By Valerie Scott
The Rose State College Diversity Center will host an outdoor job fair and cultural celebration for the whole family Saturday, March 25.
The event will be from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and will host representatives from the Oklahoma City Fire Department, multiple branches of the military and 28 colleges, tech centers and universities, such as the University of Oklahoma, the University of North Texas and Emporia State University.
The Celebration of Cultures event will be from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., March 25. As part of the celebration, the Diversity Center is organizing a host of competitions, and cash prizes are available. There will be a poetry contest, vocabulary bee, a musical competition, an art fair, a folk song competition and more.
For Spanish-speaking students, there will also be a Spanish competition.
Various student-run clubs, such as Spectrum Alliance and Black Student Association, will also be in attendance.
“The goal is to bring as many students from all over the state to our campus,” said Donnie Anderson, event coordinator. “The Diversity Center is hosting a couple of competitions with monetary awards, but we just want to show as many students as possible how great Rose State is. We want to show all the options for different colleges and tech centers after they graduate from Rose.”
While it is certainly not the first time Rose State has held a job fair, it is the first time partnering with the Diversity Center.
Come prepared with some snack money as there also will be a handful of food trucks at the event, Black Lives Matter artists and various pop-up shops with local vendors.
Political Cartoon by Staff Cartoonist Peter Monden
By Katrina Crumbacher
Editor in Chief
As the March 2 deadline came and went, so did the possibility of eliminating straight-party voting in Oklahoma during the 2023 legislative session.
House Joint Resolution 1022 would have created a state question, which if passed, would have prohibited the State Election Board from printing party affiliation on general election ballots. This method would have eliminated straight-party voting by default. Senate Bill 568, House Bill 2012 and House Bill 2123 each would have eliminated straight-party voting outright.
All of them authored by Democrats, and none of them were heard in committee by the deadline.
Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City, said he filed HJR 1022 on behalf of a Libertarian constituent but didn’t know if the measure was going to ever actually see the light of day.
“It’s a roundabout way of eliminating straight-party voting,” he said. “There’s a lot of resistance to it here for people who, frankly, have a vested reason to like to have the party on (the ballot).”
In Oklahoma, straight-party voting is about as popular as not responding to the census.
Nearly 40% of eligible Oklahomans still had not filled out the 2020 census form as the deadline was nearing, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. In 2022, the Oklahoma State Election Board reported more than 40% of ballots were marked “straight party” in the general election.
“Straight-party voting enables voters to be staunchly loyal to party affiliation without knowing why,” said Emily Stacey, Ph.D., professor of political science at Rose State College. “People should do the research and know why they are voting for a particular candidate rather than select a single box at the top of the ballot and vote R or D across all races.”
Some Oklahomans have said they’re afraid voters wouldn’t do the research if party affiliation were to be removed from the ballot.
“If there’s somebody who would vote based on name recognition alone without actually doing any research, they’re already irresponsible voters,” said Will Daugherty, chair of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party. “Those people are probably voting for the R or the D regardless of whether they actually understand the stances of those people.”
Only six states still allow for straight-party voting: Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Since Georgia first abolished straight-party voting in 1994, the popularity of straight-party voting has been in decline.
In the ongoing push for ballot box reform, ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, has risen in popularity nationwide.
Closer to home, Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, filed HJR 1023 at the beginning of session to create the “Oklahoma Rank Choice Voting Act,” but it was also never heard in committee.
“The value of ranked choice voting is that it’s not an all-or-nothing election,” Daugherty said. “Anybody is still welcome to only vote for the one candidate that they would like to vote for, but if they do have a second choice and they’re willing to put that on the ballot, they have that option. Their voice can still be heard and their ballot still counted toward somebody that they support.”
Ranked choice voting is already used statewide in Alaska and Maine and in a multitude of local elections nationwide.
The 2023 legislative session ends in May, but these ballot reforms may not come back around until 2024.
By Blaine Murdock
In fall 2023, Rose State College will be offering a new data science and analytics degree.
The degree’s goal is to provide students with the analytical skills and scientific knowledge needed to apply critical thinking to all facets of learning.
Data scientists currently rank No. 6 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best technology jobs, and it is considered one of the fastest growing professions in the country.
“As the demand for data scientists grows in our state, we want to equip our students with the resources and training needed to compete in this exciting profession,” said Rose State President Jeanie Webb, Ph.D., in a press release. “This program is the first of its kind at Rose State and shows our commitment to providing education that reflects Oklahoma’s evolving landscape.”
