Protesters rally against COE's discriminatory acts
“What do we want? Equity! When do we want it? Now!”
The voices of more than 200 students, faculty and community members echoed throughout Johnson Hall on Wednesday as they marched through the building in protest of discriminatory treatment in the College of Education.
The protesters assembled in the COE’s quad before marching around campus. They delivered demand letters to COE Dean Marty Kaufman and headed to Johnson Hall to deliver letters to Vice President for Academic Affairs Lorraine Davis and Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Greg Vincent.
The protesters alleged the college has violated its own policies regarding the infusion of diversity in the curriculum and that professors have subjected students to discriminatory treatment. Graduate student Shadiin Garcia, one of the rally’s organizers, delivered an impassioned speech to the enthusiastic crowd.
“The Office of Affirmative Action has ruled that the College of Education is guilty of creating a hostile learning environment,” Garcia said. “We will not be lied to anymore.”
Graduate student Johnny Lake said at the rally that the COE has continually failed to prepare its graduates to teach in increasingly diverse classrooms.
“Each one of you deserves a full and complete education that’s going to prepare you for a diverse and a growingly more diverse community around you,” he said. “You should be a world citizen when you leave this university.”
A recent graduate of the COE, who asked not to be identified, said the college failed to prepare him to deal with increasingly diverse classroom environments. The graduate is currently a substitute teacher in the area.
“For the real situations that teachers are
facing … we don’t get preparation for that,” he said. “The one diversity class doesn’t meet the needs that the real world presents us with … even in Eugene there is more diversity than you’d expect.”
City Councilor David Kelly offered his support to the rally-goers and reiterated the importance of their concerns.
“Many of us would like to believe that issues of racial and ethnic discrimination are in the past,” Kelly said. “But we are in serious denial … These problems are our problems regardless of our ethnicity.”
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy also pledged her support to the rally.
“As mayor I am willing to work on all levels to make sure this place is a welcoming place for everyone,” she said. “This work is not easy work and is never complete. It is truly worthwhile.”
COE Director of Diversity Charles Martinez said that the measures the COE has taken have not been
adequate in addressing the day-to-day issues.
“The efforts that are under way are designed to proactively address the underlying issues and often fall short of addressing the immediate issues that our faculty, students and staff deal with on a daily basis,” he said. “We must do more to be responsive to these issues.”
One observer, a graduate student in the Educational Leadership program, said he had seen intolerance in the COE. The student asked not be identified “because of the climate.”
“There’s a climate of fear here that emanates from the dean’s office and that just invades the rest of the college,” he said. “Students are afraid they’ll say the wrong thing and be penalized.”
COE Graduate student Dennis Redmond said he’s been “flabbergasted” by what he’s seen in his classes at the college.
“I’ve seen faculty patronizing students of color in front of classes and large groups,” he said. “When diversity comes up (in class discussion), it’s typically the faculty that shut it down.”
Another COE graduate student who asked not to be identified said he felt the black students were targeted and degraded in one of his classes.
“Whenever we had a personal story to tell, the professor made us call them ‘my cousin Vinny’ stories … already putting a comical spin on it like it shouldn’t be taken seriously,” he said. “A black student was telling a story and the professor said ‘That’s not the perspective we’re looking for right now. It doesn’t have any bearing to what we’re talking about.'”
After asking the crowd to join hands, Lake gave the rally-goers a little lesson in solidarity.
“This is a lesson I teach kindergartners, so it may be a little
complex,” he said. “But there is nobody that can come into this crowd and treat me unfairly because we are united.”
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