Please Provide Additional Support, Care and Flexibility

To: OSU Community

From: Edward Feser, Provost and Executive Vice President

June 3, 2020

Dear OSU Community,

I am writing on behalf of myself and President Ray regarding actions to be taken immediately here at Oregon State University to address the needs and concerns of our community. President Ray issued a statement on Sunday to address the changes in policing that must occur across this country and he has written to the National Governors Association to take up that call to action immediately. Here at Oregon State University, we must take action now.

The killing of George Floyd, repeated acts of police brutality against the Black community, and the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color: this is what systemic racism looks like. Blacks, African-Americans and other people of color live this tragedy—and are called upon to be the central agents in fighting it—every day. Those of us who identify as white and who believe ourselves allies in the fight against racism have the luxury of engaging in times and places of our own choosing, when we are able to muster the attention and energy from other concerns and causes, the foresight and understanding, or the courage. That too is what systemic racism looks like.

Our Black students, faculty, and staff are hurt, grieving, exhausted, frustrated and angry. What is playing out in our cities and in our media—yet again stark evidence of the creeping slowness by which our society is coming to grips with what it is and what it faces—is all too viscerally familiar. Yet our Black colleagues and students continue to work, teach, conduct research, serve Oregon’s communities, attend to their families and friends, and learn. Their bravery and resilience are humbling and an example for everyone.

Whatever the color of your skin, open your eyes and ears to your Black colleagues and students. See them, listen and seek to understand. Lend your voice to the cause of challenging systemic racism and police violence. Question and actively oppose historical, cultural and institutional practices that perpetuate racism. Bring your ideas, your time and your resources to help achieve real change within OSU and in America. I also ask our deans and department heads to recognize that our Black faculty need additional support and flexibility during this time.

As teachers, we oversee the progress of our students. These are trying times for them and they may need adjustments in how they meet their responsibilities. Whether you are teaching a campus-based remote class or on Ecampus, please allow appropriate flexibility in the form and timing of assignments, final exams and other requirements. Remind all of your students of their option to switch their courses to S/U grading—a policy put in place in response to COVID-19. They have this option through the end of this week. Encourage your students to talk with you. It is true that students must meet their academic responsibilities; yet, current circumstances warrant flexibility in how they meet those responsibilities.

Twelve weeks ago you began our sudden and massive shift to remote operations, supported by our dedicated staff. We now approach the end of this unprecedented spring term, deep in planning for what is next in our uncertain future. We are also faced with addressing intersecting and mutually compounding crises as a society and nation. It is almost trite to say that this is a challenging and stressful time.

But it is not equally challenging for all of us. Many of us experience privilege and safety simply by virtue of the color of our skin. Some of us do not. The lasting strength and positive impact of our university community depends on each and every one of us coming to terms with this fundamental injustice and at last addressing it with the commitment and urgency it demands.

Sincerely,

Edward Feser
Provost and Executive Vice President