Nick Bastani will be a professor for the data science and analytics degree program when it launches in the fall. He said a good number of students have expressed interest in the program, and he has no doubt the classes will be filled when the fall semester arrives.
“In this program, students are equipped with the analytical and computer languages to prepare them for analyzing and filtering data for a specific target,” he said. “This program does not know a specific industry. I can see this degree helping more companies like Google, Amazon and Boeing.”
Rose State is the first community college in the state to offer a data science and analytics degree. Bastani was the driving force behind the new program, however amidst the pandemic, the program couldn’t happen as fast as he anticipated.
“The idea actually first came to me, and I shared that with the dean in 2019,” he said. “I had a meeting with then Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeff Caldwell, Ph.D., to build awareness of the needs of this program and its introduction at Rose State College.”
Several professors at Rose State have become involved with the new program. Professor Jason Papayik will be teaching the new fundamentals of data science class and will mainly serve in an advisory role for the new degree program.
“We as humans probably won’t be able to look at 10,000 data points and make a decision, but with algorithms and statistical techniques, we can take those 10,000 data points and condense them into a decision,” he said. “The hard question is: is there anything meaningful in that data that we could pull out?”
Because of Rose State’s standing articulation agreements with other Oklahoma colleges and universities, students can easily transfer credits to further their education and complete a bachelor’s degree.
“The addition of the Associate in Science Degree in Data Science and Analytics will provide students with the rigorous math and technology skills necessary to enter the field of data science,” said Ryan Stoddard, Ph.D., dean of the engineering and science division, in a press release. “With the rising workforce demands within this profession, supplying students with these skills will allow them to earn degrees in in-demand, high-paying careers.”
Beyond the essential general education courses, data science students will also have to take introduction to statistics for engineering and science, fundamentals of data science and differential and integral calculus I, II and III. As for programming requirements, students will have to take six credits hours of computer information technology courses.
Upon degree completion, students will be expected to possess the skills required to prepare data for analysis by cleansing, aggregating and manipulating data to obtain reliable datasets for algorithm-based analysis. They should also be able to produce clear, concise reports after complete data analysis suitable for upper-level courses and a career in data science and analysis.
Interested students can apply online or contact Bastani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Nathan Fox
While Oklahoma is okay with medical marijuana, recreational marijuana is out of the question.
On March 7, nearly 62% of Oklahomans voted no on State Question 820, which would have allowed the sale of marijuana to individuals over the age of 21. Voting in favor of SQ820 would have also allowed for those incarcerated due to marijuana-related crimes to seek modifications for their current sentences.
“I voted no on State Question 820,” said Abigail Clark, a former dispensary employee. “While I support the use of medical marijuana, I don’t believe that it should be recreationally available. It’s how I feel, and how I’ll probably always feel. Marijuana is medicine, not just something to do on a rainy day.”
Clark is not alone in her thoughts on this issue.
“I’m definitely not voting in favor of recreational marijuana,” said Ryan McDuffy, a medical marijuana license holder. “The nature of marijuana is that it is inherently medicinal. Allowing for the use of it recreationally would definitely be a detriment to those who currently use it for its medicinal purposes.”
In 2018, Oklahomans voted in favor of State Question 788 allowing for the sale and distribution of medical marijuana to licensed individuals. Oklahomans for Health, a nonprofit based in Oklahoma City, spearheaded the effort in 2016.
That same year, Petition Number 412 made it to the desk of then Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge and was finally introduced as SQ788 on a pivotal summer ballot. While the debate surrounding marijuana legalization in any capacity has been contentious, SQ788 was approved. After tallying the nearly 900,000 votes, 56.8% voted to legalize medical marijuana.
This was not the first time a group attempted to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma. In 2014, then Sen. Connie Johnson in conjunction with David Slane, an Oklahoma City defense attorney, tried drafting an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma. Their initiative contained much more literature concerning decriminalization as well as language detailing the viability of marijuana becoming a cash crop for Oklahoma farmers.
Ultimately, this two-person team failed to procure the thousands upon thousands of notarized signatures necessary to appear as a state question on 2014’s November ballot.
Prior to SQ788, former Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 2154, more commonly known as Katie and Cayman’s Law. This bill allowed physicians to prescribe high-CBD oils, not in excess of 0.3% THC.
Big Tobacco poses another threat to those with a vested interest in medical marijuana. In 1970, George Weissman, former president of Philip Morris, one of largest tobacco companies in the world, penned a memo which addressed the impending threat that cannabis could have on the tobacco industry.
