Video questions OSU diversity

2013-12-22T17:00:00Z 2013-12-22T18:52:44Z Video questions OSU diversityBy Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times

A group of African-American students is questioning Oregon State University’s commitment to diversity with a hard-hitting Internet video titled “The Black Beavers.”

The video was produced in response to “The Black Bruins,” a similar project created by a group of disaffected UCLA students. It went viral after being posted online in November, creating a stir in the national media and spawning imitations on other campuses, such as a Twitter campaign at public universities in Michigan.

“The Black Beavers” features five OSU students, dressed in Beaver logo gear, standing at parade rest on the steps of the Memorial Union. One of the five, OSU Black Cultural Center President Anderson DuBoise III, looks directly into the camera and recites a four-minute critique of the university’s black student recruitment and retention efforts in the rapid-fire cadence of spoken word poetry while atmospheric music plays in the background.

Using enrollment figures from fall term, DuBoise notes that only 366 of OSU’s 27,925 students, or 1.3 percent, are black. The university’s 201 black male students make up just 0.7 percent of the total, contributing to a feeling of isolation on campus, and their graduation rates lag behind the average.

“It seems when we try to draw up the numbers there are many here missing in action and they become a part of the national fraction of those who did not make it,” DuBoise raps.

The video also takes a swipe at biochemist Linus Pauling, a revered OSU alumnus whose comments on eugenics sparked claims of racism in the 1970s, and questions the motivation behind Oregon State’s efforts to bring in more foreign students:

“And a beaver doesn’t give a damn if the water downstream disappears as long as he’s got his and the way this biz works is we ship over international students, charge them extra and call it multiculturalism. Naw — cash crop.”

Since being posted to YouTube on Dec. 11, the “Black Beavers” video has received more than 4,600 views and has generated a spirited online discussion. Most of the comments express support for the video’s content, though it has some detractors as well.

The idea for the video came out of a Nov. 20 conference at OSU dubbed Calling All Black Men, where organizer Dominique Austin, a graduate student who is writing his master’s thesis on black male graduation rates, screened “The Black Bruins.” The UCLA video struck a chord with many of those in attendance, and DuBoise suggested making a Beaver-themed version. He and Austin recruited several of their friends, got some technical support from the campus TV station and shot their video Dec. 5.

“Oregon State doesn’t really do a good job of recruiting people from Portland or from inner cities,” said Austin, who directed and appeared in the production.

“It’s not really comfortable walking around campus or being in class when you’re the only black person in that class.”

While Austin gives the university credit for good intentions, he said OSU needs to address the feelings of isolation experienced by black students on a predominantly white campus in a predominantly white state.

He cited widespread stereotyping, saying many white students assume the blacks they see on campus are student-athletes with weak academic credentials. He said there have been incidents of black students being harassed by whites or barred from parties because “we have enough of you here with the basketball team.”

In the classroom, African-American students may feel reluctant to ask questions or offer comments, and some feel undervalued by professors or major advisers. Austin said many black students at OSU have been advised to lower their academic aspirations based on the assumption that they’re not capable of achieving at a high level — including him.

“It hits me in the heart,” he said. “You feel me? This is personal for me.”

‘People do take notice’

University administrators say they’ve heard the message.

Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president for university relations and marketing, called the video “profound and provocative” and said it has stirred a lot of thought on campus.

“When students speak in eloquent and meaningful ways about what’s important to them, people do take notice,” he said. “It makes people stop and think, and I think that’s a real value.”

Clark and several other high-level administrators met Wednesday to discuss how to respond to issues raised by “The Black Beavers” and plan to meet with the students themselves after winter break.

He said OSU has made progress toward diversity goals under President Ed Ray, saying 22 percent of the student body is made up of U.S. ethnic minorities and another 10.2 percent are international students.

“So 32 percent of our enrollment — not quite one-third — is quite diverse,” Clark said. “And those numbers have doubled over the last decade.”

He noted that OSU is in the process of building four new student cultural centers (including one for black students) and has committed significant funds for staffing them, but he also said the university could do more to support minority students on campus.

Recruiting African-Americans to OSU can be challenging in a state where blacks make up just 2 percent of the overall population, Clark said, especially in a post-affirmative action environment. But he said the university has created a bridge program with one largely black Portland high school and is pursuing another.

