Board of Trustees, ASAC Committee, Update on Diversity Initiatives

President Schill provided the following remarks following an update by Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, Yvette Alex-Assensoh's update on the IDEAL Framework:

I am pleased that our campus has finalized our diversity framework through completion of the IDEAL framework document. Thank you to Vice President Yvette Alex-Assensoh, the Division of Equity and Inclusion, the University-wide Diversity Task Force, and everyone on campus and in our community who contributed to the IDEAL plan.

I look forward to working with Yvette to ensure this framework informs everything we do on campus and helps us achieve our goals of diversity excellence.

Black Student Task Force Recommendations

As I have shared with you throughout this process, we have made significant progress on addressing the demands of the Black Student Task Force.

You will remember the Black Student Task Force (BSTF) released a list of demands, highlighting specific action steps recommended for the university to enhance diversity and inclusion on campus. I and other members of our leadership team met with this group and other Black student groups on campus throughout the year.

Out of these discussions, we created 13 working groups 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 analyzing the opportunities as well as the challenges, and developing 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. Among the 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. 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.
  • Diversity Data—the university is now publishing campus diversity data on our inclusion website.  It will also include published annual safety and crime statistics. The university will annually review the data that is provided on this site and add or change data as new information becomes available.

These initial investments reflect a commitment to enhancing the recruitment and retention of Black students on our campus, but they are only the beginning. I’ll speak to renaming momentarily, but I also wanted to give a brief update on where we are with the remaining requests from the Black Student Task Force.

Some of these are much more complex and will take further analysis due to issues surrounding funding, building and capital construction, and course and curriculum changes that involve faculty. 

As I’ve stated previously, 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.

  • African American Cultural Center: The Black Cultural Center Task Force expects to complete their work and provide recommendations to the president in the next few weeks.  The committee has spent the spring term working with colleagues at OSU to learn about the Black Cultural Center that they recently constructed and working with the UO Campus Planning department to assess potential sites on campus for either a renovated or newly constructed facility. They are also gathering input from current students about their vision for such a center.  The committee is also been working to better understand the investment needed to construct and run a center and has been discussing associated fundraising plans.
  • Faculty Hiring and Retention: The Provost and Academic Affairs Office is considering a number of options, including training for search committees, a fellowship program to enhance recruitment, and equity advisors in each of the schools and colleges to ensure that the most promising and equitable practices are being used by search committees.
  • Academic Advising: We will work with the deans in the schools and colleges to increase the representation of Black advisors within the units. Deans will identify key people in their units to oversee supporting, retaining, and ensuring degree completion for African American students. Initial training will be rolled out during the 2016-2017 academic year, with full-scale training to be available for all faculty and staff within two years.
  • Funding resources and Scholarship Initiatives: The university administration is considering opportunities to assist African-American students, examining data to understand how current policies are impacting access to financial aid opportunities for African American students.
  • Create a Black Student Leadership Task Force: The UO Black Student Task Force has applied to the ASUO for membership and funding as a way of creating a recognized student group on campus.
  • Ethnic Studies 101 Requirement: An energetic committee of key students, faculty, and administrators has been meeting since January and has explored a number of crucial topics, including expansion of curricular offerings in Black Studies and much-needed reform of the campus’ multicultural requirement. Recommendations are in the process of being drafted. 

Building Denaming Process

Finally, I have an update on the de-naming of buildings. As I have shared with the trustees and our campus, we face a challenges with how to recognize historic figures of our past, who contributed to our intuition but whose opinions and views have proved to be abhorrent by today’s moral standards. As an institution that celebrates diversity and needs to understand its past, we must move thoughtfully and deliberately as we consider building names on our own campus.

As you’ll remember, we convened a workgroup in winter to consider whether Dunn and Deady should be renamed. We went through a series of consultations and committee meetings over many months, and then I receive the committee’s input. In May, I announced the criteria and the process on how we will consider Dunn and Deady Hall.

These criteria, focus on the whether these people acted or supported action, promoted and engaged in activities that encouraged violence, racism and other exclusionary actions, and whether taken in the context of the time, those actions disparage the university, as well as whether they took redemptive action related to their actions. These are spelled out in much more detail on my website.

Going forward, this summer we will appoint three historians to evaluate Deady and Dunn, based on the criteria, and make a recommendation. We will seek campus input on the recommendation and I will take all of this information into account before making a decision, and potentially forwarding that to you, the board.

Regardless of the decision, the university must also consider appropriate steps by which the university may acknowledge the full and accurate record of Dunn and Deady’s impact on the history of the university and the state of Oregon.

I look forward to the vigorous process and the engaged debate that will follow. This is a healthy process for our campus and one that is appropriately taking place across the United States.

I again want to thank the Black Student Task Force and the many people on our campus who have dedicated their time and energy to making our campus better.

Remarks are as scripted and may not reflect the full conversation of the committee.