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Black lives matter. Our commitment to creating systemic change. 

By Roy Haggerty, Dean

The sustained, multiracial uprisings across the country and around the world in response to the continued murders of Black people marks an inflection point that brings with it the hope of a racial justice reckoning. A part of this reckoning is the calling out of academic institutions for perpetuating a culture that discriminates against and excludes its Black members.

This has been true for Black community members who seek deeper inclusion in science and the College mission, and today we are long-overdue in saying that we intend to take all necessary steps to become an actively anti-racist community.

We are very grateful to the students and employees who have helped and encouraged us to define new actions, listed below, that we plan to take. We are also open to listening to voices who have not spoken to us yet, and we welcome students and employees to write to Dean Roy Haggerty with suggestions and concerns.

Oregon State University and the College of Science acknowledge that we have not done enough in our efforts to champion students of color and to make progress on racial equity and inclusion.

Our commitment to action

In this catalytic moment, we will do more than reaffirm to you our strong convictions. We plan to take action – and make necessary changes to ensure that there is no room in the College for intentional or unintentional bias or abuse because of the color of one’s skin or their nationality, while also not discriminating on the basis of disability, gender, marital status, religion, sex or sexual orientation. We can and will be against all these forms of discrimination while doing our work against racism specifically.

Working together at every level, we will create a more inclusive and welcoming College of Science – a College that works for and supports everyone. Many of you already are working to advance inclusion – thank you. To make our community more equitable and inclusive, all of us must shoulder that work.

To achieve a different outcome – providing deeper, more systemic, and lasting change – we need an improved approach in both the short and long terms. Here are the initial steps we plan to take to bring about lasting change:

  • Host an open-forum for Black students. This virtual town hall meeting with students, faculty, and staff, together with Black faculty and staff outside of our College to help facilitate, will provide the opportunity for Black students to more safely share their experiences and suggestions for the College of Science through written and spoken testimonials. This will be held Thursday, October 8, 5 - 6:30 pm, via Zoom.
  • Require more training. We will engage the Office of Institutional Diversity and Black faculty and staff from outside of the College to guide our leadership team and the Dean’s Advisory Council in requiring and providing diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice training with an emphasis on anti-racism/anti-Black racism.
  • Improve our bias reporting system. We will communicate clearly to College of Science students the steps they should take when they need to submit a report regarding a bias incident or share other feedback to the college. We will communicate what actions will be taken when a report is filed, being as transparent as the law allows. Every reported incident will be taken seriously.
  • Develop an action plan for inclusive excellence. Beginning immediately, we will engage the community in developing and implementing a long-term, College-wide action plan for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion that will help the College serve Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) students, faculty, staff and guests. Guided by the Office of Institutional Diversity, written by a diverse committee of faculty, staff and students, and vetted by Black faculty and staff partners from other units across campus – this plan will serve as a new roadmap to guide the efforts of all our departments and units.

Improving our culture

We know that doing this work takes time, but we are committed to doing it as efficiently as possible. COS students, faculty and staff continue to experience biases every day, and we acknowledge our need for stronger systems of support and advocacy. This awareness has energized measures the College has taken in recent years to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive science community. A few examples include:

  • We are diligent in employing the university’s Search Advocate (SA) program, which aims to keep intentional and unintentional bias out of our search and hiring processes and requires search committees to proactively seek out a diverse pool of candidates.
  • This year, the College has raised $3.1M in philanthropic donations for student support, much of which will assist BIPOC and first-generation students.
  • We created a new award for Inclusive Excellence to encourage faculty, staff and student work to advance diversity, equity, justice and inclusivity – to help further shape the College culture.
  • We have invited prominent Black scientists to campus, such as Warren Washington (’58, ’60), a renowned climate scientist, who presented the Fall Distinguished Lecture in 2019. Kennedy Reed, a theoretical atomic physicist for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, presented the Physics Department’s Yunker Lecture in spring 2019.

Despite these and other measures, we know urgent action is needed to drive systemic change and growth in our College.

The steps we are taking now will draw in more diverse people to guide our next steps, provide more tools for fostering a truly inclusive community, create better structures for enforcing our values, and shape an action plan that is actively anti-racist.

We will not rest until our College embodies a culture of belonging where all students, faculty and staff feel included, supported and welcomed.

Special thanks to the student and staff group working with Dean Roy Haggerty, which includes: Michael Allen, Katherine Caspary, Tilottama Chatterjee, Anne Devan-Song, Jason Dorsette, Terrance Harris, Acacia Patterson, Isabel Rodriguez, Corbin Schuster, Rhea Sellitto, Dorian Smith, Christian Solorio, John Stepanek, Noah Vaughan and Henry Wise. Science Peer Advisors who contributed action items to the feedback form include: Madeline Bloom, Steve Dobrioglo, Ashley Francis, Sara Kim, Robyn Norman, Rhea Sellitto with contributions made also by Scott Vignos, assistant vice president of strategic diversity initiatives.

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