“While I am opposed to its use, I recognize that it may be legalized in the near future,” Weissman wrote, “We should be in a position to examine: No. 1, a potential competition; No. 2, a possible product; No. 3, at this time, cooperate with the government.”
In 2016, Philip Morris International invested $20 million into an Israeli cannabis company, Syqe Medical. In 2017, Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, invested $1.8 billion for 45% of Canadian cannabis company, Cronos Group. Upon completion of the investment, Altria published a “10 Year Plan” on their official website, which said they planned to, “Help position Cronos as a leader in a highly responsible, regulated and legalized U.S. cannabis market.”
Considering these examples of Big Tobacco’s vested interests in cannabis if recreational marijuana becomes federally approved, Big Tobacco could quickly pivot and become Big Cannabis.
By Alyx Sabina
The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden was recently nominated in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards for 2023’s Best Zoo in the Nation.
With more than 500 different animal species and 1,700 animals, the Oklahoma City Zoo has a lot to offer.
“It’s an incredible honor to be nominated for this year’s 10Best awards,” said Dwight Lawson, zoo executive director and CEO in a press release. “Achieving accolades of this caliber would not be possible without the continuous support of all those who visit and care about the OKC Zoo and, of course, vote for us to achieve this top ranking.”
Breigha Hughes, film studies and digital media major, said she visits the zoo often. “The Oklahoma City Zoo does legitimately good work,” she said, “and I’m always happy to see Oklahoma City get positive recognition.”
Already a wildly popular tourist attraction, more than 1 million people visit the zoo every year. Once construction for the new African habitat expansion is finished, it is expected to draw even more visitors.
Construction on the Expedition Africa project started nearly a year ago and is expected to be completed in time for summer break. This is the largest expansion project since the zoo opened to the public more than 100 years ago.
“I cannot wait until the new African exhibit is open,” Hughes said. “It is such a major expansion, and I think it will be one of the most beloved parts of the zoo and will hopefully set the stage for even more fun exhibits in the future.”
Not only does the zoo continue to expand in size, the number of animals living at the zoo is increasing as well. In February, the zoo welcomed three new male cheetahs. Jabari, Hasani and Erindi will be housed in the expanded African habitat once it is ready.
“The Oklahoma City Zoo is one of the most expansive zoos around,” said Taylor Reich, former zoo employee. “It is so spread out, and with it being a botanical garden as well, I think it feels more open that way.”
A very unique aspect of the zoo is its flourishing botanical garden.
“I think one of the most overlooked parts of the zoo is the greenery,” Hughes said. “A lot of work is put into their botanical gardens, and it really lights up during the spring and summer.”
The mission of the Oklahoma City Zoo goes beyond housing the animals in its care. The zoo’s botanical garden was designed to “connect people with our plant collection through botanical opportunities that inspire and advance plant, animal and natural resource conservation.”
While the garden is full of beautiful plants and flowers, it is also used for educational purposes, to research special and exotic plants. With the zoo’s engaging wildlife, successful animal rehabilitation programs, new attractions and educational environment, the zoo is expected to flourish for years to come.
Voting for the Readers’ Choice Awards ended March 6, and the winners will be announced Friday, March 17.
Elephants parade through the OKC Zoo enclosure. (Photo by Alyx Sabina)
By Katrina Crumbacher
In the past 33 years, 43 Oklahomans have been proven wrongfully convicted and were exonerated. Seven of them were sentenced to death.
Cumulatively, those 43 people have served 435 years in prison.
Andrea Miller, the legal director of the Oklahoma Innocence Project, said the National Registry of Exoneration’s list is incomplete as it does not include the nearly 30 people who were released after the Tulsa Police corruption scandal.
“When I talk about exonerees, I am talking about absolute factual innocence,” she said. “I am talking about didn’t have anything to do with the crime, not there, didn’t do it. I’m not talking about sentencing issues. I’m not talking about guilty of a lesser included offense. I’m talking about having nothing to do with the crime for which they were convicted.”
To better help exonerees find justice in terms of compensation from the state, Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, has been looking into Oklahoma’s wrongful conviction compensation laws through the interim study she filed in June.
“The more we understand the impacts of our criminal justice system and incarceration in general,” Munson said, “the more we can do to ensure Oklahoma families do not have to continue to be in a cycle of constant trauma, stress and a lack of hope.”
