CORVALLIS, Ore. – Students at Oregon State University are taking action, saying racism is unacceptable. Hundreds of people marched for social justice on Wednesday after two racist messages were found on campus.
Just over a week ago, graffiti was found in a bathroom on OSU’s campus that read: “Only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
An assistant professor on campus, Adam Schwartz, saw the graffiti and took a picture. He posted it on Facebook, which opened up a discussion about racism. Students across campus saw the photo of the graffiti, including Native Americans who immediately took offense.
“When I first heard that, I was really upset,” said OSU student Shahnie Clark. “To go that far back – after we’ve made it this far forward with culture, coming together, and racism being put in the past – to be that rude and ignorant is pretty messed up.”
Last week, students received an e-mail from the University about another racially offensive message: a note that was found in a different bathroom.
“The first thing I thought when I first saw that was: I have to do something,” said Justin McDaniels, one of the organizers of Wednesday’s march. “I identify as bi-racial. I have a black parent and a white parent, so race is a really big thing for me as part of my identity.”
McDaniels, who was inspired by Harvard’s “I, Too, Am Harvard” social media campaign, says some time ago, a racial issue came up at OSU. There was an opportunity to voice his concern.
“I didn’t say anything,” he said. “And I really thought that I was missing an opportunity to bring discussions about race to the table and to the forefront here at the campus.”
Over the last couple of weeks, McDaniels has been anything but idle.
“My friends and I were talking about an “I, Too, Am OSU” campaign after we saw Harvard’s campaign. We thought we could definitely bring that here because this is such a predominately white institution and the people of color population here is so small.”
The students organized a march on campus on Wednesday to take a stand against racism. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, community members, and administrators marched through campus in support of the campaign.
“President Ed Ray and Vice-Provost Larry Roper joined us in the march,” McDaniels said. “And that was a huge sign of support.”
The University says it stands behind the students, and that racism is unacceptable on campus.
“The University is disappointed and upset about the graffiti and the racist note,” said Steve Clark, the Vice President for University Relations and Marketing. “We are completely in support of the students’ efforts. Wednesday’s event shows that words matter. As members of a community, I think we need to be more sensitive. What we say and how we behave affects everyone.”
Someone has donated a $500 reward in the case. Anyone who has any information is asked to call OSU Public Safety dispatch at (541) 737-3010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A reward shows that it’s important and that it needs to be talked about,” McDaniels said. “And we need to find anything we can do to help protect the people who go to school here.”
McDaniels says the campaign is not disappearing any time soon. He says people want to see change on campus – and this is the time to take the momentum to do something different.
“Having the University recognize race is really a central issue that they need to talk about,” he said. “Because they talk about diversity and representation here at the school, but where do we see that?”
Within the next week there are several forums on campus to continue the discussion about racism. More information is available by clicking here.