OSU will name chief diversity officer, expand equal opportunity initiatives

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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray today announced a series of steps to address racial concerns recently brought to his attention by Oregon State students and to strengthen equity, social justice and inclusivity at OSU.

In a letter to the Oregon State community, Ray said he is creating a position of chief diversity officer to oversee the university’s efforts relating to diversity, equity and inclusion; establishing a separate office to provide oversight for Title IX, the Equal Opportunity Program, Office of Affirmative Action, and issues relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and adding student representatives to OSU’s existing Leadership Council on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity.

Ray said an interim chief diversity officer will be appointed by the end of January. Ray also said he and other university leaders will hold quarterly town hall meetings to engage with members of the campus community, and that the university will create a referral system and provide resources to address bias concerns.

On Nov. 16, OSU students held a “Speak Out” on campus during which many described experiences of both overt and subtle racism.

“Over the past few weeks, I pledged that Oregon State University will act quickly to address the concerns of racial injustice that have been shared recently by many of our students to ensure that our university is a safer, more just, caring and inclusive community,” Ray said. “I am proud that our students showed the courage to ask us to listen to the experiences they have had to deal with on campus and offer valuable suggestions for next steps.”

Ray said he was adamant that the university not “simply talk about these essential matters,” but do something about them.

“More action will be required in the months ahead to position us to attain the equity, inclusion and social justice that we all seek for our community,” Ray said. “Our process for going forward will include ongoing collaboration with our students, faculty and staff.”

Among other actions, Ray said Oregon State would develop required online education and orientation programs encompassing racial awareness, civil and social justice, and diversity for entering students. He also said the university would prominently communicate its commitment and expectations for such issues, citing OSU’s recent strengthening of transfer student policies to increase campus safety.

Additionally, the university will complete its investigation into the sources of racially insensitive and hateful comments posted online during the November “Speak Out”  – and take appropriate disciplinary and educational actions.

Ray said he would provide further updates on racial and gender equity, civil and social justice, inclusivity and campus safety to the university community, including information on hiring initiatives to increase faculty diversity, expanded employee diversity training, changes to OSU’s curriculum, and other efforts.

“These actions – and Oregon State’s aspiration to be a fully inclusive and just community – are not just a set of words,” Ray said. “They are my commitment, and it is my clear understanding that ‘business as usual’ is not good enough at Oregon State University. Actions will be taken and results achieved.”