WORK

We Demand Oregon State University Stop Deferring Our Dream for a Just University

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.  

Defund the Police

Remove weaponized police and only maintain the bare minimum guard force for the TRIGA nuclear reactor.

Invest in Community

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

Anti-racism Education

Mandatory anti-racism, open-dialogue course requirement for ALL degrees at Oregon State University.

Explicit Transparency

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.

DEAR F. King Alexander





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:

  1. President F. King Alexander, his office, and 15 colleges to have a conversation prior to Fall 2020 with Black student leaders, faculty, and professional staff to ensure transparency and the implementation of their specific needs in addition to adherence to the demands in this letter moving forward. President F. King Alexander must continue to take lead and prioritize the needs of Black students and faculty and continue those conversations as needed. These conversations must end with action items that are intended to work towards meeting our demands.
  2. a. Note: Ed Ray stated in his address to the collective response that Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer in OID, Dr. Charlene Alexander, will lead this conversation. To this day, that has not occurred in any substantive way.
  3. President F. King Alexander and his office communicate to Black students, faculty, and professional staff via email that OSU sees them, OSU cares about them, and reminds the Black community of resources they have for support.
  4. OSU faculty continue to be flexible during this time with assignments and finals for their Black students. The latter are experiencing heightened racial trauma, and these actions, as called for in the collective response to Ed Ray, are the baseline of necessary accommodations.
  5. a. Echoing CPHHS students, staff, and dean, Javier Nieto:
    i. Granting deadline extensions
    ii. Waiving grades on assignments
    iii. Giving Black students the option to keep the grade they have already earned in a class if they wish to forego grades on further assignments or final exams.
  6. Give Black faculty grading extension deadlines.
  7. Give Black pro-staff PTO or some form of time off from work.

Demand 1: Disarm OSU

  1. Required community involvement and co-governance in the formation of a bare minimum force required by federal law for our on-campus research reactor that will not exceed the required one (1) armed guard and five (5) rapid response personnel. These individuals must only respond to the reactor; not all of campus.
  2. a. 10CFR73 requires that armed security is present at nuclear reactors. This federal requirement does not apply to the rest of the campus and cannot justify an armed response anywhere else on campus.
    b. Federal requirements do not preclude community oversight.
    c. The armed security can and must be restricted to the minimum required.
  3. Immediately cut the university's policing budget by 50% and commit to a total defunding of campus police by 2023.
  4. a. Cancel the formation of the private police force and end all existing searches for employees, staff or contract workers therein.
    b.The 50% reduction to apply to public safety/police salary and resource spending allocations.
  5. Immediately end OSU's contract with the Oregon State Police (OSP). This is the same police force that was responsible for racially profiling and using excessive force against a Black OSU student. As long as OSU contracts with OSP, they put Black lives in danger.
  6. Transparent reallocation of funding away from policing towards the expansion of services, which contribute to community health and safety, such as a mandatory anti-racism course for students in all degree programs, hiring Black counselors at Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Services and Pharmacy, UHDS Emergency Housing Program, Survivor Advocacy Resource Center, Human Services Resource Center, among others.
  7. a. Allocate resources to the formation of a committee of BIPOC students, staff, faculty, and community members to develop and publish a written plan by Spring 2021 that outlines the pathway to fully defunding police and reallocating funding towards essential services beginning in 2023.
    b. Give this committee power to make decisions about the reinvestment of funds divested from policing.
  8. Accountability
  9. a. Monthly public forums for OSU students, staff, and community members to provide feedback for guard force accountability. These forums must not take place during week 8-10 during the term due to the students finals schedule. When past community forums have tried to take place during those weeks there is a low turnout rate. These forums must be widely marketed and advertised in every OSU building and advertised in all student emails a week in advance minimum, with reminder.
    b. Complete open and public release of records about all newly hired guards/officers and substantial public input regarding any new hires. Create a page on the Public Safety website that highlights each guard with a photo, name, contact information, and any information about past police and or security work including misconduct cases.
  10. Create an unarmed crisis/mediation team to call on campus in addition to public safety.
  11. a. The act of calling police poses a great danger for people of color and specifically for folx in the Black community. One example was in June 2018, when Portland community member, Jason Washington, was shot to death attempting to de-escalate a fight between a group of men. This murder was committed by armed Portland State University police force, who faced no consequences. This murder is one of many documented cases of police violence that has happened to Black people over time, and it is crucial for this administration to consider these consequences and the need for more access to mental health care at all levels.
  12. Relocate the Department of Public Safety on OSU-Corvallis campus closer to nuclear plant facilities.
  13. a. We understand that federal requirements obligate OSU to have armed police response for the nuclear facility. However, this does not mean that we need armed police anywhere else on campus. Placing the Department of Public Safety close to the nuclear research center will decrease the campus area that any armed officers will have to pass through in order to reach the facility.
  14. Ed Ray mentioned, “...the Office of Institutional Diversity will continue to provide training to OSU public safety officers on implicit bias, foundations of power, privilege, and oppression to ensure that our public safety practices are congruent with OSU’s values regarding inclusivity and opposing oppression…” We demand that these ideas be acted upon and not just spoken by the university administration. If police on-campus is required, we demand the immediate implementation of REQUIRED trainings for:
  15. a. OSU public safety to have examinations of policing in the Black community
    b. OID and OSU public safety to carry out restorative justice, implicit bias and de-escalation training
  16. Divest from Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) and other prison-made goods for Oregon State University, which includes but is not limited to desks, chairs, and other furniture items in all university buildings. In 1999, Oregon passed Measure 68 which allowed OCE to function and enabled the Oregon carceral system to capitalize on incarcerated folks. While this is supposed to be a “rehabilitating” process, this practice is a modern form of slave labor, which OSU is using to create a learning environment for students. Divest from prison labor now.
  17. Support defunding the Corvallis Police Department.
  18. a. OSU to divest from/pull grant funding from the Community Livability Unit and to invest in departments on campus that promote engaged community learning, diversity, and equity work. The city of Eugene partners with CAHOOTS which is a community care focused alternative to policing that is an emergency response team that focuses on mental health, houselessness, and addiction. We demand that the university contracts with an unarmed community centered response team that is crucial when about public safety.
    OSU to support defunding the police, a campaign currently led by the Black Lives Matter movement, by issuing public statements and lobbying Corvallis city council in favor of defunding the Corvallis Police Department.

