OSU's Institutional Diversity slogan is “We Have Work To Do”. In 1990, concerned OSU students wrote a letter to then President John V. Byrne to confront campus-wide discrimination. Still today, 30 years later, the simple requests outlined in their letter have yet to be satisfied. At this critical juncture in our lives we must ensure that the revolution does not leave OSU behind once again. It is time to tell OSU that WE CAN DO THE WORK.
Remove weaponized police and only maintain the bare minimum guard force for the TRIGA nuclear reactor.
Re-direct funding to services that meet the needs of this community; student health, funding CAPS, emergency housing, the food pantry, maintaining the OSU pharmacy and more
Mandatory anti-racism, open-dialogue course requirement for ALL degrees at Oregon State University.
Actions and policy relating to public safety including any decisions made about equity and inclusion on campus must be made with community oversight and must be explicitly public.
This letter was collectively authored by concerned students, faculty, staff, and community members of Oregon State University (OSU) speaking up and acting for social change and public safety. We are writing to inform you of the concerns we have brought to Ed Ray and his administration’s attention in regards to OSU better supporting the Black community and all other communities of color. OSU students have called for this campus to confront its foundational roots of discriminatory practices and racial bias for far too long. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in the OSU community have been fighting tirelessly decade after decade to demand that our university create and enact real and sustainable institutional change centered on the interests of Black, Brown, Queer & Trans, Disabled, and working-class members of our community.
In 1969, OSU’s Black Student Union organized a sit-in. They led a walk-out on campus due to outrage toward the football team’s racist policies. Then, in 1990, concerned students and staff wrote a letter demanding that OSU adopt anti-discriminatory policies. In 1996, 170 students of color rallied together and led an all-OSU boycott and march in response to several racially biased incidents that made the campus climate unwelcoming and unsafe for students of color. Most recently, under Ed Ray’s administration, the 2015 Students of Color Speak Out insisted that Ray’s administration create institutional change that will move the campus towards an anti-racist community. Since 2015, not much has changed for the BIPOC community and students have continued to mobilize in hopes of creating a better educational model for future generations.
Black students have been calling for a different OSU since well before 1969, yet the university continues to cultivate a culture of White supremacy. Student activism has continued over the last month, and we must make you aware of our ongoing communications with your predecessor, Ed Ray. This community has written many letters, initiated petitions, and led or participated in Black Lives Matter marches. Overarching among these demands for action is the high urgency for OSU to provide Black students, staff, and faculty accommodations. Concerned students developed separate petitions, one demanding that all 15 colleges support Black students and faculty, the other demanding that OSU prioritize mandatory anti-racism education. OSU’s students of color have made numerous efforts to persist and thrive on campus despite bearing the overwhelming burden of systemic discrimination. They have received many promises for change, and yet, we must still demand change to this day.
Enough is enough. How long will it take OSU to make these institutional changes? Will it take OSU another decade to treat their students with dignity? Will it take another administration? Another global movement? Another George Floyd or Breonna Taylor? How many more Black lives will be lost before OSU takes action? Here is your opportunity. As an incoming president, start by proving your commitment to the well-being of your Black and Brown students.
Oregon State has remained purely performative in its acknowledgment of underrepresented communities and its role in perpetuating the cycle of racialized violence and oppression. The OSU community is complicit each time it chooses to address racism, whether on campus or during a global revolution, with empty words and hollow promises. Rather than standing by in quiet solidarity, it is time for the university to pursue and enact real change. Building on the efforts of Black and Brown OSU alumni and students from past to present, and inspired by students of the Lonnie B. Harris Cultural Center, here are action steps to help OSU move toward an anti-racist, inclusive campus right now.
We demand that OSU immediately adopt and prioritize the following demands in all present and upcoming university planning meetings:
Initial demands that have yet to be enforced:
Demand 1: Disarm OSU
Demand 2: Anti-racism education
Demand 3: Explicit Transparency
Demand 4: Racial aggression accountability
Demand 5: Expand faculty diversity and retention
The student activists of 1969, 1990, 1996 and 2015 were promised change; it did not take long before those promises, promises made to students only concerned about the future of Oregon State University and their peers of color, were broken. The revolution cannot leave Oregon behind once again. We need to be proactive about educating the students of Oregon State University about racism and about protecting them from the current systemic monster that preys on the members in our society who are different. While many more things must be done for students of color than are described here in this letter, the five demands outlined above represent the bare minimum actions our community requires of the university.
Students of color at Oregon State University have been pleading for anti-racism action for over 50 years. For the good of Black, Indigenous, and students of color, it is time we listened to them. We urge you, F. King Alexander, along with your administration, to prioritize our demands as described in this letter. This university needs systemic change, and you can help be the one to start that change.