“We think numbers are essential, but so is engagement,” he said.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(15) Comments

  1. Joe Me
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    Joe Me - December 29, 2013 7:41 pm
    Have you seen this guy's analysis of enrollment figures?
  2. Harry Mallory
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    Harry Mallory - December 23, 2013 2:13 pm
    Well, at the risk of sounding even more "explosively vitriolic", (man, was I ever more rabid in my comments? I dont think so.), Its nice that you're making a career out of adopting the politically approved meme and its associated buzz words. Me and my cats appreciate the effort you're taking to become pure in thought. I can see how you might find an outside opinion upsetting to you. I guess there's some forms of diversity you're not willing to tolerate.

    I am also having a hard time believing as Austin alleges, that there been incidents of “black students being harassed by whites or barred from parties because “we have enough of you here with the basketball team.” Call me skeptical, but I doubt that was ever expressed on that campus at any time.

    I dont disagree that blacks, and native Americans have a lower chance of success in obtaining a slice of the dream, but so does anyone stemming from such conditions, whites included. If this is an example of "institutional racism", then black people share in its ownership. No amount of money or goal oriented set-asides is going to solve that. The communities that suffer from this inequality are going to have to step up and take their children's education seriously. You cant keep blaming the lack of other people’s money for that and as "Institutionalized racism" is concerned, as I can tell, the only real example of that is affirmative action, a program designed to artificially elevate one race or ethnicity over another. You might argue that this is simply a way to elevate minorities by artificially leveling the playing field; all it does is move the lumps around. Its the liberal version of creating inequality in order to manufacture equality; or someone else’s view of equality; Equality by committee. So who decides when that proper goal is achieved? Will the minorities’ community feel it has an obligation to make the most of that for themselves and others in their communities or will this devolve like so many top-down "fixes", turn into yet another entitlement?; Something to get without working for? That might be something to consider.

    You might also want to consider Johnny Gage’s comment below. Could this simply be the case that black people aren’t as interested in going to OSU and that this issue is largely over-blown? Since you’re a student of the ideologically approved version of equality, I can imagine your reluctance to accept that anymore than an ecologically funded climate scientist might consider solar variations as the cause for climate change. And so it goes.
  3. rational_research
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    rational_research - December 23, 2013 1:09 pm
    Harry, I read through all your comments here and on the "overheard at OSU" Facebook page today and I'm not really sure what to say--other than: please stop commenting on subjects you are ignorant about. Your inability to see systemic inequality is troubling (but not uncommon for middle aged white men who live with their cats). When someone says that "blacks do not have equal opportunities as whites," you explode with vitriol. You reject common terms used by people who study inequality (such as the "prison industrial complex") because you believe in your own intellectual superiority over those who have invested their lives to understanding the complexities of systems of power within societies.

    Do you understand that educational opportunity is the most important predictor of future life success (i.e. socioeconomic standing)? Black americans (along with Native Americans) have the lowest access to quality education in the US. Why is this the case? Well, it's not because of racist individuals, it's because of institutionally generated inequality that is literally centuries in the making.

    One of the prime examples of how this works is visible in school school funding. In most areas of the US, property taxes are a significant funding source for K-12 education; the implication of this is that areas with low property values do not have as much funding per student (which results in shabbier schools, less qualified teachers, outdated textbooks, more students per teacher, etc.). The value of property in the US is historically linked (post-WWII) to institutionally racist lending practices at the Federal Housing Administration, which established boundaries between neighborhoods based on race (google: "redlining") and collapsed the value of homes in non-white areas. Whites fled to the suburbs and watched their net worth increase at a far greater rate than non-whites as a result; their children were able to reap the benefits of better schools, better teachers, more funding for public services, etc. because of the higher home values. Why do you think the median net worth of a white family in the US (including home value) ($151,000) is SO much higher than black families ($9,700) or latino families ($9,600)? Education was, for decades, the key to achieving higher standards of living in the US: non-whites were essentially guaranteed subpar education because their parents were too poor to move elsewhere. And take note: I didn't even mention slavery or the effects of micro-level racist practices.

    No one is advocating for lower standards (which, by the way, affirmative action programs have NEVER done): I mean, seriously, OSU has some of the lowest entrance requirements around. Just about anyone can get in. What people are trying to do is highlight the lack of diversity at OSU. There needs to be a concerted effort (as the previous poster suggests was occurring in the last decade) to recruit students from diverse populations to study at OSU (NOT just international students who are willing to pay $30K a year in tuition either). We all benefit from living in a diverse community and this is especially true for those who are learning about the big ideas in the world, how other people live, and how the social world influences their lives.
  4. Harry Mallory
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    Harry Mallory - December 23, 2013 12:24 pm
    So what are you proposing? The creation of positions exclusive to black people or the removal of non-blacks from their current positions...and, seeing there isnt a policy that prevents black people from enrolling at OSU, isnt it wrong to make job opportunities exclusive to one race or ethnicity? Isnt that itself racist?

