ASHLAND, Ore. – Today the Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees issued a statement condemning racial injustice and pledging action.
The statement comes on Juneteenth, a holiday that’s been celebrated for over a century as African-Americans honor their history and celebrate Black culture.
“We would be remiss if we were silent and stood on the sidelines on this issue,” said SOU Trustee, Daniel Santos.
“It was also a beautiful coincidence that it’s on Juneteenth and so that was a nice convergence and we though it was most appropriate to do it today,” said SOU President, Linda Schott.
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.”
In addition to the statement being released, SOU hung Black Lives Matters posters in prominent campus locations.
“We wanted to make a visual statement that we are endorsing, we support, that black lives do indeed matter,” said Schott.
President Linda Schott also announced the creation of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team (EDI Team) to temporarily direct SOU’s social justice efforts.
The EDI Team is made up of campus leaders, Sabrina Prud’homme, Jonathan Chavez Baez and Kylan Mattias de Vries; they 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.
“We have done some work on that but this team will lead us forward in finishing that plan and actually beginning the training and the other work that’s part of that plan,” said Schott.
In the past, SOU has made changes to add diversity and inclusion, including the construction of a larger and more accessible Multicultural Center, which will be completed this summer; even so, the Board of Trustees and President Schott feel more needs to be done.
“We have so much to learn and we have to be cognizant of the voices that we aren’t hearing, the people that are not at the table right now and be aware of those voices and have a willingness to listen and learn,” said Santos.