Oklahoma lawmakers tapped an African American graduate of the University of Oklahoma (OU) to be a regent of the school, which has a notorious reputation for racism.
In a 45-1 vote on Monday, the Oklahoma Senate gave the thumbs-up for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s selection of Ohio businessman Eric Stevenson to serve on the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents—the first Black person appointed to the board in two decades, the Associated Press reported.
“I have carried many executive nominees through the confirmation process in the Oklahoma Senate, but none has been better suited or more qualified for their post as Eric Stevenson is to serve on the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents. As an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma, I am confident that Mr. Stevenson’s leadership will be instrumental in moving OU forward,” stated Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat.
Stevenson, whose only opposition came from one of the Senate’s two Black lawmakers, is senior vice president of retirement plans for Nationwide Insurance in Ohio. He graduated from OU with a business administration in finance undergraduate degree and will serve as a regent for a seven-year term.
Was his selection a coincidence? Stevenson’s appointment came as the campus was dealing with yet another racist incident.
In January, the campus was again reeling after a video appeared on Twitter that showed white students wearing blackface. OU found itself in the national spotlight in 2015 when a nine-second video surfaced showing Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity members chanting that “there will never be a nigger in SAE.” In fact, OU students have a long history of that kind of racist behavior on campus.
Oklahoma City Democrat Sen. George Young, who cast the lone vote against Stevenson’s appointment and serves as chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucusm, said he wanted the governor to choose from a list of potential candidates that the caucus submitted.
Young also said he had concerns that Stevenson would place more priority on financial stability at the university over concerns the students had about campus diversity. Still, Young said he was impressed with Stevenson’s qualifications.
Sen. Kevin Matthews, the other Black senator, supported Stevenson’s appointment but said he would have preferred a qualified African-American nominee living in Oklahoma, according to Tulsa World.