Letter to the editor

Gerardo Ochoa addresses the faculty's letter to the editor and suggests ways the University can move forward.

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Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Thank you for your statement of support to Linfield students, a unified message sends a strong signal to our structurally and systematically marginalized students during a time when many go about their daily lives in fear for their own safety. It is undoubtedly clear we must all do more to create the welcoming, safe, and just communities we all want to live and work in. I was particularly struck by the following statement:

“Being a member of a college or university community is its own position of privilege, and as individuals who belong to such a community, we have a special obligation to speak up and act out against deep systemic and structural bias and racism. We must answer the call to dismantle racist structures and institutions. We must also commit to examining the ways we are complicit and work diligently together to do better.”

We have seen countless messages from nonprofit organizations, small business, corporations, and many individual messages of support. While I believe firmly in affirming messages highlighting the need to do more, as a man of color, I find the most productive and genuine messages are the ones with actionable steps.

I have now been part of the Linfield community for sixteen years and have served in multiple capacities; including the Portland Campus for nine years in financial aid, academic affairs for two where I had the opportunity to work with many of you, and my current role in the President’s Office. I have also been called upon to serve on the College Planning and Budgeting Council, the President’s Diversity Advisory Committee, the University Taskforce, and the University Working group. From my collective experience at Linfield and as an organizational development external consultant, I offer you five actionable items that I believe can make both an immediate and long-term impact on the academic life of Linfield University. In no particular order:

 

  • Require Cognitive and Structural Bias training for all faculty searches. There is now ample research indicating that we are all biased, and we must take active steps to mitigate bias in decision-making regarding long-term faculty hires. Without taking proactive steps to mitigate bias, we are in danger of decisions that lead to outcomes that are not future-focused. We have access to a nationally-recognized program out of OSU that was featured in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, but we have to make a policy requirement and commit to it.
  • Require Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the Linfield Curriculum. The General Education Revision Committee (GERC) is undertaking the task of reviewing, assessing, and revising the Linfield Curriculum. A natural progression or scaffolding of US and Global Pluralism is a CRT approach.
  • Formally recognize the heavier burden carried by faculty of color. We all know that representation matters, but disproportionate representation is culturally taxing. It is no secret that our student body is more diverse than our faculty and staff. Beyond carrying out duties of service as members of the faculty, faculty of color disproportionate carry out service as mentors, resources, and emotional support for many students of color on campus. This “cultural taxation” (coined by Dr. Amado Padilla) can lead to faculty burnout. Given the gender imbalance of our student body, this is also a burden disproportionally carried by women faculty and women faculty of color in particular. The needed work and contributions by faculty of color on campus needs to be valued, recognized, and considered in faculty promotion and tenure processes. As faculty engage in serious dialogue about faculty governance under Linfield University, structurally recognizing the contribution of faculty of color should be on the table for discussion.
  • Bias Response process should include faculty. Incidents of bias have increased across the country, we need to have systems in place where everyone is held accountable to their conscious or unconscious bias actions. Faculty at Linfield have resisted being part of the process for fear that it might limit their academic freedom or negatively impact their file for promotion and tenure. These are legitimate concerns that should be addressed, but should also not be a reason for inaction. Institutions as near as Pacific University and as far Harvard University have tools in place for this, I believe Linfield should too.
  • Make room for BIPOC faculty among the faculty leadership. In President Davis’ May 11, 2020 faculty assembly report, he highlighted the history of both FEC chairs and faculty trustees. It was disturbing to me to learn to the best of our knowledge that from 1970-2020, there has never been a faculty of color elected as trustee or FEC chair. I applaud those individuals who have stepped up to their leadership, and as we move forward, I think it’s equally important to step back and make room for new leadership, new perspectives.

As a country, a state, and higher education community, we have a long way to go to address racial inequities. After all, the entire higher education system in many ways is still operating under its founding values of exclusion, not inclusion. But I am encouraged by the leadership and activism being displayed by the future of Linfield, Generation Z. They are many, they are diverse, they are socially-conscious, and they are motivated. As a member of the Linfield community, I recognize my own privilege and stand ready to continue working with my faculty colleagues to dismantle our own racist structures that I know have not served our students, faculty, and staff of color well over the years.

Gerardo Ochoa