by Rachel Powell
I just saw a clip of the Equality Ride visit to Oral Roberts University on the 10:00 news here in Tulsa. It lasted a whole of what I’m sure was 18 seconds, mentioned that ORU had a policy that discriminated against gays and lesbians, and informed viewers that "at least seven were arrested" (actual number was nine). The lack of information given about the Ride was astounding, especially considering that Jake (as director of the Ride) and Nate and I (as ORU liaisons) intentionally gave statements to the press.
This, I feel, is symbolic of the way Oral Roberts treated our visit: suppress and oppress. Nate and I were never allowed to talk with the administrators via phone; rather, we engaged in painfully slow written dialogue. Students told us that the administrators blocked access to the Equality Ride from all computers on the school’s network. Several Riders had to meet students in a coffee shop several blocks from campus to engage in dialogue so that those in power would not see the students interacting with Riders and thus inflict consequences.
Nonetheless, the day was a success. Sure, our vigil outside ORU was a short one, several Riders spent eight hours in jail, and few students approached us during the visit. How can we consider a day like this a success? Despite the fact that our free speech, our message, was so horribly shut down and blocked off, we feel that even reaching the few students that we met for coffee is planting a seed of change for Oral Roberts Univeristy. Through sharing our personal stories and showing closeted students and straight allies just how far we will go to have our message heard, we are planting seeds of change and inspiring hope in those who need it most.