Campus Climate on Race

To the OSU Community:

In recent weeks, The Oregonian and other media have carried coverage focusing on the campus climate at OSU regarding race, recent incidents regarding racial symbols and steps the university is taking to address these matters. We have long recognized the need to address such matters here at OSU.

Increasing diversity at OSU and a sense of community is a cornerstone of our values and aspirations and a critical element of our strategic plan.

I am personally committed to creating an inclusive, nurturing environment at OSU, as is my administrative leadership team and many colleagues across campus. We are addressing campus climate in a deliberate and focused way:

  • We have hired directors for two important campus efforts, the Office of Community and Diversity and the Office of Women and Gender Equity.
  • We are focusing recruitment efforts to attract a larger number of students of color, an effort that paid off this fall with a percentage increase in U.S. minority student enrollment three times that of our overall student body.
  • We have created a Faculty Diversity Initiative to attract individuals from diverse backgrounds to senior positions.
  • We have developed a university-level Diversity Action Plan that defines a broad action agenda to develop a more inclusive community, and each division of the university has created its own plan for actions specific to its operations.

The Campaign for OSU is raising funds to attract the best and brightest students from diverse backgrounds and to enhance our student cultural centers. We have a development director for diversity and student-centered initiatives.

I recognize that changing attitudes and behaviors is complex. I also recognize that the educational and social experiences are not the same for all of our students. While it will take time to reach our campus community and diversity goals, listening to the campus community and to our external friends and partners is vital.

Along those lines, multiple actions will be taken in the next few weeks, including:

  • A facilitated dialogue between black students and The Daily Barometer staff.
  • Announcement of the OSU Campus Climate Initiative.
  • A second meeting between black students, me, and my administrative team as a follow-up to our recent discussion at OSU's Black Cultural Center.

The Office of Community and Diversity is scheduling a meeting for a mock trial for winter term to critically examine recent campus issues related to race.

We are first, last, and always an educational institution. So I am concerned about the effectiveness of our educational environment in helping students, staff and faculty to understand, appreciate and celebrate our differences and to be sensitive to symbols of racism and oppression. I am also concerned about the effectiveness of our community activities to bring different people together to listen to each other and to understand each other's history, experiences, and concerns. Clearly there is more listening to be done.

I do not want us to engage in a cyclical pattern of negative events, meaningful dialogues, and then business as usual. We have committed to look at the issues students raised and to make progress. The notion that nothing changes is simply not acceptable. At the end of our recent meeting at the Black Cultural Center, I told students that I am genuinely sorry that we are not in a better place as a community and that I am committed to meaningful changes.

Ed Ray
President, Oregon State University