By Gwyneth Easley

To the University of Oklahoma community, the ponies Boomer and Sooner represented more than a game day tradition. They pulled the schooner, but they also pulled Sooner Nation together and reflected the long standing tradition of OU.

In December of 2019, after ten years of pulling the schooner the University of Oklahoma said a difficult goodbye to the fifth generation Boomer and Sooner. 

When Boomer and Sooner were born 14 years ago they didn’t know that they were special. They didn’t know that they had already been selected as the next OU mascots, and they didn’t know that they were going to lead a schooner and an entire community.

They were just two white Welsh ponies that liked to run. 

After they were born, the ponies trained for years to become the next Boomer and Sooner. According to a story run by The Oklahoman, they became the mascots when the old were retired after the 2007 Bedlam game.

When the call came to retire the old ponies, the old Boomer was 19 years old and was reportedly the lazier of the two ponies. The old Sooner was 18 years old and was described as being full of life.

In 2008, when the new Boomer and Sooner began pulling the schooner, the roles were reversed. The 2019 RUF/NEKS agree that when it came to Boomer and Sooner, Boomer was the exuberant one with the big personality and Sooner was more laid back. 

“Boomer definitely had a big personality,” RUF/NEK and University of Oklahoma sophomore Conner Haigh said while laughing. “She knew she was important, so she liked to do her own thing. She was a little diva.”

According to Haigh, during the 2019  Big 12 Championship, Boomer decided she wanted to run instead of taking pictures with fans, so she started kicking up, head butting and nipping at fans. Haigh also said that they could tell when Boomer and Sooner were annoyed with each other, because Boomer would headbutt Sooner. 

“Sooner, on the other hand was a sweetheart,” Haigh said. “She always did what she was supposed to do, and she was pretty quiet. She definitely was the best with kids.” 

Haigh also said that even though the ponies looked almost identical it was easy to tell them apart by their mannerisms and by the spots on their noses.

Even though the ponies had very different personalities, they could always agree on a few things.

They both liked rolling in dirt, but hated getting baths. According to RUF/NEK and junior at the University of Oklahoma Ryan Ard, the ponies had open pastures at the farm where they lived. 

“They’d get pretty dirty,” Ard said. “Typically the night before game day the RUF/NEKS would go out and give them baths.”

 According to Haigh, there were more than a few occasions where the ponies rolled in dirt right after getting their baths, which meant they would get another one in the morning. “Boomer hated baths just a little more than Sooner did,” Haigh said. If Boomer watched Sooner get her bath first, she’d get upset. She also hated it when water touched her face.” 

Haigh also said that the ponies hated the color red, which is ironic considering one of the school’s colors is crimson. If someone was walking in front of them holding a red flag they would stop and stare at it until it was moved out of their sight. He recalled a Christmas parade last year when the ponies saw red police lights flashing. “It took alot of good pets and mane scratches to make up for that one,” Haigh said, laughing.

Finally, the ponies hated the University of Texas’s Smokey the Cannon about as much as every University of Oklahoma fan. According to Haigh, it sounded too much like the RUF/NEKS’s guns firing which made them think it was time to run. Then they would get huffy because they thought they missed their cue. 

According to Ard, on most days the ponies’ lives were similar to that of typical farm ponies with the caveat that they were a little more spoiled than the average pony. They were also adored by OU fans on game days. “I always liked seeing little kids’ reactions to the ponies when they saw them on game day,” Ard said. “It was like they were seeing a unicorn.” 

As a driver for the RUF/NEKS, Ard went through three months of training with the ponies. “It’s weird how you develop a connection with them,” Ard said. “They knew me. They knew my voice, and there was a relationship established there.” 

As the University community is awaiting the announcement on whether or not Boomer and Sooner will be replaced one thing is clear, the OU RUF/NEKS don’t like to think about life at OU without Boomer and Sooner. “Live mascots are disappearing all over the place,” said Ard. “It was a cool thing that the University of Oklahoma took so much pride in, and if anything were to happen to the ponies or if they were to go away it would be traumatic.”

RUF/NEK and University of Oklahoma senior Kaleb Brown also feels the loss of the two ponies. “We have two younger ponies that are in the training process,” Brown said. “When Boomer and Sooner retire they’re supposed to step up and take their place.”

Only time will tell if the University decides to replace the fifth generation of mascots with the sixth, but Brown feels that the ponies place in the community is too important to give up.

“OU is such a tradition based school, and we have had these ponies and the schooner since 1965,” Brown said. “Alumni like to come back and see we’re still doing the same thing and really feel like they’re still part of that tradition.” 

One thing is for sure, and it is that if  the next two ponies being trained become the next Boomer and Sooner, they will have big horseshoes to fill. 


The Diligent Life of Levi Arther

Obituary: Abby Huckelbury

The Diligent Life of Levi Arther

It’s six a.m. and Levi Arther has just arrived at the Sherwin-Williams company warehouse. They won’t be open for another hour, but he’s diligent, always coming to work early. He sets his lunch aside at the little break table and makes his way over to the same forklift he’s driven for 40 years.

