Lessons from Mizzou: A Campus Conversation

November 12, 2015

Vice President of Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh sent the following message to campus about an upcoming opportunity for conversation about honoring and valuing diversity at the University of Oregon.

Dear Campus Community,

The University of Oregon is a campus that values the diversity of our community.

Therefore, in the wake of recent racial tensions that have led to protests, threats, arrests, and resignations at the University of Missouri, it is only fitting that we take time here at the UO to reflect, engage, and act in ways that encourage understanding among our students, faculty, and staff.

First and foremost, I want our all of our students, including our black and other students of color, to know that we care about them. Retention specialists at the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence (CMAE), along with staff in our Division of Student Life and advisors across campus are engaging daily with students to understand their needs, but we realize the need to learn more and do more. Too many of our black and other students of color say they feel marginalized and unsafe on our campus. This is our unique opportunity for continuing progress.

Over the remainder of fall term, President Michael Schill will be meeting with student leaders of color to talk about their experiences on campus, and the issues they face.

To further the dialogue and lay the foundation for meaningful change, the Division of Equity and Inclusion will host a campus conversation on November 20, 2015 in the Global Scholars Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. This is an opportunity for discussion, overall sharing, and planning. Food will be served. Space is limited, but this will be just one of many opportunities for engagement and forward movement. As plans take shape, please visit the DEI website for more information.

Here are additional initiatives that are ongoing:

With my unit’s guidance, we have increased faculty diversity and we are devoting additional resources to hire more excellent, diverse faculty.
Deans in the schools and colleges are also continuing their efforts to ensure that effective systems are in place to engage and respond to any student concerns.
Over the last two years, the University Wide Diversity Committee (UWDC), which includes more than 100 faculty and staff members from units across our entire campus, has engaged in conversation and planning of the IDEAL framework, which focuses on climate, cultural agility, and faculty recruitment as well as retention.
Also, our Center on Diversity and Community (CoDaC) hosted a November 5 campus-wide conversation about issues of climate.
UO Employee Resource Groups, including Los Patos, API Strategies, and Black Strategies, are engaging these issues at their own meetings with our faculty, students, and staff.

The events at Mizzou, while troubling, do provide our campus with an opportunity for learning, conversation, and improvement. As President Schill said this week, student success requires a supportive and safe community. The work ahead includes ensuring that this reality exists for all of our students.


Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh, Ph.D., J.D.,
Professor of Political Science and
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion