Ray Carter | April 19, 2021
Contract restricts public access to OU’s diversity training
With the University of Oklahoma mandating that all students and staff take “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” training in the 2020-2021 school year, many citizens—including families of prospective students—want to learn more about the program.
But OU officials say the contract signed with the program vendor, Everfi, prevents distribution of those training materials outside the school setting, meaning families have no meaningful access to the program prior to a student’s enrollment and obligation to pay tuition and fees.
In a February 24 response to an open-records request filed by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), the OU Open Records Office stated, “The Diversity and Inclusion module you requested (the ‘Module’) is provided to the University of Oklahoma (‘OU’) pursuant to a software as a service agreement entered into by and between Everfi and OU. Everfi is the holder of the copyright in the Module, and has granted OU a contractual right to access and use the Module for OU’s internal business purposes. OU does not have a contractual right to copy the Module or transmit a copy of the Module to you.”
To view the training materials, OU officials stated that those interested could view them “on the Norman Campus during regular business hours” at a prearranged time.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a free-speech organization focused on the rights of college students, made a similar open-records request for OU’s diversity training materials and recently reported receiving a similar response.
FIRE asked OU “to produce all materials used to train students, faculty, or staff about diversity, equity, and inclusion.” In a March 23 response, FIRE reports that OU officials said the organization “would be permitted to view the training materials, but only in person on OU’s campus in Norman, Oklahoma. In other words, in order to view public records, the University of Oklahoma would require a FIRE staff member to fly across the country (FIRE is based in Philadelphia) during a global pandemic.”
While OU granted an opportunity to view materials in person, in its letter to OCPA the university also stated that no permission was provided “to reproduce (copy) the Module, create derivative works based on the Module, distribute copies of the Module, use for a commercial purpose, perform the Modules, or otherwise display or transmit the Modules, and Everfi retains all rights in its intellectual property. Any violation of Everfi’s intellectual property rights could result in litigation by Everfi.”
Similar language was contained in the response sent to FIRE.
On its website, Everfi touts a range of programs, including “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” materials, for both colleges and K-12 schools. The company states, “Everfi partners with sponsors nationwide to offer our interactive, online diversity, equity & inclusion resources to K-12 schools free of charge.”
The company’s website includes a quote of endorsement from Linda Sloan, curriculum specialist for career tech/online learning at Edmond Public Schools.
“We are pleased to have the additional resources and support from Everfi for our teachers as they provide instruction to students,” Sloan said. “Everfi has a great rapport with our schools and is present and available to assist at a moment’s notice.”
An accompanying graphic says Everfi programs have been used in 214 Oklahoma school districts that include 416 school sites and 907 teachers. Oklahoma City Public Schools is identified as a “featured district” that uses Everfi materials.
The graphic does not list which Everfi programs have been used in Oklahoma schools.
Everfi also provides an “Anti-Racism Extension Guide for Teachers” that directs teachers to a range of documents and books, including one on “28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors.”
The “28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors” document states that individuals who say, “People are just people; I don’t see color,” are assuming “that people of color are just like you, white; that they have the same dreams, standards, problems, and peeves that you do. ‘Colorblindness’ negates the cultural values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color.”
Belief that the United States is a “land of opportunity” where “anyone with grit can succeed if they just pull up hard enough on their bootstraps” is derided as part of “U.S. social propaganda” that is “founded on a total denial of the impact of either oppression or privilege on any person’s chance for success.”
The issue of “reverse racism,” in which members of minority communities harbor racist beliefs and attitudes, is dismissed. “Certainly, people of color can be and are prejudiced against white people. That was a part of their social conditioning,” the document states. It goes on to say that an “individual person of color abusing a white person” is only “acting out a personal racial prejudice, not racism.”
If a person from a majority background cites personal challenges or oppression he or she faced as an individual, the document declares that type of comment “diminishes the experience of people of color.”
If a person notes their “lover is black” or that they marched with Martin Luther King in the 1960s, the guide declares that those individuals are taking a “detour into denial” that “wrongly equates personal interactions with people of color, no matter how intimate they may be, with anti-racism. There is an assumption that our personal associations free us magically from our racist conditioning.”
If a person from a majority group asks someone from a minority group to provide guidance on how to “stop acting like a racist,” “28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors” declares that the white individual is “controlling the direction and focus of anti-racist work” and that they “should seek out other white people BEFORE you go to people of color.”
But if an individual states that they “do all my anti-racism with whites only,” “28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors” declares that those individuals are “again controlling the direction and focus of anti-racism work.”
The document also states that white people who have fully embraced “anti-racism” should be lumped in with their counterparts who have not embraced “anti-racism.”
“There are no ‘exceptional white people,’” the document states. “You may have attended many anti-racism workshops; you may not be shouting racist epithets or actively discriminating against people of color, but you still experience privilege based on your white skin color. You benefit from this system of oppression and advantage no matter what your intentions are.”
Everfi’s “Anti-Racism Extension Guide for Teachers” also links to the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which has been criticized by historians from all ends of the spectrum as inaccurate and deeply flawed.
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.