Levi Arther was a simple man whose soul was satisfied with diligence and a strong faith. His callused hands were a testament to his passion for hard work and his heart was marked with scars of great love and triumph over living as a black man in 18 century Oklahoma. His life was one that proved true to who he was and what he held most sacred.

Arther died Feb. 9, 1929 at age 90. He is lived on by his small colony of three grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and 37 great-great grandchildren.

His life began in the tiny town of Atoka, Oklahoma. Arther and his brother were raised with a simple life as two country boys. For the most part the brothers were close and fought only the healthy amount that any siblings would. Being the little brother, Levi had a since of admiration towards his sibling. This relationship help foster the leadership in his character.

Just before graduating from Douglas High School, Arther was offered a job at Sherwin-Williams paint company in 1948. The manager at the time was looking for someone to take on the extra handy work that needed to be done around the store. Arther worked there every day after school, mixing paint and driving his pickup down to the railroad station to load the new gallons into his bed. Arther enjoyed working with his hands. He liked hard labor, which was part of the reason he never wanted to work within the business side of the company.

Shortly after landing a job with Sherwin Williams, Arther found another stumbled upon another season in his life, marriage. Love was never something Arther was searching for. He believed that love was something God gifts to you when you’re ready. That the people you meet are specifically placed in your life at the right time and the right moment. It was a Sunday morning when he met Harriett. The two caught eyes at church, and he knew she was someone special just by the extent of her beauty. Arther and Harriett married in the following year 1949.

Newly married Arther worked at the paint store until he left for Korea. Just as love suddenly appeared in his life, Arther was bombarded with a call to war. In 1950 Arther left Oklahoma to serve in the Korean War. His service lasted from 1950 until the end of the war in 1953. Arther never enjoyed speaking about this season in his life. Bering witness to the death of so many weighed heavy on his heart. Arther was never one to have any regret towards the decisions he made, but the horror that occurred in Korea was not something he liked to remember.

As a testimony to his diligence, the manager of Sherwin Williams told Arther not to go looking for a job when he returned from the war because his job at the store would still be waiting for him. Arther stayed at the Sherwin-Williams paint company in Oklahoma City for 71 years of his life. Most of his time was spent driving a forklift in the warehouse. Customers would meet him at the garage door where they would give Arther their order, and he would proceed to drive into the back and bring out the order to be loaded up. For almost 80 percent of his life he drove that forklift. His hands would glide over the gear shifts, his feet having memorized the movements of the pedals. Off and on Arther would hop down from his machine to load the many gallon paint buckets. His body never once showed his age as his wrinkled hands would grip the skinny metal handles attached to the buckets of paint, and effortlessly lift them onto the forklift. Customers would linger to strike up conversations, but there was never any time for small talk, there was always work to be done in his mind.

“He was a hard worker for sure,” said Sherwin Williams Oklahoma City Commercial Branch Manager Chris Cope. “Levi was the type of guy who was just really honest and all he wanted to do was get his work done. He always came to work with a big smile on his face.”

Part of Arther’s diligence at work was attributed to his longing to provide for his family. Harriett gave Arther two daughters, both became the lights of his life. He knew that kids were a challenge in life, but Arther learned that the hardest challenges often times became the greatest rewards. Being a father was a gift in Arther’s eyes. He cherished every minute and never took a second for granted.

His heart shattered when he lost his children. Both daughters passed before Arther and his wife, and their family seemed broken. Yet again, Arther’s determination to be a good man prevailed in 1969 when his eldest daughter passed away. He acted as he always did in a courageous manor and told his three grandchildren that he would raise them. Arther always said that he raised two families-what diligence he truly had.

Dealing with this kind of grief was not foreign in Arthers life. Part of his character was built by the effects of loss. Loss built Arther into a man of solitude, one who swallowed his sorrow alone and learned to keep moving forward. After losing his children, his brother also left his on this earth in 1995, followed by his wife of 52 years in 2001.

Even through these troubled times in his life, Arther had faith. He was a spiritual man who held on tight to the promise that God had a plan for his life. He considered himself a very lucky man to have been blessed with such a long and exciting life. He was a man of contentment. Arther lived his life with diligence. His heart went through many trials, yet he always prevailed, determined to follow through with what was expected of him and never any less.

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.”

A place where your grandma will feel safe

By Vlad Alforov

Nick and Tiffany Duty kept an eye on medical cannabis coming from Colorado and California, rolling toward Oklahoma like a funnel of smoke. The couple saw it as an opportunity to start something new. 

“We saw things kind of blowing up here with new trends,” Nick said.

As of Dec. 2, 2019, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has approved 220,830 individual patient licenses, according to the OMMA’s report. This means that around 5.6% of the state population are medical cannabis patients. The report also stated that OMMA has already approved 1,535 dispensary licenses.

In August, when licensed marijuana users made up 4.1% of the state population, Oklahoma was the fastest growing market for medical marijuana in the average number of daily patient increases, according to the Marijuana Business Daily report.

