Standing in solidarity

and a call for institutional transformation

A message from Dean Javier Nieto

June 4, 2020

Dear CPHHS Community,

As members of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, you are aware of the real and lasting impact of racism on health and well-being. Our collective work evidences that every social determinant of health that we study and work so diligently to address can be traced to structural racism and systemic discrimination.

This week, the Oregon Public Health Association aligned with both the American Public Health Association and the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, and termed racism a “public health crisis” in our nation and an issue in our state that must be prioritized.

On Tuesday, I sent you a message identifying some ways to begin to address our crisis of racism. In that letter, I acknowledged the devastating impact of the recent and horrific acts of violence against Black bodies and loss of Black lives on our community. I called for us to stand in solidarity with our Black students, in particular. I would like to extend that call and ask that we encompass as well our Black colleagues, families and neighbors.

By standing in solidarity, we actively honor the strength and resilience of Black communities who have endured violence and discrimination in this country for more than 400 years. We all feel the impact of these recent events, but this is a moment to acknowledge the significance of these events for Black members of our college and OSU community.

Standing in solidarity is one important form of visible action, and we must do more if we are to dismantle racist structures and oppressive systems operating in our college, at OSU, in our communities and across Oregon. Only through serious institutional transformation that dismantles white power and privilege as structural, disrupts racial discrimination as systemic, and addresses intersectional systems of oppression can we realize our shared vision of lifelong health and well-being for every person, every family, every community in Oregon and beyond.

The Enabling Goal of the CPHHS Strategic Plan 2018-2023 is to “Create a supportive work climate and a culture of health that promotes equity, inclusion and social justice.” Toward that work, today, I am committed to the following actions:

  • Creating safe, brave, accessible spaces for listening and learning from the voiced, lived experiences of Black colleagues and communities as well as those of indigenous and other people of color.
  • Convening just, deliberate, and on-going dialogue about how we might enact meaningful and measurable change within our college and OSU.
  • Prioritizing personal development and training on implicit bias, systems of oppression, and foundations of power, privilege and discrimination in social institutions, like higher education for college leaders, faculty and staff. The college will advocate for university policies that will require ongoing training as a condition of employment at OSU.
  • Advocating for social justice and acting in accord for changing policies and practices that perpetuate inequities at every level – individual, symbolic, and institutional within our college, OSU and throughout institutions statewide.

This work will not be easy. It will take perseverance, an enduring commitment to success, to social justice, to public health. It will require resources. I know as a College of Public Health and Human Sciences we stand in unity to be the change that has to happen. I will be there, and looking for you as we engage together in this important work.

Finally, I want to recognize that these times are difficult for all of us. I thank you for the care and compassion you continue to show each other. I would offer as well that OSU has enhanced support resources included broader access to CAPS, a 24/7 Bias Response Helpline (541-737-1731), and assistance through the Office of Institutional Diversity.

I am also designating Kate MacTavish, our Director of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, and Vicki Ebbeck, Associate Dean for Student Success, as our college support contacts. Please make these supports widely known to members of our college.

In solidarity,

F. Javier Nieto, MD, PhD, MPH | Dean and Professor

College of Public Health and Human Sciences | Oregon State University