Improving the Racial Climate at Oregon State University

Recommendations to the President’s Cabinet

Monday, September 27, 1999

Submitted by the TEAM Task Force

Task Force Members:

Chala Barrington
Angelo Gomez
Paul James
Phyllis Lee
Susan Longerbeam
Sho Shigeoka
Van Shimasaki
Melanie Spraggins
Joshua Stroud
Lisa Taylor
Stephanie Tucker
Melvin Young

Introduction

The climate of a campus environment sends a strong message of an institution’s value of and commitment toward the success of all its students. Oregon State University strives to create and sustain a diverse campus community that is welcoming, supportive and inclusive of its students, faculty and staff. Of immediate need is attention to a number of actions that affirms University’s commitment to diversity and informs students of color through word and deed that Oregon State University takes that commitment very seriously.

Relatively few racially motivated incidents are reported and held to public scrutiny. Yet, students of color (and faculty and staff of color) describe daily interactions that offend and assault, emotionally and on occasion, physically. They are confronted in classrooms, in residence halls, in dining areas, even while walking to and from their destinations. They hear racist comments, racist jokes, inaccurate or discriminatory historical and sociological references, and are often called upon to serve as the spokesperson for their racial or ethnic group. Just as damaging is being treated as if they are invisible, as if they do not exist, being relegated to the fringes of campus life and marginalized. These are not singular incidents; they are patterns of behaviors, multiple incidents with costly cumulative effects. Such behaviors, whether intentional or not, create hostile learning and living environments that erode and hinders the educational growth, development and achievement of students of color and negate the mission of the University.

Holding the belief that it was possible to improve the current climate, that is, to create a more welcoming and supportive campus community, a multicultural task force of students and five faculty (who served as consultants and advisors) met weekly during July and August, 1999. With support from Vice Provost for Student Affairs Larry Roper, the group reviewed current campus conditions, identified problem areas, discussed possible solutions, explored the opportunities and resources for addressing critical issues, and formulated a set of recommendations. The vision that emerged from these extensive conversations was a very clear aspiration that our campus community could become a place of safety for students of color. This document, Improving Race Relations at Oregon State University is a roadmap for that vision. It is presented to President Paul Risser and his Cabinet for implementation. These recommendations target problem areas and can be sustained over time.

Recommendations

The Task Force recommends that the University, under the leadership of the President and his Cabinet, takes immediate action on the followings to improve the racial climate on campus:

  1. Strongly endorse race sensitivity training for all employees so they can develop and utilize skills that are critical to creating and sustaining a safe and welcoming environment for students of color.
  2. Concern: Students of color do not generally experience the University as a safe environment. The task force believes that it is crucial for all members of the campus community to develop and practice skills that are critical to creating a welcoming environment.

    Recommendation: Deans, Department Heads and Directors are held accountable for providing race sensitivity training for all faculty and staff.

    Responsibility: The President’s Cabinet delegates responsibility to appropriate individuals to evaluate Deans, Department Heads and Directors through the performance appraisal process. Evaluation will be based upon whether race sensitivity training was provided in each University unit.

  3. Create a mechanism for coordinating efforts among appropriate University units and offices for responding to racial incidents.
    • the individual who experiences racial intimidation/harassment
    • the community to which the individual belongs
    • the individual who perpetrates such acts
    • the community to which the perpetrator belongs
    • the larger University and Corvallis communities
  4. Concern: There is no apparent coordination of efforts at the University level for handling racial incidents in a timely and appropriate manner. The group is concerned that such lack of coordination can have a negative impact on

    Recommendation: The University administration develops an action team consisting of various units and offices for assessing and coordinating the response efforts to racial incidents.

    Responsibility: The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) coordinates response efforts as OMA most broadly represents multicultural issues for all faculty, staff, and students on campus. OMA will work with the following offices and units:

    Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity (AA/EO), Associated Students of Oregon State University (ASOSU), Diversity Development, Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), Minority Education Office (MEO), Student Conduct and Mediation, University Counseling & Psychological Services (UCPS), and Vice Provost for Student Affairs.

    OMA will also coordinate with student organizations such as T.E.A.M and Coalition of Cultural Organizations (CoCO).

  5. Support the expansion of the membership of the Associated Students of OSU Student Activity Committee (SAC) and Student Conduct Committee (SCC) in order to include a broader representation of a wide range of diverse voices and views.
  6. Concern: Historically the membership of the SAC and SCC has not reflected the diversity of the campus nor represented the views and voices of those who are most concerned about the importance of diversity and multicultural education. As the SAC is the body to “develop policies and regulations pertaining to social and educational activities of all student organizations” (ASOSU Bylaws), and the SCC is the body to “recommend conduct policies and hear cases” (ASOSU Bylaws), it is imperative that the committees are representative of the diverse views of the student body.

    Recommendation: The SAC adds four more student positions filled by representatives of each of the cultural centers. The SCC adds one faculty and one student position representing the Association of Faculty for the Advancement of People of Color (AFAPC) and the four cultural centers, respectively.

    Responsibility: Office of Student Involvement and Student Conduct and Mediation Programs are responsible for changing the bylaws.

  7. Provide and disseminate quarterly reports from the President’s Office on the current state of race relations on campus; hold a yearly open form on the progress of OSU’s diversity plan.
  8. Concern: As diversity is considered one of the University’s commitments, the group believes that the leader of the institution best acknowledges this commitment publicly, on a consistent basis. These reports and the forum reinforce the University’s commitment to diversity.