Under Oklahoma statutes, wrongfully incarcerated exonerees may only make liability claims if they have received either full pardons from the governor or judicial relief absolving the exoneree of guilt. In both cases, exonerees must be considered to have “actual innocence” of the crime for which they were convicted.
Both of those are almost, if not completely, impossible, Miller said.
“In the pardon context, if you pull the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board’s qualifications for a gubernatorial pardon, nobody who has been exonerated would qualify,” she said. “They say you have to have a conviction, which if you have been exonerated, you don’t, and you have to have completed your sentence in order to be considered for a pardon.”
To be considered “actually innocent,” exonerees must meet several criteria.
-They must have been charged with a felony.
-They must have not plead guilty to the offense charged or any lesser included offense.
-They must have also been convicted of the offense regardless.
-They must have been sentenced to incarceration.
And, they must have been imprisoned solely on the basis of the conviction of the offense.
“We have exonerees who would be automatically excluded from this as a result of the guilty plea,” Miller said. “Innocent people plead guilty all the time for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s to avoid the death penalty. Sometimes, it’s to avoid lengthy sentences.”
Currently, only 38 states, the federal government and Washington, D.C., have laws that compensate wrongfully convicted individuals. Of those 38 states, only 19 also offer non-monetary compensation, such as tuition assistance and job search assistance, but Oklahoma isn’t one of them.
“I think that there are some big strides being made to having more second chance employers, especially in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but there’s still quite a long way to go,” said Lynde Gleason, re-entry site supervisor for The Education and Employment Ministry in Oklahoma. TEEM is a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking cycles of incarceration and poverty through education, personal development and work readiness training.
“If you’ve ever filled out a job application, the application itself asked ‘have you ever been convicted of a felony? Check yes or no,” Gleason said. “That right there is barrier No. 1. That’s hard for a lot of people to know what they should answer because it feels like if they say yes, they’re not going to be given a fair shot, but if they say no, then they’re going to feel like they’re not trustworthy.”
Even though exonerees no longer have the conviction to hold them back, that question found on every job application applies to them. A recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 33% of prisoners released in 2010 could not find employment in the four years since their release.
“When there are employment opportunities,” Gleason said, “they’re not always the kind that are going to pay in a way that is going to support them because not only now do they just need to support themselves, they might need to support their families.”
As of 2020, over 22,000 sentenced prisoners are incarcerated in Oklahoma, which has decreased by almost 9% since the last census in 2010. Yet, studies have estimated that 3-5% of incarcerated prisoners have been wrongfully convicted. By these estimates, more than 1,100 Oklahoma prisoners could be innocent.
During the 2022 legislative session, Munson introduced House Bill 3511 to adjust not only the eligibility requirements for wrongful conviction compensation but also the compensation available for exonerees. However, the bill never made it to the House floor.
HB 3511 would remove the “did not plead guilty” provision for compensation, and instead of the $175,000 cap, exonerees would be eligible for $50,000 for every year they spent wrongfully incarcerated and an additional $50,000 for every year they served on death row. The bill also offered non-financial compensation, such as health benefit plan coverage and tuition-free education.
Heaven Milton, a student in professor Marcus Mallard’s basic editing class, is completing her next film project. (Photo by Michael Palacios)
By Katrina Crumbacher
Editor in Chief
Rose State College recently introduced a new two-track film production degree program to support the growing film industry in Oklahoma.
Graduates of the new film studies and digital media program will receive an Associate in Applied Science in either film studies or digital media. The program’s advisory board is made up of some of the top names in Oklahoma film, such as Matt Payne with Prairie Surf Media, Amy Janes with Green Pastures Studio and Sara Thompson with deadCenter Film.
Marcus Mallard, film studies and digital media program coordinator, has worked on various short film sets and has a master’s in English with an emphasis in film studies from the University of Central Oklahoma.
Ideally, graduates of the program should be able to step right into a film production ready to work, Mallard said.
“The industry is booming here in Oklahoma,” he said. “We are trying to teach those practical applications that are going to get them the jobs inside the film industry as well as the nuances to show off their own filmmaking prowess.”
Mallard said he has reached out to a local technical rental company that brings high-end equipment to incoming film productions to help familiarize the students with some of the more in-depth equipment they might run across on a film set.
“It’s going to create a lot of opportunities for these students that I never had when I was 20 years old, fresh out of college,” he said. “It’s a different atmosphere, and talking to these other industry professionals, it is kind of electric right now.”
Several students have already enrolled in the degree program since it was introduced in December. For the spring semester, the film program is currently offering classes in directing and media aesthetics, basic editing and screenwriting.
