To the Oregon State University Community,
Over the past two months, Oregon State University has held a number of important campus community conversations initiated by students, who courageously expressed their concerns of racial injustice occurring at our university.
In numerous follow-up meetings with students and others, I have committed that the University will act promptly, effectively and collaboratively to ensure that OSU is a safer, more just, caring and inclusive community.
Business as usual is not acceptable and we need to restructure some university-level responsibilities. As well, we need to listen to diverse perspectives and experiences throughout OSU while we define and implement our action plans.
How we carry out this change agenda matters enormously as we create socially just practices and leadership structures that are about meaningful results for all people, without simply expanding traditional academic bureaucracies.
With that in mind, I am announcing the following leadership changes and program initiatives:
I have asked Dr. Angela Batista, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Life, to serve as the interim Chief Diversity Officer and oversee a new Office of Institutional Diversity and direct institutional initiatives and communications regarding diversity, equity and inclusion throughout Oregon State. Angela will work with a newly constituted Leadership Council for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity.
Angela is particularly qualified for this interim role. Prior to joining Oregon State in July 2015, she worked as a teacher, counselor and administrator in student affairs, as well as, diversity, equity and inclusion at various universities and served as the inaugural Chief Diversity Officer at Champlain College.
During this interim appointment, Kris Winter will serve as interim Dean of Student of Life.
I have asked Angelo Gomez, the university’s current executive director for Equity and Inclusion, to serve in a new role as Special Assistant to the President for Community Diversity Relations to ensure that OSU is connecting with, serving and helping to build diverse communities locally and throughout Oregon.
At Oregon State – and as an attorney in the Portland area – Angelo has served as a leader in inclusivity, civil rights and equal access for persons with disabilities. He is particularly well-suited for this very important new position.
I have asked Clay Simmons, OSU’s Chief Compliance Officer, to serve as the interim executive director of a separate Office of Equal Opportunity and Access that will oversee all investigations regarding protected status discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault; affirmative action; and access and accommodations for people with disabilities.
An attorney, with more than 15 years of experience in higher education administration, student affairs, human resources and ethics, Clay is very well-suited for this position.
These three new positions will be effective Feb. 1 and will report directly to me. Concurrently, we will start a national search for the Executive Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access. The interim Chief Diversity Officer will lead the campus in determining the appropriate structure and resource needs of her office and position us to launch a national search for a permanent CDO as soon as possible.
As chair of an action committee to implement and monitor our safety and diversity initiatives, Provost and Executive Vice President Sabah Randhawa will work with students and university leaders to further these and other efforts. This work will include identifying the resources required to take meaningful steps forward.
Accompanied by other university leaders, I will hold quarterly “town hall” meetings beginning in early March to engage with students and all members of the Oregon State community on civil and social justice matters and topics of equity and inclusion.
In future months, I will report on additional efforts, including:
Requiring online diversity educational and orientation programs for all entering students beginning in fall 2016.
Asking the OSU Faculty Senate to consider diversity training for all faculty and staff.
Making diversity central to the university’s faculty hiring practices.
Providing 24-hour, on-line bias and diversity resource services that will better connect students, faculty and staff to existing and new university programs. To report an immediate issue, please go to: http://oregonstate.edu/oei/complaints
Prominently communicating the university’s expectations for safety, civil and social justice, inclusivity and racial and gender equality. We also will seek to humanize and personalize our services
In closing, the university has completed its investigation into the threatening and hateful comments that were posted on the chat room site during the Nov. 16 “Speak Out.”
OSU Information Services technology staff were able to determine that the source of the most concerning comments were not identifiable as they came from outside of the Oregon State University community and even, from outside the United States. For the handful of OSU students whose comments fell below our expectations for civil discourse, discussions are taking place to provide tools for them to engage in productive and respectful discourse about varying viewpoints.
In addition, we will work with students and faculty to create campus forums for civil and political discourse, that will include discussions of the history and responsibilities associated with free speech, including videos and social media postings, and how members of society can engage in discussions concerning difficult subjects in respectful and constructive ways.
Throughout the rest of the academic year, I will provide further updates to the Oregon State community regarding our progress on these and other essential next steps.
As I have said before, we will not just talk about Oregon State’s aspiration to be a fully inclusive, civil, safe and just community for all. We will act. And I urge each of you and all of us to act together to quickly achieve meaningful and positive results.
Please join me in this full commitment for social justice. Trust that you can count on me. You have my word on it.
Edward J. Ray