16 April 2020

Dear OSU community,

I know this message reaches you during challenging and uncertain times. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our own lives, and the lives of our families and loved ones, in ways that we continue to grapple with and understand.

I am heartened to observe the resilience of the Oregon State University community as we together respond to shifting needs and support efforts to mitigate the risk and spread of COVID-19.

During this remarkable time, our responsibilities include continuing to pursue and promote a culture of care for all, while protecting the health and well-being of all members of the OSU community. This means ensuring that equity remains at the heart of who we are and our work.

Colleges, numerous divisions, units and offices throughout the university are working to support students, faculty and students in this difficult time – from maintaining services to students facing food and housing insecurity, to facilitating the rapid movement of instruction to remote environments, and countless other incredible examples. These efforts are truly exceptional.

To support our community’s efforts, a group of OSU faculty and staff collaborated recently to reflect on a set of guiding principles. These principles are found below. These principles are drawn from a set of foundational statements created by the Council of Chief Diversity Officers at the University of California, and were enhanced by OSU stakeholders with the  permission of University of California colleagues. We encourage you to reflect on these principles as they articulate ways that each of us can advance a welcoming and supportive community of care and wellness for all during this difficult time.

  1. “Reject racism, sexism, xenophobia and all hateful or intolerant speech, both in person and online.” (University of California, 2020) Intervene and discourage others from engaging in such behavior. If you observe bias, please consider reporting it through the university’s bias incident response process, which provides a means to respond to incidents that require our immediate attention.
  2. Do not use terms which cast either intentional or unintentional projections of hatred toward Asian communities, and reject the use of these terms by others. Refer to the virus as “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” in oral and written communications.
  3. “Address unequal access to technology, hardware and software. Ask students and employees about their level of access to technology. Use that information to inform the technology choices for your courses and work assignments.” (University of California, 2020)
  4. Ensure accessibility for students with disabilities when using online learning or remote instruction. Disability Access Services has information to guide your efforts. Employees who experience disability related barriers to remote teaching or working should contact Equal Opportunity and Access. All who are hosting public Zoom events should aim to have captioning proactively available and include accommodation request language in announcements and advertisements.
  5. Remember that everyone learning and working during this time has different circumstances. In some cases, community members are caring for children and loved ones, or coping with the loss of family members’ income. Work diligently to understand the perspectives and challenges of others. Treat everyone with respect, both in their presence and in their absence.
  6. When communicating with internal or external audiences about changing plans and expectations, consider that readers will be diverse and may not speak English as a first language. Aim for clear, plain-language communications and provide contact information for follow-up.
  7. “Advocate for students who have fewer resources. Many students rely on the housing, dining, health care and employment provided on our campuses.” (University of California, 2020) OSU staff play an ongoing vital role in supporting our students. Familiarize yourself with resources available during this time to students, faculty and staff, and parents and families.
  8. “In completing faculty and staff recruitments, try to make the virtual interview process as consistent for all candidates and as similar as possible to the experience (e.g., if people can ask questions during an in-person job talk, arrangements should be made to permit them to ask questions during a remote job interview).” (University of California, 2020)
  9. “Be patient with one another during email, text and video conversations. There can be a tendency to want immediate answers, and typically friendly ways of communicating can break down without deliberate effort to maintain kindness. Try to be as clear as possible in online conversations. Don't assume that broad, sweeping statements will be fully understood.” (University of California, 2020)
  10. In setting expectations, be kind and understanding of others.  Each of the circumstances and challenges we are currently facing are different.  “Remember that people may be operating without resources and access to many material items and services.” (University of California, 2020) Maintain focus on what is most important and aim for maximum flexibility.
  11. “Build and maintain community,” and check-in with each other, “through virtual coffee/tea hours with colleagues, office-mates, students and faculty.” (University of California, 2020)
  12. Support healthcare professionals and workers with essential functions, including those making deliveries and working in grocery stores, who are on the front line of this pandemic by “flattening the curve" and attending to the health-related guidelines set forth by federal and local governments. Ensure that these individuals “get the rest they need, can attend to personal and familial needs, and are supported as workers and as people.” (University of California, 2020)
  13. Remember to take care of yourself. “Recognize your own stress and make time for your physical, emotional” and spiritual needs. (University of California, 2020)

Please visit the university’s COVID-19 website for up-to-date information on the university’s response to the pandemic and resources to support our collective work in this time. Please join me in addressing this crisis in a compassionate and inclusive fashion to help meet the needs of all members of our community.

Please be well.

Charlene Alexander
Vice President
Office of Institutional Diversity

Works Cited

University of California. (2020, March 18). Equity and Inclusion During COVID-19. Retrieved from University of California Diversity: diversity.universityofcalifornia.edu/policies-guidelines/covid-19.html