An admissions counselor for Oklahoma Christian University was fired after allegedly forcing 11th-grade students at a preparatory school in Oklahoma City to line up according to skin color and “nappiest” hair during a gym assembly visit.
Students, parents, and officials at Harding Charter Preparatory High School spoke out to local NBC affiliate KFOR about how an OCU recruiter — later named as Cedric Sunray — instructed prospective students to engage in a racially insensitive recruitment exercise during a visit last Monday.
Students involved in the exercise, Korey Todd and Rio Brown, described the incident.
“He was like, 'Let's play a little game,'” Todd said. "He said, 'OK, everyone now line up from darkest to lightest skin complexion.'”
The juniors were then told to shuffle again. According to Brown, the man told the students to line up with the “nappiest hair in the back and straighter hair in the front.”
Todd said that at that point, he felt uncomfortable. Brown explained that teachers grew disgusted.
“I know they had a talk with him after, like, 'That's not OK,’” Brown said.
After students came forward to the media outlet, Harding Principal Steven Stefanick released a public statement, confirming the accusations that an OCU representative led an activity with students that involved “inappropriate and hurtful statements.”
The principal went on to say how the preparatory school does not approve of the recruiter’s behavior and values diversity and inclusion.
In a statement released to News 4, Oklahoma Christian University explained that the recruiter was fired shortly after his visit.
“The OC admissions counselor who visited Harding Charter Preparatory Academy on Monday is no longer an Oklahoma Christian University employee,” the school said. “OC admissions leadership did not approve the inappropriate activity in advance and has communicated closely with Harding administration since the visit.”
OCU admissions staff are scheduled to visit Harding on Monday to apologize formally to students and staff.
Stefanick explained in his statement that OCU administrators were quick to react after they were told of the allegations.
“The sequence of events are that the staff members of Harding Charter Preparatory, stunned and distraught with the students, were quick to react by going to school administration immediately while some staff remained with the students,” he said. “Within the next hour, communication was made with Oklahoma Christian University officials. We then learned that the recruiter was no longer employed at the university.”
Stefanick praised OCU, saying that the school has maintained a “strong relationship with the university and have never encountered events as such.”
“As a school community, we are proud of our students and staff members for taking a stand on this issue and showcasing our community values of diversity, inclusion, and a safe and supportive learning environment,” the principal wrote.
OCU, founded in 1950 as Central Christian College, has about 2,200 students and is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. But students of all beliefs are welcome.
“With roots in the Restoration Movement, it is our goal to define our values and behavior by the Bible, rather than by the culture that surrounds us,” the university’s website reads.
OCU President John deSteiguer held a meeting Sunday on OCU’s Edmond campus to inform OCU students about the incident, according to the student newspaper Talon.News. The school newspaper reports that deSteiguer named Sunray as the accused former employee in question.
The president explained that Sunray was already under an internal investigation for a similar activity he led during an on-campus event on Feb. 13.
Talon.News reports that school officials learned over the weekend that Sunray was alleged to have led a similar exercise at another high school in northwest Oklahoma.
“We need to do better,” deSteiguer was quoted as saying, adding that university “failed miserably” because the “recruiter should have been sidelined.”
“He should not have been going and making presentations during the investigation,” deSteiguer admitted.
OCU will roll out new programs and mandatory cultural sensitivity training for its employees, according to deSteiguer.
"God instructs us to love one another and that everyone, and I mean everyone, is valued,” deSteiguer was quoted as saying. "We will learn and we will redouble our efforts to do better."