    Here we go again proposing non workable solutions to non-existent problems.
  5. Patrick
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    Patrick - December 23, 2013 11:03 am
    The city and the university need to offer a lot more employment opportunities to blacks. Then their children will populate the schools and eventually the university. This will hasten the growth that will also come via OSU recruiting for students as well as athletes. Corvallis is one of the most livable safe cities in the USA.
  6. Tazula
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    Tazula - December 23, 2013 8:46 am
    I no longer work at OSU, but when I did the admissions office around the late 1990s and early 2000s, was making concerted efforts to attract "students of color," to the university.

    Sending recruiters to inner-city college fairs on a regular basis throughout the West. I remember a controversy arose because some admissions materials had pictures sprinkled throughout that showed, basically, many students of color and few white students. The thought was that the pictures were not showing the true campus. Don't remember how that turned out.

    I am just staying that at least for several years, serious efforts were made to attract the "average" student of color. One thing I do remember is that recruiters had trouble because many students used to big-city life did not want to attend a university in "the middle of nowhere."
  7. Losing Ground
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    Losing Ground - December 22, 2013 10:02 pm
    Let me see, the admissions rules state that race cannot be a factor for admission to OSU, simply grades, entrance exam scores and desire to attend. Ok, bend the rules to let less qualified people attend if they are of color or can play a money making sport. And even with that edge there is whining about not enough blacks in the university. What do you want. Get a good education in grade and high school, apply yourselves, work at it and maybe you can go to any university you want, regardless of your color, white also being a color. Life is only fair for those who work at it. Whiners are losers. Grow up, take responsibility for yourself and make a life for yourself, it isn't anyone elses job to babysit you through life.
  8. Harry Mallory
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    Harry Mallory - December 22, 2013 3:33 pm
    In a real sense that is true, as 20 years ago I had considered myself a liberal. I grew dissatisfied with the hypocrisy and the moral preening in much the same way I had with religion. Liberalism produced a conservative much the same way that religion made me an atheist.
  9. Conatygirl
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    Conatygirl - December 22, 2013 3:12 pm
    See what I mean? Liberalism has given us Harry Mallory. Welcome.
  10. Conatygirl
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    Conatygirl - December 22, 2013 2:52 pm
    JohnnyGage says Corvallis "is a very white liberal city that has nothing to offer..." How wrong he is. Corvallis has its liberalism to offer. Open up; invite color in. How vibrant and interesting life will become here!
  11. Harry Mallory
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    Harry Mallory - December 22, 2013 2:50 pm
    Or he could merely be stating the obvious and all you're attempting to do is bash Gage for in having the temerity to issue relevance over political correctness and now its my turn to do the same:

    This attempt to foster the furtherance of identity grievance politics is laughable. Johnny Gage is right: The only thing keeping black enrollment numbers down are black people themselves not anything the white but militantly "progressive" university is, or isnt doing. But hey, in liberal circles like academia and the government of cities like Corvallis, the emotional narrative often trumps sanity and reason (think bag-bans and fossil fuel industry "divestments"), so I guess you might as well take a shot. At the very least, professional complainers like Austin can turn frivolousness into fame and perhaps slap this on their resume on the dubious climb to be the next Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.

    That too beats agriculture and engineering doesnt it?
  12. Corvallisian
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    Corvallisian - December 22, 2013 10:35 am
    Perhaps it's less about skin color and more about academics? The idea that the college is discriminating is wrong, they aren't.
  13. Snert
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    Snert - December 22, 2013 9:39 am
    JohnnyGage dives right in with the same racist stereotype that all black college students are athletes and should stay where there are more black people. Nice.
  14. luckybamboo
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    luckybamboo - December 22, 2013 8:53 am
    JohnnyGage, maybe black students want to attend OSU because they are interested in science and agriculture? Why wouldn't they have interest in these areas?
  15. JohnnyGage
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    JohnnyGage - December 22, 2013 7:48 am
    I can understand why black students would feel that way, but why would a person of color want to attend OSU or live in Corvallis. This a very white liberal city that has nothing to offer, and the university focuses on hard sciences and agriculture. Any football or basketball players worth a darn want to be DUCKS anyway!
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