UO staff and students share thoughts about racial issues on campus

On Nov. 20, University of Oregon President Michael Schill held a conversation about racism on campus. The room was filled with over 300 faculty members and students gathered to discuss discrimination issues and what needs to be done to resolve them.

Black Student Union member August Jefferson believes underrepresentation is one of these problems.

“The faculty does not communicate well with its diverse students,” Jefferson said. “[Students of color] make up less than 3 percent of the student body. Similarly, we are severely underrepresented in the faculty, so even when we do have questions or concerns, it can easily be lost in translation or even ignored.”

However, there are ways in which the university is addressing these issues. President Schill detailed a plan being set in motion to rename various buildings on campus that are named for notable KKK members, such as Deady Hall.

Everyone in attendance was also given a list of campus resources pertaining to existing programs, initiatives and efforts to help combat the discussed issues.

The list was fairly extensive, detailing increased funds and support for pipeline programming, increased scholarship opportunities for minorities and weekly discussion groups hosted by the counseling center where people can share their thoughts on racial issues on campus.

“What I think is working is there’s a push to be diverse,” college of education staff member Aaron Montoya said. Many people in attendance agreed that the effort to be diverse and accepting of everyone is extremely important.

However, some said that effort isn’t always enough.

“I think we tend to fall into the trap of thinking that if we’re open minded, we’re free of obligation to do anything,” associate professor Daniel Hosang said.

Hosang has written numerous publications pertaining to racial issues. According to Hosang, only 17 percent of the faculty at UO identify as being of color, with only 1 percent identifying as African American.

The consensus seemed to be that while UO has made significant strides in combating discrimination on campus, there’s a lot of work to be done.

“The historical repetition of this process is disturbing,” Pacific & Asian Community Alliance founder Anselmo Villanueva said. “This meeting today is a response to Mizzou. Why don’t we have meetings like this at the beginning of the year? We need to be proactive.”

Jefferson stressed that meetings are important, but not enough.

“For this to be fixed, people need to stop pretending that this isn’t a problem,” Jefferson said.

He went on to describe the impact that each and every student has the potential to make.

“The main thing to take away is that faculty and students need to learn the power that the students have,” Jefferson said. “The faculty would like to think they have the power, but it is the students that give them the power. Students of color need to learn this especially.”

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Kyle Wizner

Kyle Wizner