On Tuesday, Jan. 28, a student was shocked to discover that their photograph had been used on SOU’s Undocumented Student Resources page.
“I was really fortunate that my instructor Jamie Hickner warned me about the photo. At the time I didn’t even realize that it had been up for over 3 months. I called my friend Jorge who was also featured in the photo and we were both pretty angry that they would put our faces above a caption that literally said, ‘Who Are Undocumented Students’. It was immediately taken down, but the fact that it had been up for so long without us knowing was what really had me concerned about our safety.”
The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, and several others were featured without their knowledge in a photograph from a volunteer event. Their friend Jorge Salazar was another student in the photo.
“When [Anonymous] told me about the photo I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. People needed to know about this, so I immediately posted it to social media and got an instant reaction. I was just so angry at the time that I didn’t stop to think that my post might complicate things, so I took it down and edited out their faces, and reposted it with only my face visible. Our advisor Jonathan Baez worked very hard to get the photo taken down from SOU’s website as fast as possible. He has spent a decade with the Latino Student Union (LSU) building this positive relationship founded in trust, only to watch it violated by some careless act by SOU.”
The long-term effects on student trust are still unknown, but the emotional state of the entire Latino Student Union was heightened in reaction to this blunder. In a recent interview, student Ernesto Hernandez reflected on his decision to come to SOU.
“I’m a first-year student, and when I was searching for universities to attend I really liked SOU’s vision, so I decided that it would be a good fit. Had this occurred last year while I was looking at other colleges I would have probably taken my education elsewhere.”
What could have been done to prevent this? LSU member Jocksanna Corona described her efforts to bring undocumented student issues to the attention of the institution.
“The insulting part is that I have been actively pushing for UndocuAlly training for over a year. Justine Carpenter, The VP of Multicultural and Identity Based Support Services at University of Oregon, designed an 8-hour training program that I based my condensed version on. When I told her that it was only 1 hour long she literally laughed at me. There is just so much on this topic to be aware of, and had the institution taken me more seriously, I believe we wouldn’t be in this situation. After this fiasco I would hope that we make UndocuAlly training mandatory instead of optional.”
Despite this outrage, many felt that the administration displayed genuine remorse. The wounds are still fresh, but with time there is hope to heal this situation. Moving in a direction of action and solution, SOU’s Director of Community and Media Relations Joe Mosely made a statement on SOU’s behalf:
“Use of the photo in that context was an unfortunate oversight, and we sincerely regret what happened. At this point the damage is done, and we are actively seeking to repair trust. Our Web Governance team will work to add an extra layer of protection so we will not run into this problem again. SOU does offer resources to undocumented student, and we want to make it clear that you do not have to be a citizen to study here. We welcome students of all backgrounds at SOU, and regret anything that might tarnish our reputation for embracing diversity.”
The LSU will be holding another conference with administration and has called upon the support of other campus clubs. Our on-campus counseling services are available through the SHWC to anyone impacted by this event. Those who are seeking to get involved or learn more about this situation are encouraged to contact the LSU and MRC for upcoming events.