President Schill & VP for Diversity Alex-Assensoh on Black Student demands

Sent out this afternoon:

Dear campus community, 

One of the hallmarks of a great university is that it does not shy away from tough questions or difficult topics, be they cultural, theoretical, or scientific. Rather, a great university embraces challenges and applies intellectual, academic, and research rigor to delivering solutions that move the community, the nation, and the world forward to make it better.

In this case, the challenging issue for the University of Oregon is one of enhancing our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Ensuring that all UO students have a world-class campus experience is one of this administration’s top priorities. We are dedicated to doing all we can to foster a campus climate that embraces diversity, encourages equity, and values inclusion. In particular, we recognize that we can and must do more as an institution to meet the needs of Black students. We cannot and will not shy away from this conversation, and today we are pleased to share some of the progress we’ve made to address this important issue.

In December, following a rally on campus, the Black Student Task Force released a list of demands, highlighting specific action steps the university can take to enhance diversity and inclusion on campus. This list prompted more discussion, and 13 working groups were created to address concerns raised by members of the BSTF. Those groups—led by university senior leaders and composed of faculty, staff, and students—have been meeting through the winter and spring to review promising practices in each of these areas, analyze the opportunities as well as the challenges, and develop meaningful action steps for moving forward. In collaboration with UO faculty, staff, and administration, members of the BSTF have been an integral part of developing these recommendations, and we want to recognize and thank our students for their input and partnership. We will continue to work with BSTF and other stakeholders within the UO community as we endeavor to strengthen services and resources that support equity and inclusion.

Recommendations that are moving ahead include the following:

  • African American Opportunities Program—Beginning in fall 2016, the university’s Enrollment Management team will significantly expand its efforts to attract and recruit African American students, including programs and activities that enhance the UO’s outreach to and partnership with African American students, their families, and community partners. This will also include additional staff members who are experienced in working with the African American community.  
  • Fraternity and Sorority Life—Beginning in fall 2016, the university will invite six historically Black Greek letter organizations to the UO to become part of Fraternity and Sorority Life, including
    • Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity
    • Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority
    • Delta Sigma Theta sorority
    • Omega Psi Phi fraternity
    • Phi Beta Sigma fraternity
    • Zeta Phi Beta sorority
  • Exploratory information sessions will begin this spring term. The UO will work with civic organizations from Eugene as well as Black faculty and staff who are members of these Greek organizations to promote and encourage the success of this initiative.
  • Academic Residential Community—The Umoja Pan-African Scholars Academic Residential Community will be launched in fall 2016. It will accommodate 25 students and will be housed in the Living-Learning Center.
  • Student Advisory Boards—Beginning in fall 2016, an African American advisory group will be added to the existing multicultural Student Leadership Team in the Division of Equity and Inclusion to assist with the development of strategies related to African American student retention and advising. This group will comprise members of the faculty, staff, and student body.  
  • Speaker Series, Seminars, and Workshops—The African American Presidential Lecture Series will bring a range of African American scholars and practitioners to campus—authors, scientists, and innovators, world leaders, game-changing policymakers, authors, and artists—to share concepts, information, and perspectives for the intellectual enrichment and development of the UO community. Speakers next year will include Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, and Kelly Mack, vice president for undergraduate STEM education at the American Association of College and Universities. These events are being scheduled and more details will be provided as soon as they become available. We also will seek input from across campus as we create a list of additional prospective lecturers. 
  • Diversity Data—Beginning immediately, the university will publish campus diversity data at https://inclusion.uoregon.edu/content/facts-and-figures. This includes a link to published safety data from the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The university will annually review the data that is provided on this site and add or change data as new information becomes available.

These six initial investments reflect a commitment to enhancing the recruitment and retention of Black students on our campus, but they are only the beginning. We are analyzing recommendations recently received on the remaining issues, including building de-naming, advising and retention, faculty hiring, scholarships, and more. We will make decisions on these outstanding recommendations or refer them to the appropriate university body in a timely manner, and our sincere expectation and hope is that we will be able to make progress on each proposal. We are committed to completely analyzing the issues, examining their feasibility, assessing available resources, studying alternatives, sharing progress, and moving forward in a thoughtful and reasoned way.

We want to again thank members of the Black Student Task Force for raising these important issues about race, diversity, and inclusion on the UO campus. We have much work to do, and will continue to engage members of the campus community in this important discussion. 

Michael H. Schill

President and Professor of Law

Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh

Vice President for Equity and Inclusion  

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6 Responses to President Schill & VP for Diversity Alex-Assensoh on Black Student demands

  1. anonymous says:

    pander, pander, pander! but maybe he won’t go quite so far as Mizzou.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The way this was demanded leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Where I otherwise would fully support any effort to outreach and include more of our fellow human beings on a path of education and improvement, this sets a terrible precedent.

    • just different says:

      And that’s really what all the indignation is about. If, say, Schill had decided on a whim to rename Deady–as long as the new honoree was someone everyone more-or-less liked–no one but a few die-hard Oregon history buffs would care. But since a bunch of black students had the temerity to forget their place and demand it, all of a sudden there’s an intense interest in the minutiae of the political beliefs of a minor jurist who died over a century ago.

    • anonymouse says:

      Anonymous, hope you feel the same way about students demanding disinvestment from fossil fuel.

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