University Response to Campus Incident

Public Statement

September 30, 2008

As an institution rooted in the Quaker tradition and dedicated to bringing real and positive change to our culture by living out the teachings of Jesus Christ, we report with great sadness that the incident on Sept. 23 involving the cardboard cutout of Senator Barack Obama was carried out by four students of this university.

The faculty, staff and students of George Fox University have worked extremely hard to develop a learning community that represents the diversity of God’s people. Act Six — a leadership and scholarship initiative designed to bring students from diverse communities to campus — was one effort toward this end. Another effort is our “Blueprint for Diversity,” which includes not only enrolling a racially and ethnically diverse student body, but also cultivating staff and faculty who are persons of color. As part of this plan, every staff and faculty member participates in diversity training. We want the world to know that we take diversity and racial reconciliation very seriously and that this abhorrent act that was senselessly carried out by four students does not in any way reflect the commitments and beliefs of this institution. There is no excuse for this behavior.

The university took immediate action once the students were identified. After an internal judicial process, several disciplinary measures were taken — up to and including immediate long-term suspension from the university. Investigations are still ongoing by federal law enforcement to determine if any federal civil rights laws have been broken. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits the university from making further comments as to the identities of the students, their involvement in the incident, or the specific sanctions against them.

In response to this incident, the president is forming an advisory council on diversity, a multicultural group of external community members who will help the university address this incident and future diversity issues. Darlene Ortega, a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals and a George Fox alumna, will chair the group. In addition, the university will be holding talkback sessions on campus beginning Sept. 30 and in the community on Oct. 3 at Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church in Portland at 4 p.m.

Tuesday night, the university’s Board of Trustees reemphasized its commitment to the “Blueprint for Diversity” and to the Act Six initiative. Since December, the university has been in the process of developing a strategic plan that includes cross-cultural dialogue and issues of diversity as a focus of its educational efforts. Joel Perez, dean of transitions and inclusion, will spearhead these initiatives. The university’s faculty also has reaffirmed its support for the Act Six initiative and will be working diligently to examine our curriculum to see how we can create new opportunities for dialogue around issues of race and diversity.

The student and residence life staff will also develop new efforts in its co-curriculum to educate and engage students in serious conversation about issues of race. And the Associated Student Community, which also reaffirmed its commitment to the Act Six initiative, plans to develop strategies to help engage students in peer-to-peer dialogues about race and cultural issues.

Despite its many diversity efforts, the university recognizes that it still has more work to do in this area and looks forward to partnering with community leaders from diverse backgrounds to move forward. Together, our goal is to produce a university that truly reflects the love of Jesus and a commitment to racial reconciliation.

We will update this Web site as these strategies develop and when additional information becomes available.

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