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University of Oregon, Office of the President: Native American Affairs

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December 10, 2012 To: President Michael Gottfredson From: Concerned Tenure-line Faculty Cc: Dr. Yvette Alex-Assensoh, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Re: The Elimination of the Assistant Vice President Position Dedicated to Service to Native American Communities It has come to our attention that the Office of Institutional Equity and Inclusion is being reconfigured in a way that includes the elimination of a position dedicated to serving Native American students and tribal communities. We understand that the University may change their vision regarding diversity at any time and that this is true especially under a new Presidential administration. We also wish to express our support for you and the new Vice President of Institutional Equity and Inclusion in making changes that will advance equity and inclusion on campus. However, we the undersigned have serious concerns about what this change will mean for the University of Oregon’s ability to meet its institutional mission with regard to Native students and its government-to-government relationship with tribal communities. 1. We are concerned about this change because this position in its current form has effectively assisted in the recruitment and retention of Native American faculty whose work is rooted in and responsive to tribal community needs. It has also promoted research, teaching, service, and collaboration among faculty across the University with similar interests and commitments. We fear the loss of this position will lead to the atrophy of these institutional achievements. 2. We are concerned that this change was made without consultation with the President’s Native American Advisory Board whose charge it is to advise the University and the President on government-to-government relations with Oregon’s federally-recognized tribes. This relationship affirmed the University’s institutional commitment to honor tribal sovereignty and opened productive lines of communication, dialog and collaboration between the institution and tribal communities. 3. We are concerned that this change was made without consultation with the tenure-line faculty whose work involves research, teaching and service in tribal communities. Such abrupt changes will negatively impact the reputation of the University with Oregon’s Nine Tribes. This in turn will affect the faculty’s ability to secure external funding dedicated to work in and with these communities. 4. We are concerned that subsuming service and outreach to tribal communities under an omnibus outreach position intended to serve multiple minority communities will lead to a serious reduction in service to Native American communities. Effective recruitment, retention and response to the unique needs of Native students require dedicated leadership in central administration with strong ties to tribal communities. 5. We are concerned that some of these changes are being made, in part, in response to faculty complaints expressed nearly two years ago regarding the limitations of an exclusive focus on ethnic identity in the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (as it was formerly called). Although we think that critique had merit, we feel strongly that it would be a mistake to address such concerns by eliminating a position dedicated to serving Native faculty, staff, and students and outreach to Oregon’s Nine Tribes. Given these concerns, we the undersigned tenure-line faculty, respectfully request that the Office of the President consider and encourage the preservation of an administrative position dedicated to providing leadership in the University of Oregon’s continuing efforts to serve Native American students and strengthen relationships with tribal communities. We recommend that the President create an Office of Native American Affairs with a Director at the AVP level that reports directly to the President, retains budget authority over the Many Nations Longhouse, and provides leadership for the University of Oregon Native Strategies initiative. Sincerely,


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