Since returning from winter break, OU Fun Facts has focused on regrouping in preparation for their Spring semester plans.
In December, the group held a round table meeting to sign up new members and explain their positions, which include having discussions with the university about how changes in the budget will affect faculty and students.
OU Fun Facts was founded spontaneously after Alex Armstrong, a senior studying French and one of the organizing members, had seen OU-AAUP’s budget analysis on Facebook, he said. Armstrong said the information he’d seen in the analysis shocked him to the point that he felt it was something that every student on campus should know.
It led Armstrong to create a list of “fun facts” about the most eye-catching information in the OU-AAUP budget analysis.
“I took the info from that flyer and I didn't really have a plan, I was just angry and I wanted to do something. So I made that little sheet,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong then printed about 20 copies of the flyers and put them in buildings around campus. The flyers made it onto Twitter, where they blew up, Armstrong said, and he began discussing with friends about what they could do.
“We all got together and...we ended up printing hundreds of copies. We just started sticking them up in all the buildings...to get the message out,” Armstrong said. “It didn't really start turning into anything formal, like a movement or anything, until after that.”
Though winter break was approaching, OU Fun Facts held a rally to support faculty and protest the university’s changing budget before students left campus.
“This was the week before Thanksgiving. We talked about it and we said, ‘Now we have to try because this has really blown up in the last couple of days, we have the momentum, so we have to,’” Armstrong said.
The rally led to a discussion between OU Fun Facts members and OU President Duane Nellis.
“The thing that really struck me was...where we were sort of getting this message of ‘We're facing problems with enrollment. We can't be having things that hurt our public image like rallies and instead, we should engage in internal dialogue [with] students, administrators, and faculty members,’” Armstrong said. “I didn't sugarcoat anything, I said that we do want to engage in internal dialogue...but we recognize that unless we are coming from a position of power, from a position of leverage, you don't have to listen to what we say,” Armstrong said.
The group was in contact with Nellis’ office during the weeks after the rally, but eventually, the discussion stopped, Armstrong said. He later received an email from the president’s email account, he said.
“(The email) very artfully said, ‘We really appreciate your input and we believe that you should talk to Student Senate about your further concerns,’” Armstrong said.
Since the beginning of the spring semester, OU Fun Facts has worked to bring in new members and reconnect with the hundreds of students who had been put on the group’s email lists.
“This started out with a couple of my friends who were really concerned and passionate, and the number of people I've met that have gotten on board is really inspiring,” Armstrong said.
While not affiliated with OU Fun Facts, OU-AAUP supports the students who look into how the university is spending their money, Loren Lybarger, president of OU-AAUP, said in an email.
“OU-AAUP is one of many campus community stakeholders expressing concerns about equity and shifting institutional priorities at OHIO. Students in particular experience rising costs firsthand, and cuts to faculty directly affect their education,” Lybarger said. “It is therefore doubly unsurprising that students, like those in OU Fun Facts, have begun asking their own questions and holding their own events to speak with each other about the future of their university,” Lybarger said.
At about the same time that OU Fun Facts had formed, other students, like Callie Smith, a junior studying studio art, wanted to bring attention to the discussion about the budget. Smith created a popular budget zine, a small pamphlet-like publication, after she attended an OU-AAUP meeting, she said.
“We kind of were working on the same sort of things at the same time last semester,” Smith said. “We kind of had the same goals and we were finding out the same information around the same time. We wanted to put it out there for other people to know.”
At the moment, Armstrong said OU Fun Facts is planning events that it will hold later this semester, and that anyone who is interested should follow their Twitter account.
Armstrong said he hopes that OU Fun Facts will eventually contribute to a change in how the university is run.
“We hope to see a degree of shared governance, where especially students, because we are a student group, but also faculty, have a really meaningful say in how the university is run...We hope to change the culture of administrative bloat and excess,” Armstrong said.