Demand 2: Anti-racism education

  1. It is not the duty of BIPOC students to educate their peers. The responsibility lies with this university, a land-grant institution founded in a state where Black people were explicitly banned. In their 1990 letter, concerned students called for a mandatory series of courses to address diversity, racism and its origins, and the university’s documented intolerance in a contemporary context. The response was the Difference, Power, and Discrimination (DPD) core course requirement. Today, nearly 75% of DPD course options do not include adequate anti-racism instruction. The course instructors do not need to take specific diversity training to instruct these courses, and this course requirement is not mandatory for all degree-seeking students. The student’s request for anti-racism, pro-diversity education has still yet to be satisfied. In OSU’s We Have Work to Do campaign, the university commits to Transforming Our Future through “Collaboratively envisioning a university motivated by diversity, inclusion and social justice.” It is time to stop envisioning a different future and do the work of making that future a reality by implementing a mandatory anti-racism, open-dialogue course requirement for all degrees at OSU.
  2. The aforementioned course requirement must focus strongly on a comprehensive evaluation of systemic racism and bias. It should not be reduced to a brief discussion or listening session(s) for already-concerned students. The course requirement will be satisfied by at least a full-term class that includes ongoing, impactful discourse with students. We believe that all OSU students must be exposed to the history of racism and oppression in the state of Oregon and in the nation at large. Students must receive tangible exercises for learning to identify systemic biases, understand privilege, and have a more personal view about embracing diversity.
  3. Courses from the Ethnic Studies department should be used to fulfill this requirement, as they adequately address the criteria as listed above. The purpose of Ethnic Studies is to address anti-racism through each of their classes. Prioritize funding to the Ethnic Studies department to allow these courses to expand and fulfill the needs of an anti-racism education, which must be mandatory for all students regardless of degree.
  4. Currently, professors teaching DPD program courses are instructed to take a 60-hour DPD academy training, but this condition is not enforceable, giving no guarantee that the professor who teaches a DPD course will be qualified to do so. It is also possible for an instructor to inherit a DPD course that they have not been adequately trained to teach, or for a professor to pitch a DPD course that they do not end up teaching themselves. This current system does not uphold the demands of the concerned student letter in 1990 for qualified minority instructors. This minimal request for diversity-competent instructors must extend past the mandatory course requirement that is implemented. We demand that all faculty who teach, regardless of subject, go through the Black Minds Matter course led by OSU Black professional staff members. Currently, these facilitators are Dorian Smith, Kim McAloney, and Jason Dorsette.
  5. Graduate students cannot be exempt from the course requirement. Graduate students do not have to take an anti-racism course option at present, and students like Andrew Oswalt can graduate with a degree from OSU without ever having their ideologies challenged. The values espoused by Oswalt are precisely those which have led to the murder of so many innocent Black lives, and were it not for student activists at OSU, Oswalt would not have been held accountable. We need systemic change to support graduate students who are an integral part of this university’s social sphere but are often overlooked when it comes to anti-racism education efforts. Many graduate students are instructors themselves and work directly with underrepresented students. Graduate students are equally accountable for our society's shape after graduation and need to be equally educated and involved in making a more peaceful and equitable future.