“Growth (of medical cannabis in Oklahoma) is bolstered by low barriers of entry, including the fact there’s no list of qualifying conditions for patients,” according to the report. 

The Dutys, both 37, moved to Norman from Texas about eight years ago. They also run a drag strip in Noble, but wanted to branch out, Nick said. 

That’s how Pharmhouse Cannabis Co. originated. 

The dragway, which his family has owned for around 50 years, operates March through November and attracts several thousand visitors a year, Nick said. He met Tiffany there, too.  

Now, they are running the dispensary and the race track together.

Making cannabis business more inviting, overcoming social stigma

Nick and Tiffany aimed to make their Pharnhouse stand out from gas stations and questionable, dark-corner-looking places.

“Well, you might have to go pick up my stuff, too,” Tiffany said when Nick got his medical marijuana card back in February 2019. “I don’t want to go to those places.” 

Both Nick and Tiffany received their medical cards for anxiety and sleep disorder treatment.

For Nick, it was a good enough catalyst.

“We thought to put something together for people to feel more comfortable,” he explained, where they could come, look around, ask questions and feel like they are not in a back alley involved in illegal business.

The Dutys try to reach out and be part of the community through the two businesses they are involved in, Nick said. They are “adult business type folks,” as he coined it.

The Dutys began the Pharmhouse planning in June 2019. They said they felt ready for tough competition. 

Now, the dispensary looks spacious and well-lit. Its interior is largely furnished with wooden panels, which creates a homestyle vibe about the place.

“Personally, I don’t want to feel like I am going into a drug den,” Tiffany said. “There’s got to be people out there who feel that way.”

When a 70-year-old lady came by the dispensary recently, Nick recalled, she said her son was trying to talk her into trying concentrates — marijuana products that look like wax. Concentrates are typically highly potent since they contain a large percentage of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive chemical found in the resin secreted by glands of the marijuana plant.

“She was here looking at all these dab kits that I’m not even sure how to work with,” Nick said smiling.

“Whether you buy it or not,” he said, “you should be able to come around, get some experience … and learn how to make better decisions.”

The Dutys said some people don’t know that they can visit a dispensary without a medical card. In fact, Pharmhouse offers a variety of cannabis-related products customers can purchase as long as they are 18 and if the item has no THC in it. 

Tiffany said she also wanted their customers to feel like they are at an actual business, where the visitors are not ashamed of shopping and where there is no stigma attached. 

“There are a handful of people who, no matter what, aren’t going to be interested in the cannabis business,” Nick said, “just like they are not … interested in drag racing.”

The reason, he said, is that the residents are not willing to change their perspective about cannabis, since it’s still widely perceived as an illegal narcotic.

“On June 26, 2018, 57% of Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788, which legalized marijuana for any medical use on a doctor’s recommendation,” according to the Tulsa World article.

“SQ788 became effective July 26, with the state mandated to start accepting patient applications just a month later.”

Nick and Tiffany said they try to break down the stereotypes about cannabis. “There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s all being done above board to help people,” Nick said.

There are numerous restrictions in place as well. For instance, vendors can be held liable for advertising their product as a cure for customers’ high blood pressure. 

“All marijuana marketing or advertising content must not contain any statement or illustration that may be misleading, promotes irresponsible use, promotes the effectiveness of the product for the treatment of any condition, or depicts a minor consuming the product,” according to Sooner Marketing Solutions, a Tulsa-based marketing company that advertises dispensaries.

“We can only give suggestions and (share) personal experience,” Tiffany said. 

She added that at Pharmhouse they try to make sure there is always somebody with a medical card at the counter who has tried out most of their products and could explain how they felt about it, what it did for them or how it tasted. Those are most of their customers’ questions.

There are eight employees at Pharmhouse besides the Dutys. Some of them, Nick said, 20 years ago had cannabis-related legal issues but now work at a place where they get paid to sell it.

“And they are passionate about it,” Tiffany added. 

“I think it’s important that (such services are) offered in a place your grandma would feel comfortable coming in and buying something,” Nick said. “If grandma approves, then everybody approves.”

Location with a history

Because of the stigma, cannabis startups have a difficult time finding property owners willing to lease to a dispensary, Nick said.

“We spent two months looking at locations, and we have pretty much given up,” he said. Most of the available places were either out of the way or too expensive.

“They think you are just a punk going to ruin their store and the area,” Nick said.

And then they found a building at Lindsey Street and College Avenue, a day after it was put on listings.

“It was kind of perfect timing,” Nick said. “We couldn’t really ask for a … better spot.” 

The house was built in the 1930s. One of the original owner’s granddaughters still lives next door.

It was built as a butcher shop. Nick and Tiffany still have an industrial refrigerator, used for hanging and freezing beef, in the Pharmhouse saloon.

The Dutys are currently figuring out how to make use of this focal piece of decor.

Seasoned Norman residents may remember the building as JJ’s Pizza Stop, which kept its doors open for over 26 years, according to the OU Daily article.

