A History of Difference, Power, and discrimination at Oregon State University (4 of 4)



I. Proposals from students following 1990 incident

1. It is imperative that the University administration adopt a “Zero Tolerance” policy to <I>all</I> forms of racist and discriminatory behavior. This provision is to include harassment that is motivated by race, gender or sexual orientation.

2. The University must develop and implement a series of courses dealing with cultural and ethnic diversity, as well as racism/discrimination and their origins. We strongly recommend that qualified minority applicants be recruited to serve as instructors for any such course.

3. The University must make a firm commitment to the existence of cultural centers.

4. The proposed Office for Minority Affairs should be held by a Vice President for Equality Affairs.

5. An educational program for all faculty, staff (classified as well) and other university employees should be developed and implemented by spring term 1991.

6. The Affirmative Action Office should be reviewed on a quarterly basis and this review should be made available to all student leaders.


II. Student petition from 1998 requesting the reinstatement of DPD program

 “The highest aspiration of a university is to free people’s minds from ignorance, prejudice, and provincialism and to stimulate a lasting attitude of inquiry. Oregon State University shares this aspiration with universities everywhere.”— Oregon State University Guidelines

In 1993 the Difference, Power, and Discrimination (DPD) Program was founded to support the University’s guidelines to “free people’s minds from ignorance, prejudice, and provincialism.” Currently, budget cuts have both jeopardized this program and the University’s “highest aspiration.” At a time that OSU is attempting to broaden its appeal to students of diverse backgrounds it is essential that the University honor its expressed commitment to educating students about the heterogeneous world in which they will live and work.

We believe that implementing the following supports the guidelines as set forth by the University itself:

1. Funding comparable to the Writing Intensive Curriculum;

2. Full support for a DPD director;

3. Full support for faculty training /seminars beginning in the fall of 1998;

4. A public commitment by the administration to fund DPD on an ongoing basis.


III. Currently approved DPD criteria

Difference, power, and discrimination courses shall:

A. Be at least three credits;

B. Emphasize elements of critical thinking;

C. Have as their central focus the study of the unequal distribution of power within the framework of particular disciplines and course content;

D. Focus primarily on the United States, although global contexts are encouraged;

E. Provide illustrations of ways in which structural, institutional, and ideological discrimination arise from socially defined meanings attributed to difference;

F. Provide historical and contemporary examples of difference, power, and discrimination across cultural, economic, social, and political institutions in the United States:

G. Provide illustrations of ways in which the interactions of social categories, such as race, ethnicity, social class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and age, are related to difference, power, and discrimination in the United States;

H. Provide a multidisciplinary perspective on issues of difference, power, and discrimination;

I. Incorporate interactive learning activities (e.g., ungraded, in-class writing exercises; classroom discussion; peer-review of written material; webbased discussion groups); and

J. Be regularly numbered department offerings rather than X99 or blanket number courses.

The unequal distribution of social, economic, and political power in the United States and in other countries is sustained through a variety of individual beliefs and institutional practices. These beliefs and practices have tended to obscure the origins and operations of social discrimination such that this unequal power distribution is often viewed as the natural order. The DPD requirement engages students in the intellectual examination of the complexity of the structures, systems and ideologies that sustain discrimination and the unequal distribution of power and resources in society. Such examination will enhance meaningful democratic participation in our diverse university community and our increasingly multicultural U.S. society.



McLagan, Elizabeth. A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788–1940.

The Oregon Black History Project. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press, 1980.