CORVALLIS, Ore. – Students at Oregon State University made a video questioning diversity on campus, and administrators are responding with enthusiasm to address the issues.
Last month, students at the University of California, Los Angeles made a video called “The Black Bruins” questioning diversity on their campus. The video has received over 1 million hits. The Black Beavers, a response by OSU students, is now expressing the same concerns.
“At Oregon State University, there are 25,925 students,” the video says. “Of that number, there are 366 black identified students.”
Dominique Austin, the director and producer of the video, says the goal is to spark conversation about the lack of access for African Americans to go to college, but also about the retention of black males, saying only 58% are graduating.
“There are 14,897 male students at OSU,” the video says. “Of that number, there are only 201 black identified students, making us 0.7% of the population.”
Austin says he hopes the video showcases experiences African American males have at OSU.
“Being one of the only black males in a class is isolating,” he said.
Austin says he believes there is a connection between the isolation and the lower graduation rates among African American students. He says this is something that minorities across the country are experiencing – and the video is a way to tell the Bruins at UCLA that the group supports them.
“We’re showing our support from a different region, validating their experiences that they’re going through,” Austin said. “Basically giving them a shout out like: ‘Hey we’re with you. We’re experiencing the same kind of thing you guys are going through.’”
Austin says the goal of the video not only was to spark conversation, but to also create change.
“The University is trying. The University’s doing a great job with the recruitment. But there’s ways they can improve.”
He says departments on campus have already reached out to the group, wanting not only to talk about ways to increase the number of African American students on campus, but to also increase the retention numbers.
“There’s an opportunity to do some great work,” said Brandon Lee, an administrator in Student Affairs. “And it seems like the University was already kind of pivoting in this direction with the creation of some positions and other programs on campus, but this has certainly accelerated the process coming from the students voices.”
The University says it has already been working on the issues the students raised in the video. Steve Clark, the Vice President of University Relations and Marketing, says about a year and a half ago, OSU launched its Early College Program in Portland with Jefferson High School and Portland Community College.
“We needed to reach out to Portland, where at least in the case of Oregon, is where the greatest percentage of African Americans live,” he said.
Clark says OSU is reaching out to communities in Portland not only to promote higher education among African American communities, but to also prepare students for college.
“We are very impressed by the message offered by the students,” he said. “It was very profound.”
Clark says despite the work the campus has already done, OSU administration says it is excited to work with the Black Beavers group after winter break to address areas in which the University could improve.
“We understand it’s important,” Clark said. “And we want to work with you.”
Austin says the video has the voice of black men, but that doesn’t mean the problems of diversity are limited to African American students.
“For those who are yet to be heard, we hear you,” Austin said. “Because we’re not the only group that’s struggling.”
To view the video, click here.