Then, in 2017, it was leased to become Barn Burger & Grill. Two years later, there’s cannabis instead of burgers.

Overcoming obstacles

Coming from drag racing, where safety concerns are raised on a regular basis, Nick and Tiffany are no strangers to overcoming obstacles when it comes to being a part of the community.

The dispensary’s opening on Nov. 11 was hammered by 33-degree weather and rain, but about a dozen people showed up anyway, according to the owners.

“It’s definitely a slower start than anticipated,” Nick said. He added that it can take up to six months before they will be able to figure out the Pharmhouse’s profitability.

“We’ve got lots of ideas,” Nick said. He added that game days are typically a good opportunity for him, Tiffany and their employees to “go outside, welcome people” and advertise their dispensary.

But it is not the weather that makes things complicated for the Dutys.

“It’s hard to figure out where you are at, just because of the lack of advertising,” Nick said. “We came in knowing that it’s going to be a long road, and we’re here for a long haul.”

The owners said that it is extremely difficult to advertise a dispensary since few places will take their ad money. “No Google Ads, no YouTube, no social media — it’s very limited,” they explained. 

“You just have to build up an experience,” Nick said. “You can’t just say, ‘We have flower on sale for $10’ because they will close your account.”

Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, the best way to advertise a dispensary may be to consult certain cannabis communities that mimic social media, like Weedmaps or Leafly. These companies will find a place for the owners to run their ads, but it is more expensive and less effective, according to the Dutys.

“And so we throw munchies to people, Twinkies and what-not with (Pharmhouse) brand stickers on them,” Nick said.

Despite the issues with advertising, the dispensary has already built their clientele with local fraternities and sororities. Repeat customers, referrals and word of mouth are their PR strategies of choice, Nick said. 

Even some of their employees are college students, alumni and current or former fraternity pledges.

Nick said he likes Norman and OU for their sense of community.

“I just think it’s neat to be a part of this,” Nick said. “It’s cool to be involved with something so bustling of activity, so many people hanging out and having a good time.”

He said at Pharmhouse they often meet people trying to work their way through a difficult time in their lives.

“The college kids are going to be here,” Nick said. “Now, we want to reach out to people who are not going to see us every day.”

Older Norman residents, Nick said, are the ones likely to have medical conditions that cannabis can help with, but they are also the ones likely to feel uncomfortable to come in.

Medical marijuana is used to treat various conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. But it’s not yet proven to help with many of these conditions, partially due to the lack of research, according to WebMD.

“We want to be a part of the community,” he added. “Not just ‘Oh, they opened another dispensary down the street.’ ”

Another major obstacle the Dutys face at Pharmhouse is its cash-based operation. 

“Banks (with a federal license) that handle marijuana money can be charged with money laundering,” according to The Economist article. “Pot businesses, therefore, are on the whole stuck working with cash (.)”

“Anything that’s regulated by the federal government, we can’t have it,” Nick said. “State-licensed banks will let you open an account, but it’s very expensive — $15,000-20,000 per year in bank fees.”

Nick said that in his opinion this makes his business less safe and more difficult. Besides, it makes his insurance more expensive.

“Everybody knows it, and that’s a problem,” Nick said. The fourth day after the opening Pharmhouse experienced an attempted break in.

The intruders tried to kick through the back wall at 2 a.m. but ran off with the alarm.

“It seemed very routine to (the police,)” Nick said.

Police officer Ashlie Livingston said she is not surprised that this kind of crime is common.

She explained that since cannabis used to be illegal and that there are still people who can access it only illegally, these individuals are more likely to horn into storages with large quantities of cannabis.

“I think it’s smart that cannabis companies lock up their drugs,” she said. “They better have safes.”

Livingston said she recently worked a burglary at the Fire Leaf dispensary just south of Highway 9 near Chautauqua Avenue. “The guy got away with a grinder because they locked all of their product up,” she shared.

These two instances of cannabis-related thefts were not the only ones in Norman, according to the KFOR article.

“You still have those bad guys that are drug dealers, and you are basically saying that there is a whole building of it,” Livingston said.

“It’s definitely not as simple as I imagined it when we first got into it,” Nick said. “It’s not as simple as buying marijuana and selling it at a higher price — when you actually get into it and do it, it’s definitely a wake-up call.” 

Given the medical cannabis fervor in Oklahoma, Nick Duty remains optimistic about his business’s future. He said he thinks Oklahomans will keep getting licensed until the rate settles at 7-8% of the state population.

That number, he said he believes, will remain fairly stable until the question is tackled on the federal level.

“I don’t see in any way, shape or form that it does not become nationally accepted and probably recreational in most states.”

By Vlad Alforov

The Future of Football

By Jarrett Standridge

In week two of the Oklahoma high school football season, Southwest Covenant was set to face Strother High School. Southwest Covenant player Peter Webb saw the snap go over the quarterback’s head. As the quarterback picked up the fumble, Webb caught him from behind, pulling him down on top of himself. During the tackle, the back of Webb’s head hit the ground, knocking him unconscious and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. Webb died the following Sunday at age 16.

