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“This past year was difficult for every dance marathon across the nation with the effects of COVID hanging over our heads. There’s something to be said about the way everyone adjusted and came out with our cause at the forefront. Last year, not only did our program face a pandemic but we also went through a rebrand and a negative campus climate that met our rebrand with mixed feelings.

Over the past years, The University of Oklahoma has had multiple racial incidents ranging from greek life prejudice to professors using racial slurs in classes. OU Dance Marathon saw the effects of these on our fellow students. It brought to light many biases we may have not considered in the planning and execution of events and recruitment of executive members. In response, we made the decision to add a new position to OUDM, Vice-Chair of Community Relations. This position is aimed exclusively at improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in our organization and across campus. In this position’s pilot year, we were able to start a diversity, equity, and inclusion council, including our vice-chair team in multiple DEI trainings, and take the time to sit down with organizations on campus to find ways for OUDM to improve as an inclusive organization. Next year, we plan to extend our efforts to include more organizations and participants. Each event this coming year will be catered to all students by implementing registration waivers, interpreters, wheelchair accessible morale dances, adding closed captions to all of our videos, having quiet and decompressing rooms available, and sending out an accessibility form before our main event, allowing us to make accommodations for all participants.

In terms of our rebrand, we made the decision to take the word “sooner” out of our program’s name. The word “sooner” dates back to the 1889 land run and is a name for individuals that stole land from the large indigenous population living in Oklahoma. To support our Native American population, without the following of the university, we chose to rebrand from Soonerthon to The University of Oklahoma Dance Marathon. We knew a rebrand would cause confusion in our community, likely resulting in the loss of funds from our longtime donors who are very loyal to the identity of “Sooner” on our campus, on top of the potential loss of funds due to the effects of COVID. Although it was difficult to make the switch in the middle of a pandemic, and we did see the effects we predicted, we are proud to stand with our Native American community on campus and across the nation, taking the necessary steps to bring positive change, regardless of whether or not the Sooners remains the mascot on our campus.

OUDM is proud of the steps we have taken in the face of adversity as we take a people-first approach in our program from this point forward. We stand with our students, our campus, and our community as we continue to listen and learn.”