Alleged discrimination prompts rally at U of O

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – Charges of alleged racial discrimination and harassment at the University of Oregon’s highly ranked College of Education prompted a protest march that drew more than 150 people.

Wednesday’s rally was the first large public demonstration prompted by what organizers say is years of problems for minority students and staff at the college.

They charge that the college has failed to implement its own diversity policies, does a poor job of preparing new teachers to work in multicultural classrooms, and allows students of color to be retaliated against for speaking out with their concerns.

Shadiin Garcia, a graduate student and leader of a coalition of students and community members seeking changes at the college, said Dean Martin Kaufman needs to accept the group’s eight demands, which include assistance for those experience racial insensitivity and required diversity training.

“We made eight demands and we want eight demands met,” she told The Register-Guard of Eugene. “This isn’t about negotiations.”

Other demands include an advocacy and grievance center with authority to hold people accountable for violating policies and an annual review of the dean’s progress on reform measures.

Coalition members said their efforts to get college administrators to take action on their concerns have been rebuffed for years.

For their part, university administrators have acknowledged the tensions in the college, and on the eve of the rally announced they were taking steps to address them.

Plans call for an external review of the College of Education, having the college’s ombudsman report to the affirmative action office instead of the dean, and raising the profile of its diversity director.

The university has tried to deal with the concerns, “but the perspectives is we need to do more to create a circumstance where people feel they are better served,” said Lorraine Davis, the university’s vice president for academic affairs.

She said a consultant is already evaluating the curriculum to see if diverse perspectives are being considered.

Garcia applauded the decision on the ombudsman but said the external review will only be meaningful if members of the coalition pushing for changes has a say in who conducts it. “It won’t work if they invite their cronies to appoint the review (panel),” she said.

The College of Education is perennially rates among the top six in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.