The OMA was honored to participate as part of the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Difference, Power, and Discrimination (DPD) Program.
The DPD Program works with faculty across all fields and disciplines at Oregon State University to develop inclusive curricula that address institutionalized systems of power, privilege, and inequity in the United States. And the DPD archival collection is a part of the OMA! Difference, Power, and Discrimination Program Records, 1970-2011
At the anniversary event, the DPD was celebrated, awardees were honored, and acclaimed researcher/author Tricia Rose gave a riveting speech.
The awards included two teaching for change awards for Professors Quo-Li Driskill and Professor Steven Shay, as well as a legacy award for Annie Popking, the first DPD director, 1992-1994. In addition, all of the directors present at the celebration were honored.
The OMA’s role was to give remarks about the Coalition of Student Leaders, as well as give a brief history on OSU’s student activism and its significance. And, to give a legacy award to the Coalition of Student Leaders. Below are the remarks:
“The second 25th Anniversary Legacy Award goes to the Coalition of Concerned Student Leaders. I am so honored that Nana invited me here this evening to talk about the Coalition of Concerned Student Leaders, as well as the historical significance and impact of student activism here at Oregon State University.
The opening line to the 1990 Letter from Concerned Student Leaders: (A) Proposal to Confront Campus-Wide Discrimination was “As increased reports of discrimination and harassment begin to surface within our campus community, we a group of concerned student leaders, have assembled and developed a plan of action.” The proposal, which the students addressed directly to the university president, specifically called out the need to educate students and faculty on the value of culture and diversity. It is thanks to their voices that the Faculty Senate created the “Affirming Diversity Committee” so that today we celebrate the 25th year since the establishment of the Difference, Power, and Discrimination program.
The efforts of the Concerned Student Leaders were not the first, nor would they be the last time that OSU students used their collective voice to demand change. It is in large part due to the power of student activism that OSU continues making strides in its journey towards becoming a socially just institution and community.
Students, especially students of color, working with the support of allies, have a long history of recognizing their power and wielding it to shed light on invisible injustices and to create change benefitting the entire OSU community.
For example, in early 1969, the OSU Black Student Union called on the administration to increase the university’s efforts to support black student recruitment, retention, and success. Due to what the BSU deemed an insufficient administrative response, not only to their proposal but also to the way in which the rights of a black student athlete were violated, over the next few months, the BSU led boycotts, protests, and printed an underground newspaper to call attention to and gain support for their cause. The power of the BSU’s efforts led directly to the establishment of the Educational Opportunities Program that same year, as well as sparked the activism that led to the establishment of a number of cultural centers during the 1970s.
Since the 1970s, there have been a number of student led movements including, but by no means limited to, anti-apartheid protests in the early 1980s, a mass boycott and march in 1996 due to multiple racist acts, a mid-2000s initiative to give honorary degrees to the Japanese American students forced to leave their studies during World War II, a Solidarity March in 2014, as well as community dialogues inspired by the national Black Lives Matter movement.
More recently, almost 25 years to the date of the 1990 Concerned Student Leaders proposal, students organized and led the “Students of Color Speak Out” in 2015. At the “Speak Out” members of OSU’s students of color communities again called on the university to prioritize their safety and well-being, as well as the need for OSU community members to engage in identity and social justice trainings. Yet again, we see the demand and necessity of community education as part of the march towards social justice.
There are these and many more stories to share. As an archivist, I have the privilege to preserve and make these stories accessible to the public so that others can learn from them and be inspired by them. While on the one hand, it is discouraging to see that for almost 50 years students have had to protest the same issues, fight the same injustices, and call to action for the same causes, it also gives me hope. Each new generation of students challenges OSU, as an institution and as a community, to reflect and grow and be held accountable when it fails to live up to its professed mission and values. Each new generation of students find their voices, speak their truths, and make sacrifices now to cause ripple effects into the future positively impacting the next generation of students.
The Concerned of Student Leaders concluded their 1990 proposal with the statement, “We have taken valuable time away from our studies to address an issue that should have been addressed some time ago…this is a serious matter; literally lives depend upon it.” I believe that those students would be proud that we are gathered here today to celebrate such an incredible program that has enriched the lives of so many faculty, staff, and students. The students who wrote the 1990 proposal did not sign their names; instead, it was a united group that spoke on behalf of the many who perhaps felt voiceless and powerless. But while they are nameless, they are by no means forgotten. Their impact has been and will continue to be profound. This award will sit in the DPD office as a reminder of the role that students played in creating the program and the power of student activism. As we recognize these student leaders today, let their efforts serve as a reminder, inspiration, and celebration of the way in which our students challenge us to be better and do better as individuals and as an institution. Thank you to the Coalition of Concerned Student Leaders, as well as all of our amazing student activists – past, present, and future.”
~ Natalia Fernández
For more information about the history of student activism at OSU, be sure to check out the “Untold Stories” campus tour guidebook website
Below is the 4 page proposal the Coalition of Concerned Student Leaders wrote: