Faculty Senate: Practice what you preach

I would like to applaud the Faculty Senate for taking the right stance on the issue of the police state that has emerged in post September 11th America [Vanguard, Nov. 20, “Faculty defends students’ rights”]. In a political environment where the government is labeling everyone and anyone who does not support their actions as a terrorist, it is comforting to know that the faculty here at good old PSU supports the right of students to contest the status quo. Or do they?

I am a part of the broad-based effort to obtain a black studies major here at Portland State. Currently the focus of this campaign has settled on the Curriculum Committee within the Faculty Senate. Sometime this year, a proposal will be brought to this committee by the black studies department justifying the creation of this major. It will then be up to the Curriculum Committee to either vote this proposal up (sending it to the entire Faculty Senate for approval) or down, killing it and bringing an abrupt end to this effort.

In recognizing the importance and wide-support for obtaining this major, the student government office here at PSU has chosen to join this fight and do what they do best: lobby the people who are in a position to make a decision around this issue. For the last three weeks, students involved with the student government office have been setting up meetings with members of the Curriculum Committee and talking with them about why “the school with the most ethnically diverse student body in the state should have some sort of an ethnic studies major.” At least they were until they were told by faculty senators that they could neither talk to members of this committee individually, nor attend the Curriculum Committee meetings which are supposed to be open to the public.

I am a senior here at PSU. I am also one of the many students taking advantage of the fact that you can minor in black studies. I have found the classes that I have taken for this minor to be both challenging and important.

As a student of color, I feel that I owe it to myself and the community from which I came to advocate for classes that will enhance multicultural competence of this school while enriching our curriculum with the perspectives of those who have historically been shut out of the traditional canon of education. I chose to become involved with this campaign because I believe in this issue deeply and feel that by sharing my perspective I can help make a black studies major a reality.

We do not wish to “terrorize” faculty who are doing their best to participate in the democratic process at our university, nor do we wish to demonize them. What we want is the opportunity to make a valid argument and give some student input about an issue that will affect the quality of education we are paying tuition dollars for. TO THE FACULTY SENATE HERE AT PSU: Please uphold the values and beliefs you outlined in your letter to the Portland City Council. Embrace student participation and hear us out.

Jesse Shapiro

senior, history major-black studies minor, ASPSU Senator