ve gone to both contemporary and traditional services, and I like both for different reasons,“ McFarlin attendee Amelia Kinsinger said. “As a college student, I think the pastors at contemporary services generally have the messages that are better for my life right now, but I think the thing that’s nice about traditional is the atmosphere generally feels a little more authentic to me.”

With both contemporary and traditional services offered and a live-stream option for the 10:55 a.m. service, along with informative and updated social media accounts, McFarlin’s growth has remained steady as culture has changed.

“We stay current on technological advances and how those advances might help us continue to live out our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ,” said the Rev. Wendi Neal, associate pastor at McFarlin. “Millennials follow the same attendance trends that we see across other age demographics.”

As a leader of a church, there is a temptation to ignore trends or minimize the impact they will have on how the church is operated, Nieuwhof wrote.

McFarlin’s willingness to adapt with advancing technology and current trends while maintaining its traditional Methodist roots is what has kept it successful.

Many older congregations fall apart because of their unwillingness to change what they have always done, according to Newman.

They focus on preserving the institution rather than connecting with people, which leads newcomers to lose interest, he continued, but churches who are willing to adapt will find they don’t have to change what they believe in.

“Because our world is so surrounded by electronics and social media, the only way to interact with our generation is with interface,” OU senior Marykate Motley said. She grew up in a Methodist church and now attends Antioch, another non-denominational, contemporary church in Norman. “Without social media it’s hard to catch people’s attention or draw them in in the first place.”

***

Regardless of the size of the congregation or whether a church is traditional or contemporary, revival is possible, according to Newman, but churches must focus on serving people rather than focusing on their own struggles.

Newman believes revival will happen when the church begins to resemble the earliest days of Christianity.  

“Early Christians were known to help and love non-Christians and provide security to those that felt abandoned or unable to provide for themselves,” Newman said. “Younger people tend to care more about social issues such as racism or sexism. The church of today seems to either not address these issues, talks about them too generically or takes retrogressive stances that come across as out of touch or even harmful, which is another example of how the church is fixated on internal squabbles rather than turning outward to the world we are called to serve.”

According to Nieuwhof, the biggest complaint of non-church goers is hypocrisy in the church, which leads to a declining trust in institutions and authority.

In order to combat the 65 percent of declining or plateauing churches in the U.S., the church would do well to address complaints and create a space where people feel welcome. 

“The reason why we are a church is because we want to tell more people about Jesus,” Smith said. “It’s not the four walls. It’s not the building. It’s just so people can really have an encounter with Jesus, and we truly believe that their lives can be changed.”