Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Diversity at the University of Oregon- A controversy.

You are in class or on break and a strange man in a business suit comes to you offering a high prestige, high pay job. Of course, you take it. The man tells you, this job happens to be Director of the University of Oregon’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED). The problem- you can’t do your job, well it’s not that YOU can’t it’s that you are in a system that devalues non-white administration, faculty and students. Your job was created after a lawsuit and tremendous public humiliation- where local schools even said they would not hire your school’s graduates, because they are culturally incompetent. You are hired so that the University can say they care about diversity, but they want you to tow the company line and smother dissent.
So you step into this role as head of OIED and find that the Central administration -Johnson Hall- doesn’t really care about you, your department’s mission- in fact, your job only exists because they were forced to create it. Now you are stuck between, being told to shut up and squelch dissent, or fulfill your mission to build a support network in the University. If this was you, your name would be Charles Martinez. That is where Charles Martinez picked up his job, which he announced he intends lay down at the end of the year (big surprise, right).
Martinez said in an interview that “So often when you hear diversity, you tend to think about just a couple of things. You might think about Race and Ethnicity or you might think about gender and while those things are important aspects of diversity. We really mean diversity in a much broader sense. So we’re talking about a much broader set of variables in which we vary and in which we are similar…”. The support OIED seeks to provide to the breadth of diverse communities is tremendously difficult. Charles Martinez acknowledges this ‘On the ground it’s hard to translate that’. Tasked with a problem too big and given ‘authority’ by people who don’t care if your alive, OIED is effectively powerless- although valuable in spirit and goal- like so many faculty, administration and students, completely disempowered.
Left to sort out how to support diversity efforts and held in check by central administration of good-ol’-boys. Martinez says ‘Its unlikely to have… folks to feel like they’re equally included’. When your director of diversity says that peers wont feel equally included, that’s a problem. It is in the hands of University President Lariviere to empower OIED and whomever it’s new director is; but likely as not, he will choose a do-nothing person who can be tokenized for claims that the University supports diversity.
This is just a continuation of the University acting like a corrupt body. The central administration cares only for the smooth transition of money from students tuition into their six figure salaries. Meanwhile faculty gets the lowest of competitive wages in the nation and athletes gallivant around getting in fights and stealing from fellow students. This seems like a scene from a medieval play- corrupt king lording over serfs, with high taxes and low services, crooks paid by the king ravage the land- they even have a granite palace (Go into Johnson Hall, Seriously). Tuition is robbery; Depose the theives.

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