UCOSA and Faculty Senate partner to pass separate legislation on DEI and Narcan

President Lamb’s office is in Old North. (JAKE RAMSEY/THE VISTA)

University of Central Oklahoma Faculty Senate passed legislation which proposes the placement of an Overdose Prevention Vending Machine in the Max Chambers Library after 7.1% of students reported having ever used non-medical prescription opioids. 

Alongside the legislation seeking to get Narcan vending machines on campus, the UCO Student Association (UCOSA) passed legislation which seeks to pressure administration to release a statement regarding DEI and Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Executive Order 2023-31.

Directed towards the office of the president of UCO, Todd Lamb, the Faculty Senate legislation states, “We propose the University administration proceed with the placement of an Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) provided Overdose Prevention Vending Machine in the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) Chambers Library building.”

“We just want to be comprehensive in the way that we approach these issues, and understanding that these don’t occur in isolation,” said Alyssa Provencio, president of Faculty Senate and professor of political science at UCO, when discussing why Faculty Senate chose to approach the issue of getting an Overdose Prevention Vending Machine on campus.

“We believe that having access to overdose prevention medications is a public health, and public safety concern,” said Provencio.

Alongside the legislation passed by Faculty Senate, the UCO Student Association (UCOSA) has been authoring their own legislation in order to seek getting Narcan vending machines on campus.

When discussing the partnership with the Faculty Senate, and why they share similar goals, UCOSA Chair of Congress Izzi Barry said, “This is actually something that I think is incredibly important to the democratic process of our university’s bodies of government, and representation among the student body, faculty and staff.”

“It’s an opportunity to work together and collaborate, and it’s also a united front,” said Barry.

The library is the proposed location of the new Narcan vending machines. (JAKE RAMSEY/THE VISTA)

As stated in the legislation authored by members of the Faculty Senate, UCO participated in a National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey in 2021 and 2023.

A total of 654 students responded in 2021. 6.3% reported having ever used prescription opioids for non-medical use. 1.8% of the 654 who participated reported having used prescription opioids for non-medical use within the last three months.

Comparatively, in 2023, 552 students responded to the survey, with 7.1% reporting the use of non-medical prescription opioids, and 2.2% reporting the use of opioids within three months.

The rise in prescription opioid use for non-medical purposes has been seen across Oklahoma, and with that there has been an increase in drug-related overdoses. The number having increased 12-fold from 2019 to 2022.

“The opioid and overdose crisis is real,” said Provencio, “And we recognize that as a public university we have a role to play in the prevention of overdoses.”

“The reason it has come to the senate is because we have faculty that are concerned about it and we have students that are concerned about it, which is why we partnered with UCOSA,” said Provencio.

“It’s important because it is coordinated in a way that shows administration that it’s something we all deeply care about,” said Barry, “And it’s something that we will continue to bring up.”

Alongside the passing of the legislation for Narcan vending machines within Faculty Senate, as well as the not-yet-finished authoring of the legislation for Narcan vending machines within UCOSA, a joint-legislation covering DEI had its first-reading in Faculty Senate, and passed within UCOSA.

The legislation reads, “An act regarding the current state of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education in the wake of Governor Stitt’s Executive Order 2023-31; taking an official stance supporting and reiterating the importance of DEI; calling on University administration to make a public statement in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion; to be distributed to President Lamb, the President’s Cabinet, and the Presidents of the Faculty and Staff Senates.”

The legislation passed unanimously within UCOSA.

Authored by Barry and UCOSA President Lauren Harmen, the legislation aims to get President Lamb and members of UCO administration to respond to the EO passed by Gov. Stitt in December of 2023.

“DEI issues do not just affect one part of our university,” said Barry, “They affect students, they affect faculty, they affect staff, they affect every single person on our campus.”

“At the end of the day, we just want students, faculty, staff and community members to know that we care about diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Harmen.

Backing the sentiments on UCOSA, Faculty Senate had a first-reading of legislation at their meeting on March 14, which sought to support UCOSA’s DEI legislation.

The legislation reads, “Be it resolved that the UCO Faculty Senate joins the UCO Student Association (UCOSA) in affirming the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and in affirming the request for public statement in support of DEI.”

Faculty Senate has not yet passed the legislation, but it will be re-read at the April meeting.

While neither UCO, nor President Lamb have officially released a statement, Lamb did talk to The Vista in December of 2023, saying, “The faculty and the staff will navigate this executive order.” 

However, with a lack of new information coming from administration, many faculty and staff members have been left fearing for what comes next; this being the reason why UCOSA has passed legislation.

In December, while discussing funding allocations across campus after the passing of Executive Order 2023-31, Lamb said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, and not just in real time, but as we approach that bridge to extrapolate that metaphor, we’ll have some vision to understand really what these requirements are, and how the requirements and/or prohibitions, whatever word you want to use, how that directly impacts funding.”

As of now, there has been no official plan released by UCO administration on how the University plans to navigate the EO, which states, “Executive state agencies shall become fully compliant with this Executive Order as soon as practicable, but in no event later than May 31, 2024.”

“We are asking for there to be an address for the EO,” said Barry, “But it also is encompassing the potential for DEI related bills that may target our university life.”

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