Op-Ed: Students for Change Want OSU Action

To the Corvallis community, Oregon State University, and the Board of Trustees,

In the beginning of 2018, the OSU community learned that Andrew Oswalt, a graduate teaching assistant and a graduate student government representative, is a self-proclaimed member of the “alt-right”– a term used to whitewash the fact that Oswalt is a Neo-Nazi. Instead of taking a stand against this blatantly racist and sexist individual, OSU sent out a few vague and apologetic emails, which stated that this behavior was not tolerated. 

When it comes to taking action against these racist and sexist ideals, OSU fell silent. In fact, only the court took a stand and banned Oswalt from campus, which has been lifted. OSU did nothing. This letter is a call to action from students at OSU for more inclusivity, action, and honesty.

OSU touts moral sounding messages, which communicate support for diversity and social justice. Unfortunately, these generic messages have proven to be full of empty promises; an email addressing the situation is not enough, we want action! 

After gathering student reactions around campus, we noticed an array of emotions such as anger, frustration, betrayal, and disappointment about how the university handled Oswalt’s case. 

Although the university has attempted to increase diversity and inclusion on campus, the presence of someone like Oswalt on campus is a manifestation of a deeper issue of white supremacy and inequality that we must address. The culture of complacency and white supremacy on campus calls for greater action on behalf of the university. However, do we really expect OSU to make these changes on its own? 

One student argues, “OSU preaches diversity, and always sends out campus wide emails and statements. But at this point with the Trump administration, we need ‘actions’ and not just words to address issues of social justice and diversity on campus.” 

Actions on behalf of OSU are indeed necessary if white supremacy is to be eradicated from campus. It has been the norm for the university to be complacent after every act of racial violence on campus throughout the 150-year history that it’s currently celebrating. 

Students, faculty, staff, and community members, if the university does not take action, we must take action. We have a 150 year history as a land-grab institution, and the change that has occurred over that span has only been achieved thanks to those who have organized, disrupted, and actively resisted the white supremacist and capitalist ideologies embedded in this institution.

Students for Change at Oregon State University corvallischange@gmail.com

Students for Change is a self-identified group of about 20 OSU students across multiple departments, including Education, Ethnic Studies, Anthropology, Women’s Studies, Sociology, and English. They prefer their names remain anonymous.