Centralize and Uplift Black Voices in this change!Send the letter
We may have a response, but it's not over yet. Most of our demands still haven't been met, and we have questions.
On August 24th, the #DisarmOSU and #WeCanDoTheWork campaign team finally received an official response to our demands from Oregon State University administration. Though we requested that the university’s response be shared publicly upon release, and the document itself states that “OSU commits to clearly communicating notices regarding public safety in multiple modalities and making them available on the public safety website,” the university has yet to publicize this response. We still expect the public release of this response to students, faculty and staff, as well as the public release of the Transition Plan for Success document, as promised. Furthermore, we find the OSU administration’s response to be consistently vague, at times falsifiable, and generally insufficient in both meeting our demands and serving the OSU community.
We ask that the university provide extensive clarification and elaboration of some of the commitments outlined in this response, and at times, we fully reject the language provided by OSU and stand by our demands. We expect further correspondence and movement from the university regarding the following language:
OSU’s response cites “legitimate/demonstrated university public safety needs” as means to dismiss our calls to defund and cancel the formation of a private, armed police force. OSU must provide metrics that demonstrate these needs. On August 24th, Steve Clark, Vice President of University Relations, said that “OSU is one of the safest universities in the nation.” From our research into the 2019 Corvallis Campus Final Clery Draft for the year 2018, 68.3% of reported crimes on campus had to do with drug or alcohol-related offenses, which predominantly affect People of Color (according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, 4 in 10 drug arrests in 2018 were marijuana arrests, and the ACLU reports that Black people are 4 times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana).
OSU has claimed in the past that public safety needs include responses to active shooters, fights, fraternity/sorority issues, mental health crises, and rape/domestic violence, all of which are issues #DisarmOSU and #WeCanDoTheWork has demonstrated via our FAQ page that armed police are insufficient in addressing. Portland State University announced it is disarming its campus on August 13, 2020 after years of protesting over the murder of Jason Washington by that armed police force. OSU must justify continually ignoring outcries, local to international, to not disarm and defund the police.
OSU administration claims to have consulted the Corvallis Police Department and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office regarding providing policing services to campus, and CAHOOTS regarding the formation of an unarmed crisis mediation team, but we have yet to see proof or meeting minutes that detail the occurrences and contents of these conversations. OSU must demonstrate that these meetings occurred, provide information gathered from these meetings, and publicize further correspondence with these bodies on the public safety website and other modes as promised.
OSU promises to “resource” services and programs including an unarmed crisis mediation team, CAPS, the Ethnic studies program, the Difference, Power and Discrimination (DPD) program, Student Experiences and Engagement, Diversity and Cultural Engagement, the Educational Opportunities program, University Housing and Dining Service, and other diversity initiatives and programs. We can only assume this language, which we suspect to be intentionally vague, implies intentions to increase fiscal resources for these entities. OSU must confirm their commitment to increase funding allocated to these bodies via concrete financial reports, and commit to funding increases that are sufficient enough to fulfill our demands. Again, this money can and should be sourced from defunding campus police.
OSU claims it will “work to enhance accountability and transparency in policing and build community trust through oversight” by creating “Public Safety Oversight groups comprised of university community members.” Despite OSU pressing on in the officer hiring process, we have seen no movement towards the formation of these Public Safety Oversight groups, which are OSU’s primary method thus far of holding hired officers accountable. They have provided no concrete plans of the composition or structure of these committees, who will be invited to serve on them, and what direct authority they will have over officers. The suggestion that these groups will be tasked with “evaluating and promoting the goals and programs of the police Department” is extremely alarming and clearly demonstrates the lack of oversight the community would be allowed to conduct over these officers within OSU’s current plans. We find this frightening lack of preparation regarding accountability measures clearly demonstrates why OSU should halt the formation of a weaponized police force, and staunchly maintain our position that OSU must defund policing on campus.
We are disappointed, frustrated, and frankly insulted at how OSU administration’s words convey a hollow appreciation for our campaign team’s labor, and concern for the safety and health of our community, while their actions continually display obvious apathy and dismissal. We will continue to campaign until we see restorative justice for all members of our community, and pressure OSU decision makers, not limited to the OSU Board of Trustees, President F. King Alexander, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Charlene Alexander, Interim Chief of Public Safety Paul Odenthal, Chief Financial Officer Michael Green, and Provost Ed Feser to fulfill a moral responsibility vested by our community to take the right side of history, as other institutions are doing around the nation. We expect extensive clarification, elaboration, and particularly regarding #DisarmOSU, complete structural changes to the plans provided in OSU’s response to our demands by September 14th, in addition to the promised release of the public safety budget, which was promised to us on August 30th.