“The courses in this program are focusing on really developing that voice of the creator,” he said. “If they want to do the industry side, that’s fine, but the other aspect of this is we’re trying to teach the students how to be content creators.”
Rose State is not the only learning institution in Oklahoma offering film production courses and degree programs. The First Capital Film Crew Institute at Meridian Technology Center in Guthrie opened in March 2022, and Oklahoma City Community College’s film program has already been named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s 40 Best Film Schools of 2022 in the United States and Canada.
“It’s important that people learn filmmaking, not just from a director’s chair but learn filmmaking with their hands, and they actually learn how to physically make a film,” said Austin Taylor, executive director of the Film Education Institute of Oklahoma. “I think these classes are vital for the industry. Full stop. If you don’t have classes for people to be trained, then you don’t have an industry.”
In pursuit of that goal, the FEIO recently introduced Scissortail Studios, an Oklahoma City Public Schools film program designed to introduce high school students to the film industry. Northwest Classen High School and Frederick Douglass High School were the first to take part in the pilot program, and OKCPS hopes to roll out the program district-wide by August 2023.
“The whole program is a success,” Taylor said. “We’re not cutting any corners. We’re doing it right for the kids. We’re getting all the right partnerships and alignments, so it’s not some Joe Schmoe, halfway-put-together film program. By the time we’re done, this is going to be a film program that rivals any film program of any level.”
The film industry in Oklahoma is growing rapidly, and budding film programs are now more common than ever.
“If you’re going to take these classes, make sure they are credible, and they are teaching you what you need to learn to be successful in this industry,” Taylor said. “Seek out these classes, take these classes, get the education that you need, get the training that you need, but self-advocate and do your homework before you hand over money to somebody to make sure that you are, in fact, going to get the training that you want.”
More information on credible film programs throughout the state can be found at the Oklahoma Film and Music Office’s website.
Qdoba in Midwest City is looking to hire new employees. (Photo by Michael Palacios)
By Nathan Fox
The U.S. labor market is experiencing a major crisis: labor shortages.
While many sectors have been hit hard by mass employee walkouts, none have suffered more than food and leisure industries. According to a recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, these industries have witnessed a quit rate of 5.2% since July 2021.
That’s nearly double the national average.
After the pandemic, theaters reopened with limited staff, and countless mom-and-pop shops closed due to employee shortages. Even now, both fast food and sit-down restaurants struggle with being fully staffed. Called “The Great Reshuffle,” many former food service employees have taken to the gig economy to make ends meet. The popularity of delivery services soared during the pandemic.
Everything from groceries to meals could be delivered with little to no cross-contamination with the added bonus of contactless payment.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, delivery services saw a 12% labor increase from the beginning of the pandemic to now.
“I started full time with DoorDash in February 2021,” said Brittany Paul, a single mother of two children. “I was barely making minimum wage working as a waiter and just decided to make the switch. I’m really glad I made that decision.”
As a single mother, Paul found she needed the flexibility that comes with delivery work.
“Flexibility is the most important thing to me,” she said. “During the school year, I can work while my kids are at school. I can’t afford childcare, so I don’t work during the summer. I’m still able to meet all of our needs.”
There is, however, a major drawback to working for a delivery service like DoorDash.
“It’s extremely stressful,” she said. “The job is fast-paced as I try to complete as many deliveries as possible.”
During one particular delivery, things got quite stressful.
“I remember one specific job I had to do,” she said. “I was fulfilling an online grocery order. I had several items already in a shopping cart and was reaching for an item that was perched high on a shelf. A random lady came by and just took my cart. I didn’t know what to do.”
Even after Paul explained to the woman that she was completing an online delivery order, the woman still didn’t seem to understand.
“My purse and gloves were in the front of the cart. Ultimately, I got my cart back, but this is the type of stress I have to deal with while out in the field.”
There are also other important factors to consider when it comes to working for a delivery app.
“The wear and tear on your car is quite high,” she said. “In the past year, I’ve driven 30,000 miles. That’s even with taking the summer off. I don’t mind it. I have a reliable vehicle, but I could see it being an issue if that wasn’t the case.”
While the labor market continues to struggle, delivery workers are reaping the benefits of an ever-evolving system of transporting goods and services. The popularity of these jobs doesn’t seem to be going away, and for the millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet, becoming a delivery driver grows more appealing by the day.
Karina Huerta, sociology major, does homework on the campus mall.