I clearly remember President Schill’s convocation speech to start off my first year at the University of Oregon. I didn’t want to go, but my roommate asked me to accompany her, and I’m glad I did. I remember listening to Schill proudly speak about how diverse UO was. In that moment, I was proud to attend a university that didn’t tolerate racism in any form. I quickly learned that this was simply not true.
I’m a half Latina who came from Los Angeles. I was raised by a Mexican mother and grandmother and lived in a Latinx community. I went to schools with Latinx, Black, Polynesian and Asian folks. When I started at UO, I was shocked to see so many white folks in my classrooms. I noticed that, in every class I was in, I could count the students of color on one hand. I had never felt so uncomfortable in my life, and I immediately started doing my research on how “diverse” the university really was.
As of March, UO’s student body was 33.7% students of color, 59.2% White and 7.2% international , according to the Office of Institutional Research. The OIR also recorded that people of color constitute 21.4% of administrators, 17.2% of classified employees and 15.9% of administration officers.
When confronted with these data, why do we still believe UO is diverse? Simply put, it’s because the university is so good at selling the idea of diversity on campus. The first pictures on the school website consist of a majority of students of color, giving a false impression of the student population before you even arrive at UO. The Office of Admissions will tell you about all the diversity resources that come from the Multicultural Center and the different Academic Residential Communities for students of color. However, no one will tell you that once students of color leave these spaces, they will be surrounded by whiteness for the rest of their college career.
The consequence of going to UO, a primarily white institution, is that there are various reminders of racism around campus. Just recently, the school decided to rename Deady Hall, which was named after a federal judge who once served as president of the UO Board of Regents, supported slavery and was found to be a raging racist. Students have asked for years to remove the name, but Schill felt that it would take away a significant part of the history of the university, according to Andrew Theen from the Oregonian. Recently, the Board of Trustees voted to remove the name, but not without students pushing and demanding the change for years.
This is only one of the various examples of the way racism and inequality pervade UO. However, by taking a walk around campus, you can clearly see all the other ways the university protects its racist history and the disproportionate demographics of students. The university prides itself on a perception of inclusivity that only exists in the envelopes that they send to prospective students. It’s time the school stops perpetuating the myth of inclusion and equality when it does nothing to combat the subtle racism that exists on campus.