Untold Stories Guide

2014 Solidarity March

The students of color at Oregon State University have a long history of standing up for their beliefs, confronting campus racism, and raising their voices in unison as part of the struggle for social justice. Their activism dates back to the Black Student Union Walkout of 1969, the 1996 March and Boycott, and the student led establishment of the campus’ Cultural Resource Centers (CRCs). It is through these acts of solidarity and the work of the CRCs that students of color have been able to find a sense of home and community in a predominantly white school. (1) However, towards the end of winter term 2014, incidents of racism at OSU once again brought students of color together to engage the campus community in dialogue about issues of race and culture, as well as an opportunity for the students and their allies to march in solidarity.

On February 28th and March 6th, anonymous acts of racism brought light to hate speech and bigotry on campus. One act was a photo posted online of racist graffiti found in a bathroom located in Kidder Hall that read, “The only good indian is a dead indian.” Another was a note described as “offensive and racially charged” found in the Women’s Center suggestion box. (2) The university responded with a police investigation and email message from the administration to the OSU community, including a statement from President Ed Ray that, “These behaviors do not reflect who we are. Therefore, we will not let people who engage in these terrible and senseless acts control us or persist in their actions.” (3) These incidents shook the student body and many students spoke up against the racism. Inspired by similar actions at another university, student Justin McDaniels formed the campaign “I, Too, Am OSU” #ITooAmOSU and through social media, students of color encouraged discussion of racial issues on campus and organized events, including the Solidarity March. (4)

The #ITooAmOSU campaign came together at the Memorial Union (MU) Quad on March 9th, and the Solidarity March occurred March 12, 2014. On the 9th, over 200 people showed their support throughout the day. Many stopped to share their stories as well write small notes in support of the campaign with #ITooAmOSU and to have their photo taken for a collection of images. Their input became a part of the “dialogue about micro-aggressions and negative perceptions that minorities deal with” on campus and in their daily lives. (5) And, through use of the hashtag, students were able to update the student body on what was going on, including plans for the march the next week. The Solidarity March brought together students and faculty of many different backgrounds; its purpose was to stand in solidarity with those who were racially targeted and to honor campus diversity.

The march began at the Pride Center and made its way to other cultural centers on campus, stopping at each one to give students the opportunity to express their frustrations and share their experiences enduring racism. Approximately 200 individuals participated, including President Ed Ray. Students appreciated this act from the President and leader Justin McDaniels stated, “We’re lucky Oregon State takes our voices seriously and gives us a platform.” (6) The march symbolized the importance of unity among students of color at OSU and their zero-tolerance for racism. Following the march several forums were organized to keep the discussion going. There were five dialogue spaces over the course of the next week for students, faculty, and staff including: a Student-Led #ITooAmOSU Roundtable, an #ITooAmOSU in Our Halls Discussion Forum, a Women of Color Dialogue Space, an #ITooAmOSU Dialogue for Anti-Racist Allies, and an Employee Roundtable. (7) Events such as these show us that students at OSU are determined to stand up for each other and that discrimination will not be tolerated.

Photos and Sources Cited

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  1. Facebook event banner image for Oregon State University Solidarity March 2014
  2. Chants for the Oregon Students United Solidarity March
  3. Meleani Bates (with megaphone) co-leads OSU students, faculty, and staff in the Solidarity March, March 12, 2014
  4. Demonstrators join hands as they take part in the Solidarity March