Demand 3: Explicit Transparency

  1. Actions and policies relating to public safety, including any decision made about equity and inclusion on campus must be made with community oversight and must be explicitly public.
  2. Notices regarding public safety must not be embedded in emails about other topics but must instead be clearly communicated and easily accessible.
  3. a. All town halls and public comment sessions regarding the new police force on campus have been hidden at the bottom of unrelated emails or announced only a few days in advance to a limited audience. The community should have oversight of the governing bodies that affect our safety, and we should be able to give feedback and input prior to those decisions being made and implemented. Public comment sessions or any forum relating to public safety, student health, or communications with underrepresented community members should be announced at least one week in advance and should be widely and clearly publicized.
  4. A record must be kept of all actions and official correspondence relating to public safety on campus. This record must be easy for the community to find and must not require special permissions to access.

Demand 4: Racial aggression accountability

  1. We echo student-athletes who have called for the renaming of OSU Corvallis campus buildings: Gill Coliseum, Linus Pauling, and Arnold Dining Center. Linus Pauling was an open eugenicist whose views are abhorrent and dangerous. Amory “Slats” Gill was OSU’s racist men’s basketball coach from 1928 to 1964 who refused to have Black athletes on his team. Benjamin Lee Arnold was OSU’s second president and a confederate army soldier who during his time in college excelled in the course, “Domestic Slavery”. Under his presidency, he stole Kalapuya land and fiscally prospered, building this university’s foundation on racism and genocide. This history from these three men are part of the reason why retention rates are so low for BIPOC students and why we are still demanding change.
  2. Racial aggression that is not handled by Title VII is reported to OSU’s Bias response team which is currently ill-equipped to handle such reports. The Bias response team needs necessary guidance, provided first and foremost by students, faculty and staff of underrepresented communities.
  3. Increase racial representation in the Title IX offices; currently almost all equity associates who handle Title IX cases are white and often fail to recognize intersectionality when working with BIPOC.
  4. Incidents involving patrol staff of the TRIGA reactor i.e. armed guards on campus, must be reported to the Bias response team along with the oversight committee that is established.

Demand 5: Expand faculty diversity and retention

  1. The announcement that there will be more positions available to faculty, professional staff, and counselors of underrepresented communities is promising. However, it is equally important to retain these diverse voices. The university has a disappointing track record when it comes to keeping diverse hires, and this is not accounted for when we speak about increased diversity hiring. It negatively impacts this community when we lose those diverse perspectives. The university must commit itself to use the following strategies as outlined in the President and Provost’s Leadership Council for Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Final Report 2018-19 in efforts to retain the diversity that is so often touted as being important and valued:
  2. a. Adequate funding for starting salary and start-up
    b. Cluster hiring
    c. Mentoring programs
    d. Comprehensive, campus-wide diversity planning and training
  3. Per goal 2 in the OSU strategic plan, we demand the university remain committed to hiring Black CAPS counselors to support Black students and employ more tenured Black faculty and pro-staff at all levels.

Conclusion

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.

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CLICK FOR UNIVERSITY RESPONSE

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.