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Students march against racism.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

In a line that at times stretched almost halfway across campus, more than 250 marching, chanting people rallied at the University of Oregon on Wednesday to protest alleged racial discrimination and harassment at the College of Education.

The 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 harassed and retaliated against for speaking out about the problems.

After gathering in the College of Education courtyard, a line of people walking two abreast marched to the nearby Clinical Services Building and delivered an eight-item list of demands to Dean Martin Kaufman, who met them outside. Then they filed past Kaufman and handed him signed red cards carrying a statement protesting the college's "unwillingness to uphold its diversity policies" and calling on Kaufman to agree to all eight demands.

The group then marched to Johnson Hall and delivered the same demand letter to the office of UO President Dave Frohnmayer.

Shadiin Garcia, a graduate student and leader of a coalition of students and community members seeking changes at the college, said Kaufman needs to accept all of the group's demands.

"We made eight demands, and we want eight demands met," she said. "This isn't about negotiations."

The demands include assistance for those experiencing racial insensitivity, an advocacy and grievance center with authority to hold people accountable for violating policies, an annual review of the dean's progress on reform measures and required diversity training.

The rally capped what coalition members describe as years of frustration after being continually rebuffed in their efforts to get college and university administrators to take action on what they describe as a culture of racial insensitivity and a refusal to follow the college's own policies on diversity.

In speeches at the start of the rally, Garcia said the protest was necessary because the college still has not incorporated diversity into its curriculum despite the policy requiring it and a ruling by the university's affirmative action office finding it in violation of the policy.

"We aren't making this up," Garcia shouted to the crowd. "This has been going on for years. We will not be lied to anymore."

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

Those steps include 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.

Garcia applauded the decision on the ombudsman but said the external review will be meaningful only 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.

Johnny Lake, another graduate student and coalition member, said the effort isn't just about the College of Education. He said the entire state needs to search for a deeper understanding of diversity and what it means.

"We in Oregon are going to establish what the American dream is," he said. "It's not just black folks. It's not just white folks. It is all people."

Other speakers at the rally included Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and City Councilor David Kelly. Kelly told the crowd that while much has been accomplished in the past 40 years, much remains to be done, and he said the problems aren't limited to the UO.

"These problems and the problems at the College of Education are our problems," he said, "regardless of our own ethnicity or our own involve- ment."

Piercy applauded the students for pushing for changes, and she also applauded Frohnmayer for his recent pledge to continue to make diversity a high priority.

"Although this work is not easy and never complete, it is truly worthwhile," she said. "Together with the university, its students and community partners, we must do the work to make a great city better and a great university even greater."
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Title Annotation:Higher Education; Mayor Kitty Piercy is among speakers at a rally accusing the UO College of Education of discrimination and harassment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 5, 2005
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