Two weeks later in Stratford during a game against Lexington Middle School, Riley Boatright of Lexington died from an injury. 

 While the cause of Boatright’s death has not been confirmed, both Webb and Boatright are tragic examples of the violent nature of football,  a hot topic for discussion for many years now. With rule changes such as the implementation of targeting and illegal blindside block penalties, one would think that football is becoming less violent.

On November 21, OU tight end Grant Calcaterra announced his retirement from football. Calcaterra cited his “fair share of concussions” as the reason for his premature retirement. His decision is one that many football players have made over the course of their careers

“What it really came down to is, ‘Do I want to have a bunch of money, possibly, (from) playing football and be 50 years old, but I can’t remember how to brush my teeth?” Or, ‘Cut my losses, pride myself on having a decent career in college and not be a millionaire, but be able to enjoy my family, be able to enjoy my friends?’ So, that’s what I choose to do.” Said Calcaterra.

For many places in America, high school football is everything. Entire towns shut down on Friday nights to watch their teams battle it out on the gridiron. School legends are born underneath the stadium lights. Fans celebrate victories and agonize in defeat.

 Despite this country’s love for football, the number of players has dipped in recent years. Many parents have grown weary of letting their children play and participation numbers around the country have started to reflect that. 

According to Football Scoop, high school football participation nationally has dropped more than 9% (around 106,300 players) since peaking in 2008 at 1,112,303 players. This decline is in part due to the growing concern of concussions and injuries. Some schools have even dropped the sport altogether because of the decline in participation. 

The National Federation of State High School Associations, however, maintains that high school football is the safest it has ever been.

“In 2016 and 2017, there were only two direct deaths each year compared to an average of 20 annually in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” a NFHS article states. “Moreover, as opposed to 50 years ago, today playing rules are in place at the high school level to manage a student who exhibits signs and symptoms of a concussion. Thanks to these guidelines and state laws in place, the incidence of high school players incurring a repeat concussion has been greatly reduced. In addition, practice restrictions and contact limits have been adopted by all member state associations,” 

In addition to rule changes, concussion protocols and better equipment, coaching staffs across the country have taken matters into their own hands. Through teaching a fairly new rugby-style tackling technique first used by the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, coaches at every level of the sport, from the pros to high school, are hoping to limit injuries. Locally, Coach Scott O’Hara, head football coach at Bridge Creek High School in Blanchard, has adopted this “hawk tackling” technique with his team.

“It’s kind of almost a wrestling technique, almost a rugby technique but it eliminates the head,” O’Hara said.

O’Hara believes that the hawk tackling technique is the safest and most effective technique in football.

“This is a technique that I can go and talk to parents and say we are teaching your kids not to use their head at all,” O’Hara says. “It made me feel so much better as a coach, as a person,”. 

The Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons both used the technique during the 2015 season in which 199 concussions occurred, 76 more than in 2014, according to the Public Broadcasting Service Frontline Concussion Watch. Both the Falcons and the Seahawks saw lower numbers of concussions than the league average of six per team at four each. While there is still debate whether the technique is viable for getting ball carriers to the ground, its effectiveness in limiting helmet to helmet contact cannot be ignored. 

Despite attempts to make football safer, it remains a violent game. Even with the precautions and improved technique, participation in high school football is at its lowest point since the 1999-2000 school year. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, participation in 11-player has dipped to 1,006,013 players, just over 3,000 more than that of 1999-2000. With all the research about the effects of CTE and concussions, major players retiring early from concussions and football-related deaths on the news, parents are becoming more skeptical about letting their children play football. 

With national numbers down and schools dropping football altogether, high school football’s future looks challenging. As concerns about injuries grow, especially those to the head and neck, schools may not want to risk being sued.

“My head says this sport is doomed… the schools won’t want the liability,” O’Hara said.

He believes that the risk of being sued by a parent of an injured player will eventually outweigh the positives of having a football team in the eyes of many schools. This could mean that football is still played at these schools on a club level that is not directly associated with the school or that football could slowly start to disappear at the high school level.

On the other hand, college football and the NFL will likely not have to deal with declining numbers anytime soon. With their players being of legal age to make their own decisions, parents will not have as much say over whether their child plays or not. In addition, the prospect of making the NFL and being paid to play football will likely keep players enrolling in universities.

At the end of the day, football is a violent game by nature. Always has been and always will be. While the rule changes, new protocols, techniques and better equipment have significantly reduced the risk of injury, safety and well-being can not be completely ensured on the gridiron. If trends continue, more and more players will not participate in high school football, which might ultimately lead to the disappearance of the game at that level. The idea of not having “Friday Night Lights” might upset some, but it could become a reality.

“My heart says this game can’t stop… it’s all I know.” Says O’Hara, “It has got me to where I am today.”

