Office of Equity and Inclusion restructuring draws Friday crowd

Yvette Alex-Assensoh at Friday's meeting
Yvette Alex-Assensoh at Friday's meeting

Approximately 75 people gathered today in the EMU Fir Room to express their feelings regarding the restructuring of the UO Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI). The final of four town hall meetings designed to collect feedback on a new strategic action plan for the office, this meeting was scheduled specifically to provide the opportunity for attendees to voice their concerns over the changes that have taken place in the office.

Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh offered a brief history on the process of restructuring, including a petition signed by some 100 faculty members calling for improvements to the office’s effectiveness that was filed with former UO President Richard Lariviere more than a year ago.

Alex-Assensoh explained that the search committee who hired her gave her a mandate to make change, and she looked forward to the opportunity to come to the UO to apply her expertise to help move the UO’s mission of inclusion forward.

During her first three months here, Alex-Assensoh said she embarked upon a “listening tour” with leaders in the UO community including faculty, administration, students and community groups.

“I collected written and objective evaluations that all spoke to a need for change,” she said.

Others who spoke at the forum expressed their desire to be included in the plans for reorganizing the office as the process moves forward, from participating in meetings to being part of interviews for new hires.

Some students expressed concerns that they were not aware of pending changes, whereas others said they had been intimately involved and had done their best to reach out to fellow students to bring them in.

Lynn Fujiwara, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, said she has seen “a revolving door” among colleagues of color in the past and that the poor retention rate has been painful. She said change in the OEI was needed because, “the office was not structured in a way to help faculty.”

She added, “We must work together and give the process a chance, to open lines of communication to make this office what we want it to be.”

Alex-Assensoh said she will reschedule more strategic planning meetings in the future to continue the work of pre-planning for the next diversity action plan.