I would like to say that my first concern is that the people who most need to know about our work, the people that need to understand their privilege and how they can be allies in our fight for a community of respect and inclusion, will not be reached. I am not a pessimist by any means, but we must look to the future with some grounds in the real, some grounds in honest reasoning, and recognize the fact that all the efforts we have put forth over the past five months are barely going to scrape the tip of the iceberg.
Despite these concerns, I am very proud of what we have accomplished as a group, I am proud of the networking and teambuilding I have witnessed, I am proud of all those that have gone the extra mile in helping us as students to get the ball rolling. And rolling it is. These issues that we have raised over and over to a great variety of people will not die quietly in the night.
I envision the day when this ball we have set in motion gathers enough steam to flatten the entire campus to the ground. I picture the University of Oregon in the future as a community of inclusion and respect. I picture a community where I can walk down the street hand in hand with my partner and be greeted with smiles instead of insults. I picture packed lecture halls full of students with a desire to learn, a desire to understand how others are different from themselves but also how alike we all really are. I picture lecture halls filled with people from all walks of life on this campus who are no longer afraid to talk about real issues. I can hear people talking about fears and concerns and real life situations regarding issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and class-based discrimination.
But it needs to go even beyond that. The University of Oregon is not an isolated universe. It can feel that way at times, but we are a small part of a larger community. However, we are looked up to as an example. Once the ball is rolling here, we need to send other balls outward into the community. I have heard too many stories of international students and students of color being harassed by the local police. I have heard too many stories of white supremacy and other such movements in our local community. It is time for those that consider themselves 'educated' to spread the word. It is my sincere belief, that hate and intolerance stems from ignorance. Educate the masses!
In this sense, I picture university students working one-on-one with local public school children. I envision faculty and administrators working with the community and holding demonstrations, lectures, and forums. I realize that some work to this end may be already in place. If so, it needs to continue, and it needs to grow stronger.
Many of the goals we would like to see accomplished are going to require money. Money should not be a scary word. The word money needs to not be a turn-off. As Tim Wise said in his closing speech at last school year's E2K conference, "If the University were truly committed to working on something, then it would be accomplished."
Hellooo! Hey, alumni! Have you heard about all that has happened on our campus over the past five months regarding diversity? Oh, I didn't think so. Hey, would you be willing to contribute a little money to further this work in order to make the University of Oregon a better institution? You would! That's great!
It is my belief that the money is there; we just need to get it. Besides financial backing, communication is the key to success. By having a consistent flow of correct and relevant information, the work we have begun can continue and grow. There needs to be dialogue, there needs to be forums, and there needs to be resources. We need to create new methods of communication if need be. Just relying on the local newspaper and word of mouth last spring did not get the job done. People either got the wrong impression of what we were doing or it was not framed in a way that would grab their attention and make them realize that this issue concerns each and every one of us. I know that a website is in the works as well as the video that I am working on and the information that we as interns are compiling as a group. If I visit the campus in six months I want people to know about the work we did. I want people I talk to, to know what the Pledge of Respect is. But most of all, I just want people to understand...
Approaching the Task
The bulk of the work I have done this summer has focused on the creation of a 'trigger' video. It is my hope that this video will be seen by a majority of the faculty, staff, and administration on this campus. I definitely do not want to exclude students from the audience, but it is my belief that the end product will be more geared towards the persons that work with students and not the students themselves.
I have been working with two main groups of people on this video. The first group is the people that are actually doing the technical work - Mike Majdic (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Lynette Boone (email@example.com) with the IMC and Denise Matthews (firstname.lastname@example.org) from the journalism school. The other group of people I have worked with are the people that are actually going to be portrayed in the video. These people are: Magid Shirzadegan (email@example.com) from OIEE, Carla Gary (firstname.lastname@example.org) from OMA, Robin Holmes (email@example.com) from the counseling center, and then many of the student interns: Jessica Billingslea, John Riordan, Missy Rock, Huy Ong, Jennifer Rosen, and Kathleen Workman.
I also met with and consulted many other people involved with the interns and the steering committee. These people include (but are not limited to): Troy Franklin, Stephanie Carnahan, Dave Hubin, Anne Leavitt, Spencer Hamlin, Jason Mak, Jessie Wofsy, Gwen Tistadt, Nancy Taylor-Kemp, and many others.
As you can gather, the video is not yet completed, but once finished I feel it will be a valuable tool to be used to encourage groups of people to talk about issues of diversity as they pertain to our campus.
Besides the work I have done for the creation of the video, I have also done further work with the Pledge of Respect and have been working on improving methods of communication regarding these issues of diversity.
As I said before, I see the video as a useful tool to be seen before a facilitated discussion. I feel one way this could be very effective is at the departmental level. Faculty regularly meet with their departments, so why not present the video to them at one of their first meetings of the year, have a facilitated dialogue afterwards, and then at each subsequent department meeting set aside a certain amount of time to go back and look at issues of diversity and how they, as a department, are addressing these issues. I would also like the video to be available at certain places of resource such as the IMC and the TEP office. The more access people have to the video the more it will be put to use.
As far as the Pledge of Respect goes, this document needs to be seen by as many people as possible during the coming school year in order for it to become a part of this institution's culture. We have talked about the notion of 'buy-in'; people need to feel good about something before they will accept it. This is the purpose of a school-year long 'trial period', so to speak, of the Pledge of Respect. If it is circulated and discussed, then I feel it will takes its proper place as a viable living document within the culture of this campus.
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