Oklahoma becomes home to more Catholics, and maybe a saint

By Josie Logsdon

While parishes across Oklahoma are opening their doors to more Catholics every year, the percentage of Catholics nationwide is declining. Amid this growth, the Oklahoma native Blessed Stanley Rother, is in the process of becoming a saint. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Catholics in the U.S. fell from 24% in 2007 to 21% in 2014. While the Catholic population in Oklahoma stayed around a steady 4.6% throughout the 20th century, as of 2013, the percentage of Catholics in the state almost doubled to 8%.

The majority of the growth has been from Hispanics, said Diane Clay, director of communications at the Archdiocese of Oklahoma, as well as an increase of immigrants from Burma and Vietnam in the state. Conversion also accounts for the growth. 

“In other areas of the country – particularly the Northeast – they are closing churches; we’re building churches,” Clay said. The archdiocese broke ground on the 2,000 seat shrine for Blessed Stanley Rother in Oklahoma City last month. 

“It’s a wonderful challenge to have,” Clay continued, “and a blessing to have such diversity in the church in Oklahoma.” 

History of Catholicism in Oklahoma

The Catholic presence can be traced to the Indian Territory, modern-day Oklahoma, some 300 years ago. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma wrote that the French Benedictine monks established an official and permanent Catholic presence here in 1875.

At the time, the area was considered “inhospitable” and “unfertile ground for the Catholic Church,” according to the archdiocesan website. No Catholic clergy wanted the responsibility of the frontier land.

Isidore Robot founded the first Catholic Church in the Indian Territory in Atoka in the 1870s. He continued to establish churches along the railroads throughout the territory.

By the early 1900s, there were about 5,000 Catholics in the Indian Territory – one for every 14 square miles. In this era, many Catholics lapsed from the church due to mistreatment and ridicule. Nonetheless, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma was established in 1905, two years before statehood, with the creation of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City.

After the Great Depression, the Church grew in Oklahoma. During the time Bishop Eugene McGuinness was in office, 40% more parishes erected and 33% more priests were ordained; only three counties in the state did not have a Catholic church.

The Catholic population remained steady until the Second Vatican Council in 1962, which renewed the church across the state.

The diocese split in 1973, creating a separate diocese for Tulsa. Archbishop John R. Quinn of Oklahoma City started a movement of Catholic outreach for Spanish speakers and the youth of the state. The following bishop, Charles Salatka, furthered outreach for immigrants. He devoted himself at 68 to learn Spanish and celebrate the Spanish Mass.   

The Hispanic population continued to grow in the state, a group that is culturally very Catholic. Parishes adapted quickly to the needs of the Spanish-speaking Catholic community.

“About 25-30 years ago, the presence of Hispanic people [in Oklahoma] became more noticeable,” said Deacon Angelo Lombardo of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Norman.

In 1994, St. Joseph’s became the first church in Cleveland County to celebrate the Mass in Spanish. About 60 attended the first Spanish Mass. Today, there are over 700 Hispanic parishioners who attend Mass every weekend at the parish, said Lombardo.

Not only is the Catholic population growing because of the increase in Hispanics in the state, but the Catholic community is becoming younger. Lombardo said the Spanish-speaking families led to an influx of youth and vitality in his parish. Other parishes have seen the same effect. 

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Oklahoma City has had to move into the church gym during Mass for overflow space, despite celebrating nine Masses every weekend, Clay said. All but one of the Masses are in Spanish. Most churches only celebrate about four a weekend. 

“The shrine’s location will help alleviate the overcrowding,” Clay said. 

A saint for the state

Amid the growing Catholic population in the state, the first Oklahoma-born candidate for sainthood is going through the process for canonization. 

“Archbishop Emeritus Beltran asked me to come in his office one day,” Deacon Norm L. Mejstrik said. He thought he was in trouble. 

“He asked if I would be the coordinator for the Cause for Beatification of Father Stanley Rother.” Mejstrik took the role in 2007. 

The first thing he had to do was write a biography about Rother, send it to Rome, and have it accepted. Mejstrik’s team compiled everything written by and about Rother – interviews with witnesses, letters, documents – and created a book over 7,000 pages. They sealed it in a box with a wax seal and shipped it to the Vatican. 

Blessed Stanley Rother, born in 1935 in Okarche, OK, was a priest for five years in the state. He received permission to join a diocesan mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, in the late ‘60s.

Rother served the native tribe of the Tz’utujil. He devoted himself to learning Spanish as well as the indigenous language of the tribe so he could celebrate the Mass in their tongue.

Rother lived in extreme poverty in the midst of the Guatemalan civil war. When he became a target, he and his associates returned to Oklahoma.

But “the shepherd cannot run,” he said. He quickly returned to his community in Guatemala. On July 28, 1981, Rother was killed in his own rectory.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints reviewed Rother’s 7,000-page biography and passed it onto the pope, who declared Rother a martyr in 2015. 

The next year, Rother became the first beatified U.S. born priest and martyr. The ceremony, held at Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, was the second beatification ceremony on U.S. soil. 

Today, the Cause for Canonization continues for Rother. In order to become a saint, he must be attributed with a miracle.

Miracles are almost always medical because they are the easiest to verify, said Mejstrik, who is one of the first to examine an alleged miracle. 