    Recommendation: The President utilizes existing venues such as University Day, Periodic Paragraphs from the President, The Barometer, OSU START, OSU CONNECT, Convocation and other University forums. These reports will include data on recruitment and retention of students and faculty of color. They will also include specifics on the University’s commitment to furthering diversity efforts and resolving current racial issues.

    Responsibility: The President provides these reports. The Faculty Senate sponsors a yearly University forum.

  9. Promote improved access to campus resources for students of color through internal marketing efforts.
  10. Concern: Students of color often do not experience the University’s commitment to diversity and multicultural education. There are a number of services that are available to students of color. The task force believes the University can do a better job in clearly communicating the specific services and roles of the offices.

    Recommendation: The University administration promotes and sustains an internal marketing effort using posters, brochures and other forms of communication. This marketing effort describes the services of the following: AA/EO, ASOSU, Cultural Centers, Diversity Development, EOP, MEOs, and OMA.

    Responsibility: University Marketing coordinates a comprehensive University internal marketing effort that demonstrates the University’s commitment to a multicultural campus.

  11. Provide or co-sponsor race sensitivity training to targeted groups, e.g. University Security, Oregon State Police (OSP) stationed at OSU, the Corvallis Police Department (CPD), and on-campus vendors.
  12. Concern: The task force has identified the above named groups as needing training specific to the people they serve and the services they provide. The mistreatment of students of color by these entities continues to occur. The task force believes that it is the responsibility of the University to provide training to members of these groups to raise their level of awareness about race issues. The training will help these entities in developing and utilizing skills that are critical to creating and sustaining a safe and welcoming environment for students of color.

    Recommendation: The University administration utilizes trained diversity facilitators on campus to conduct race sensitivity training for the targeted groups. The task force recommends that the race sensitivity training should be used as a criterion of eligibility to be on-campus vendor. The training sessions will be collaborated between CPD, OSP and Campus Security in order to enhance their ability to better serve students of color.

    Responsibility: Contract Administration ensures that race sensitivity training is provided for all University vendors. VP for Finance and Administration ensures coordinated training between Campus Security, Oregon State Police, and Corvallis Police Department occurs.

  13. Hold the Greek system accountable for living up to its commitment to their professed values of “virtue, scholarship, ethics, justice and friendship” (Greek Life home page).
  14. Concern: The task force is concerned that Greek organizations in general are not demonstrating their commitment to the founding values listed above especially as they related to diversity and multicultural education. The Greek system constitutes a large percentage of the OSU student population; it is crucial that the system be more educated about and sensitive to race issues. Recommendation: The Greek system takes initiative in implementing programs and educational activities that related diversity concepts to their founding values. The Greek organizations tap into existing resources such as cultural centers, Diversity Development, and ASOSU task forces in order to realize their commitment to justice.

    Responsibility: The Greek Life Coordinator challenges each recognized house to live up to its values. The Office of Student Involvement identifies a structure to ensure that the Greek system accepts this challenge. The SAC enacts consequences for violations of student organization policies, especially as they pertain to racial harassment.

  15. Advance the University’s commitment to diversity by implementing new initiatives and increasing efforts in order to improve the general campus community’s ability to address race issues.
    1. State the University’s commitment to diversity and its expectation that students would honor that commitment on the application for admission.
    2. Responsibility: Office of Admission and Orientation

    3. Increase student of color representation and participation in recruiting programs and in new student programs, e.g. Beaver Open House, OSU START, OSU CONNECT, and OSU Odyssey.
    4. Responsibility: Office of Admission and Orientation

    5. Provide better information and improved publicity on diversity-related services that are available to the general campus community (e.g. AA/EO, OMA, MEO, Cultural Centers, Ethnic Studies Department, Difference, Power and Discrimination (DPD) courses.
    6. Responsibility: University Marketing

    7. Maintain a centralized calendar of multicultural programs and activities that are easily accessible to OSU community members.
    8. Responsibility: Office of Multicultural Affairs

    9. Strengthen the DPD Program by including student representation on its task force.
    10. Responsibility: Difference, Power and Discrimination Program

    11. Create new academic credit courses that involve interactive learning experiences.
    12. Responsibility: Difference, Power and Discrimination Program

    13. Offer conversations on race throughout the academic year, led by trained diversity facilitators.
    14. Responsibility: President’s Cabinet

  16. Concern: While the task force commends the efforts made by the University in creating and sustaining services that are specifically designed for students of color, there is a need to increase efforts and resources that improve the general campus community’s ability to address race issues. The group identified the need for the University to state its commitment to diversity more forcefully and to clearly express its expectation that each member of the campus community would honor that commitment.

    Recommendation: Each member of the campus community should be exposed to the University’s commitment to diversity throughout their tenure at the University. Special attention should be given to programs that are available at the beginning of a student’s academic career. There are a number of strategies, programs and educational activities that can help achieve this goal. These include:

  17. Conduct an annual evaluation of the past year’s progress each Spring Term.
    • How well did we do?
    • What worked?
    • What failed? Should failures be fixed and how should that be done?
    • Where do we go from here?
    • Do we have a road map?
    • What will motivate us to keep moving forward?
  18. Concern: With an evaluation process, it will be able to assess progress, identify needed revisions or other adjustments, recognize accomplishments and address failures so that the University knows to what degree it has met its diversity goals. Such evaluation will ensure the integrity and sustainability of the actions and activities that improve race relations on the OSU campus. Some questions to consider:

    Recommendation: The President’s Cabinet assigns the annual evaluation. Findings and recommendations are included in the quarterly reports. A summary is included in the President’s remarks on University Day.

    Responsibility: The President’s Cabinet