(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees voted unanimously today – on Juneteenth, a significant date in the history of Black and African Americans – to condemn racial injustice and pledge to take action as the nation searches for solutions.
“We must seize these opportunities, and while acknowledging the challenges, we must assure our students and colleagues that we see them, hear them and stand with them against racial oppression and injustice,” the SOU board said in a statement.
“We cannot be silent. It is not enough to feel bad, or hope someone else will do something. We must be part of the solution. We must act.”
The board’s action came on the same day that the university hung Black Lives Matter posters in prominent campus locations and President Linda Schott announced the creation of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team to temporarily direct SOU’s social justice efforts. The team – made up of campus leaders Sabrina Prud’homme, Jonathan Chavez Baez and Kylan Mattias de Vries – will manage those duties until the university hires a successor to former senior executive for Suresh Appavoo, who resigned last month.
“We have agreed that it is most vital to concentrate on the work that must be done on our campus rather than conduct a national search for an equity, diversity and inclusion executive at this time,” President Schott said Friday in a message to campus.
The EDI Team will lead SOU’s efforts to meet state cultural competency requirements by December; provide professional development opportunities including culturally responsive teaching and implicit bias training; and create a campus Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Plan to guide policy changes and strengthen institutional accountability.
“I have full faith in the ability of our campus to come together and create the constructive change we seek,” President Schott said. “SOU is a special place, and I am committed to ensuring that all in our community feel safe here. I welcome your good ideas and good hearts to our work.”
She praised the board for its message in support of students, faculty and staff of color, and its shared dedication to SOU’s welcoming atmosphere.
“The board has committed – as I have – to lead SOU through whatever process is necessary to ensure that our campus embraces people from all walks of life and from all nations of the world,” the president said.
The Board of Trustees’ statement:
“On this Juneteenth of 2020, we act in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds who continue to face unprecedented challenges, injustices, and violence.
“The SOU Board joins President Linda Schott in her clear statement that Southern Oregon University condemns and denounces hate and abhorrent language and behaviors intended to harm any member of our learning community on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, expression, age, national origin (ancestry), immigration status, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or military status. We are firmly committed to peace, justice, civil discourse, social-emotional support and respect for all.
“We must seize these opportunities, and while acknowledging the challenges, we must assure our students and colleagues that we see them, hear them and stand with them against racial oppression and injustice. We cannot be silent. It is not enough to feel bad, or hope someone else will do something. We must be part of the solution. We must act.
“Identifying actions that we can take will be part of our challenge and our opportunity. We recognize that thinking of actions is easier than taking them, but taking action is a moral imperative. As a board, we commit to not only condemning injustice but also taking action and rising to the challenge of being part of a solution.”