They investigate what happened, what the diagnosis was, what the prognosis was, what therapy was provided and the end result. Was there a medical explanation?

“If there is, that’s good,” Mejstrik said, “it means the person lived because of the wonders of modern medicine.”

“If not – it could be a miracle,” he continued. Then they document the process – timelines, testimonies and medical records – and send it to the archdiocesan tribunal. From there, the documentation is sent to Rome, then to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, then the medical board. 

“If the medical board has any doubt there is a miracle,” Mejstrik said, “then it isn’t.” Once it passes the board, the pope gives a final review. 

Mejstrik has received dozens of calls of “favors”, or potential miracles, since the Cause opened. 

“There are a few that are pretty interesting,” he said. They are in various stages of information gathering. Some medical records have already been released to the Cause. 

“We actually got medical records last Saturday from a physician who said he was ready to release them to us,” Mejstrik recalled, “and we have the authorization of the person who was granted the favor, so we can continue.”

Mejstrik said being the director of the Cause for Canonization has been humbling.

“Who am I to be called to work on the Cause of a saint?” he asked. “To study about his life, to promote his cause – it makes me feel very blessed.” 

He also sees how Rother’s life has inspired others in the community. The same people who designed the Oklahoma Memorial Museum are taking on the project of creating the museum that will be at Rother’s shrine. 

“They are a really well-known organization and don’t take on every opportunity that comes along to tell a story,” Mejstrik said. “But when they heard his story, it was so compelling they couldn’t not tell it.” 

“Oklahoma doesn’t have anything like this,” Clay said about the shrine. “It will be something beautiful for the entire community.” 

Nestled between I-35 and Shields on S 89th Street, the 56-acre shrine will become a landmark in Oklahoma City. Both Clay and Mejstrik hope everyone – Catholics, non-Catholics and visitors – will come to learn about the life of Blessed Stanley Rother. 

“We’re all called to be saints,” Mejstrik conveyed. “Blessed Stanley Rother gives us an idea of what that means.”

Ruling from Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals could affect OU Bias Response Committee

By Matt Welsh

A decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Michigan Bias Response Team would produce an “objective chill” and quell on-campus speech, violating the First Amendment. The ruling could have implications for the OU Bias Response Committee, which has similarities to Michigan’s now-defunct Bias Response Team.

The September 2019 decision came from a lawsuit brought by Speech First, a free speech advocacy organization, against Mark Schlissel, in his capacity as the University of Michigan president, challenging the University of Michigan’s Bias Response Team. According to the suit, Michigan’s response team acted as an “informal resource to support students who feel they have experienced bias in the University community, to refer them to other campus resources as appropriate, and to educate the University community with respect to issues related to bias.”

The Michigan Response Team did not have formal power to punish bias incidents. However, the suit claimed, the response team could refer potential bias incidents to police. Additionally, the response team invited those involved in bias incidents to speak with the team. The Sixth Circuit’s opinion said the power of referral and the implicit consequences of refusing a voluntary appearance when invited produced an “objective chill” over speech.

The case was settled after it was remanded to the district court, according to MLive. The appeal to the Sixth Circuit came after District Court Judge Linda V. Parker initially denied Speech First’s request for a preliminary injunction, which would have stopped the University of Michigan’s use of the Bias Response Team. In the denial of the preliminary injunction, Judge Parker wrote the chilling of speech was subjective and agreed with the University of Michigan that the response team was not a disciplinary body.

“The trial judge didn’t think that Speech First had any standing in this. It’s a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit and two of them disagreed with the trial judge,” said Joey Senat, associate professor at Oklahoma State University’s School of Media and Strategic Communications.

“In other words, they agreed with Speech First and said, ‘We think it does have standing’… It had to do with whether (Speech First’s) members could face punishment with this.”

The eventual settlement between Speech First and the University of Michigan ended the Bias Response Team but allowed for a Campus Climate Support body. According to the Campus Climate Support website, the “CCS is not a disciplinary body, cannot impose discipline, and does not require participation in any aspect of CCS’s work.”

The decision could have implications for the OU Bias Response Committee.

Michigan’s response team shared similarities with OU’s response committee, a part of the OU Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The purpose of the committee, according to its website, is to “evaluate and deliberate on bias and discrimination reports.”

The University of Michigan’s Bias Response Team did not have formal punishment abilities. However, the Sixth Circuit found the response team’s ability to make referrals to the police about reported conduct was a consequence that objectively chilled speech.

OU’s Bias Response Committee website lists its members. Members include Dianne Brittingham, director of residence life, Sherri Irvin, associate dean of the graduate college, and Elizabeth Woollen, chief of OU police.

Adam Steinbaugh, director of the Individual Rights Defense Program for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), said the police chief’s presence on the committee may portray a purpose of punishment of speech.

“I don’t think it’s going to help the way a university presents a bias response team in a non-punitive manner if they have police sitting on the team itself,” Steinbaugh said. “I think that if you are a student and you see a bias response team and there’s a police officer on it, that’s going to sound a lot more like the team has a law enforcement or punitive purpose and not an educational or resource purpose.”

When asked about the implications of the Michigan case, the University of Oklahoma released a statement on the Bias Response Committee:

“OU’s Bias Response Committee plays a critical, but advisory, role in developing strategies to improve campus climate and support diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. OU requests feedback on all matters affecting campus climate to accurately monitor the climate to make appropriate changes – the Bias Response Committee helps in achieving this goal. The Office of Institutional Equity evaluates reports of discrimination and harassment – nonconfidential reports that are not actionable are referred to the Bias Response Committee for follow-up. The Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities acknowledges that the University cannot punish or censor student speech based on its content. However, speech that would potentially harm members of our community, including fighting words, incitement, true threats and proscribable harassment or other speech acts unprotected by the First Amendment, are prohibited.”

Senat said Woollen’s presence on OU’s Bias Response Committee clashes with the Sixth Circuit’s decision.

“If the police chief is on it, and these other vague terms (on the committee website), seem to fall closely to what the Sixth Circuit disagreed with,” Senat said.  “In other words, that can have a chilling effect on speech when it seems to have a threatened punishment. If the response team submits a report to an office or somebody that can expel a student or arrest a student for some perceived violation of speech, then I think that would be what the Sixth Circuit was frowning on.”

The decision from the Sixth Circuit is in a separate jurisdiction than the Tenth Circuit where the University of Oklahoma is located. However, Senat believes the decision could affect the Tenth Circuit.

“Of course, it’s not binding on the Tenth Circuit, which we’re in, but it can certainly be persuasive to judges and certainly a free-speech group would use it in an argument,” Senat said. “The reasoning that the majority of that three-judge panel used would be in their favor.”

Steinbaugh said the Michigan decision will influence universities throughout the country and inspire inspection of bias response teams.

“I think (the decision) requires universities to look at how they are framing and how they are presenting their bias response teams,” Steinbaugh said. “Are they presenting it as a solution that is going to entail initiating investigations or imposing discipline on students? If so, that is going to run that into questionable First Amendment territory. Are they instead, creating systems so that universities can respond with resources to the impacted students? That might be a better way to address it.”

“There is a long tradition on American campuses of speaking out against bias or some back and forth in regard to what can or can’t you say about these various marginalized groups,” said Sigal Ben-Porath, a professor in the literacy, culture and international education division at the University of Pennsylvania. “This is by no means new. I think what is newer is, first of all, we have more diverse campuses.”

As a part of this new diverse atmosphere, Ben-Porath said the response to bias on campus has changed.

“There is more attention being paid to it and some of this attention has to do with the greater diversity and the greater visibility of diversity on college campuses,” Ben-Porath said.

“Whereas historically student and some others were mostly focusing on the permissibility of speech… This was more like the focus during the Vietnam War or some prior eras when there was more intense attention given to this matter,” Ben-Porath said. “Now more of the attention is given to what are we allowed to say, what is permissible on a college campus and what is the impact. This is one change that the students are just thinking more about the impact of words.”

Ben-Porath said colleges in the past, and sometimes currently, say they do not have much leverage to counteract racist or heinous speech. Ben-Porath said this reasoning has not met today’s expectations.

“This is insufficient for many students, and I think for good reason. They come back and they say, ‘Wait, fine it’s protected but see what it’s doing, see the impact.’” Ben-Porath said. “Campuses are grappling to figure out more ways to maintain the protection for legally protected speech but still do something more, because they recognize as a result of protests by students, that it is not enough to say, ‘Stop complaining, it’s legally protected speech. There’s nothing we can do.’ It’s not enough if you want to maintain an inclusive learning environment.”

Ben-Porath said these higher expectations on campuses are the result of changing norms on campus.

“The norms are evolving, as we are seeing. There is a generational change in the attention that the students are giving to the need to attend the concerns or the marginalization or the opportunities afforded to various student groups on campus,” Ben-Porath said. “I think the changing norms are reflecting a growing commitment to realizing democratic values such as inclusion and equality in the younger generation of students.”

Steinbaugh said that universities have a responsibility to students to facilitate an inclusive atmosphere.

“I think that universities have an obligation, not just legally, to address situations that are going to make it difficult for students to live and learn in a positive campus environment. A university should not be faulted for listening to students who say, ‘Hey, these are the situations that I am encountering, what are you going to do about that or how can you help me?’” Steinbaugh said. “The question then becomes is the university able to respond to those complaints in a manner consistent with their First Amendment obligations.”

However, Senat said the First Amendment was geared to protect the very speech that bias response committees face.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has even said public university campuses are a marketplace of ideas. And in that marketplace are going to be ideas expressed that make people uncomfortable or they outright hate, that they disagree vehemently with an idea expressed by someone else,” Senat said. “That’s what happens in a marketplace of ideas. That’s what the First Amendment is intended to protect. We don’t need it for speech that’s popular that everybody agrees with. We need it for speech that’s often radical and makes people angry.”