ASHLAND – Members of BSU, LSU, NASU, JSO and allies gathered in the Lithia Motors Pavilion on Thursday, Feb. 27 to coordinate a plan of action in lieu of recent events; on Jan. 15, a report was filled after a Black student RA was subjected to hate speech, finding the n-word written on their dorm’s door.
Along with this, and the recent blunder involving LSU, students of color at the emergency meeting expressed that they do not feel safe in SOU’s community. University President Linda Schott said she would attend this meeting, but had to attend a meeting somewhere unspecified. There was not a representative of SOU housing present. Suresh Appavoo, Senior Executive for Equity and Diversity, made the following statement:
“I want to reassure everybody here…that everything that happens to any student of color on campus, any person who comes with any category of difference, I take very seriously and personally, not just in terms of merely doing a job, or anything of that sort. As a person, this is my life’s quest and work, I take this very seriously to the extent that I will not mind standing in front of or confronting anybody, so this means more to me than just doing a job. I have to live with myself, and I can’t bear to think of all of the people who are living with things that, on a daily basis, affect them, because they affect me too. There have been instances on this campus where people have in fact addressed me in certain ways, who think of me in certain ways. And you have to remember that as a person of color, I too sit amidst whiteness every day. I want to make sure that you feel supported, and that I will actually do things to transform this campus. But I cannot do it by myself. I simply need to know and have your help and support. I promise you that I will do everything in my power to be able to change that. I report directly to the President, and so I do have a direct opportunity to bring the things that you need to her attention. “
At the meeting, students expressed criticism and frustration in regards to how SOU handles racism. One of the common critiques was the lack of communication between administration and the general student body. While SOU Housing sent out an email on Jan. 16 to students living in the dorms, multiple students are concerned that they did not receive the email and had to hear the news of the racist vandalism from their student leaders. Other frustrations expressed included vagueness in the student code of conduct, and a general lack of transparency and action. Students at the meeting were also concerned by SFAC’s Feb. 25 decision to cut OSA’s budget to zero, which takes away an opportunity for SOU students to attend the Oregon Students of Color Conference.
The students of color represented at the meeting voiced exhaustion with continually meeting with faculty over each incident that has occurred in the past two months. The conflict is coming to a head, and the student unions are taking on an approach to demand a response from administrative faculty to acknowledge the events that have affected and harmed SOU’s students of color.
In a text message after the meeting, ASSOU President Britney Sharp made the following statement:
“MRC, Administration, and student government are working hard to continue, what we already had in store, to address these events in the dorms. As well as we are now working to improve our process of response to better notify the campus and MCC clubs about if incidents, such as this, occur in the future.”
The Siskiyou will do everything in its power to keep the student body updated on administrative responses. For example, President Schott has since made a statement about recent events, which can be read here, and has since met with BSU.
In the meantime, the Climate Assessment Survey has been emailed to every SOU student. This survey’s purpose is to provide objective data on student perspectives on SOU’s social climate. Oregon has passed a law (ORS 350.375-352.002) requiring “cultural competency” in college campuses. “Cultural competency” is defined by the Oregon Laws website as:
“[A]n understanding of how institutions and individuals can respond respectfully and effectively to people from all cultures, economic statuses, language backgrounds, races, ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, religions, genders, gender identifications, sexual orientations, veteran statuses and other characteristics in a manner that recognizes, affirms and values the worth, and preserves the dignity, of individuals, families, and communities.”
As a student, you are given this unique opportunity to report on the effectiveness of SOU’s cultural competency. If you want your voice to be heard, please make sure to fill out this survey. Each survey link is unique, and can be found in your SOU inbox by searching “SOU STUDENT CAMPUS CLIMATE ASSESSMENT.”