Smoke signals. (Grand Ronde, Or.) 19??-current, February 01, 2013, Page 13, Image 11

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    Smoke Signals 13
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PROFESSOR continued
from page 12
A. Kennedy recalled. There had
been talk with the university's
Native American Advisory Group,
hints that there were going to be
changes, but no proposal was ever
rolled out."
Former University President
Richard W. Lariviere "talked about
running all minority groups togeth
er, talked about some of its benefits,
a couple years ago."
Ball said that though he had no
direct warning of the restructuring,
"I started getting an inkling of this
last year in a staff meeting when
Robin Holmes, interim vice presi
dent (for what was then the Office
of Equity and Diversity), started
using the term Office of Equity and
"I asked where it came from, but
nobody knew who changed it. That
started concerning me, a change in
the name of the office and nobody
knew anything about it."
The words and actions from the
vice president's office have been in
terpreted in many quarters as rep
resenting the so-called "distributed
model" of maintaining diversity,
where everybody is responsible for
all diversity issues.
While the model has been em
braced by universities, it is not
considered a best practice in Indian
'The 'distributed model' does not
work," said Leno with input from the
Tribe's Education Department. "We
have seen other colleges and univer
sities in Oregon try to implement this
model of lumping underrepresentedV
minority students into one group and
it has not been successful.
"Native American students have
unique needs and therefore need to
have specific staff Native Ameri
can preferred and services at the
university. Our students come from
unique backgrounds and sovereign
nations. They recognize their unique
ness and often require the support
of people who recognize, respect and
appreciate the Nations they come
from and their sovereignty."
"The 'distributed model,' " said
Bryan Mercier, manager of Business
Operations of the Bonneville Power
Administration's Fish and Wildlife
Program, another Hatfield Fellow
and a 1990's graduate of the univer
sity, "is a common practice with an
organization that is downsizing.
"Would you lay off staff, push
their work onto the already full
plates of other staff and not expect
the quality of services to suffer? Of
course we would expect that to hap
pen. That's why this decision is all
the more disappointing. The UofO
administration has to recognize this
will have negative consequences for
Native students."
In addition, said Ball and Ken
nedy, Tribal peoples alone have
"The restructuring will
allow us to build on ex
isting partnerships to do
even more in the future. I
respect the high priority
of education for Tribal
governments. We have
that priority in common."
New Equity and Inclusion Vice
President Yvette Alex-Assensoh
treaty rights by which their educa
tion has been prepaid by the ceding
of millions of acres of land. In the
case of Native Americans, the ques
tion is not that they are an ethnic
group deserving of special benefits,
but that they are treaty signers for
whom U.S. governments have legal
"Our genuine concern (about
this) has been there," said Ken
nedy, "and continues to be there.
To water down that obligation is
The issue brings with it enough
heat that state officials are looking
for clarification.
Quigley said she will meet with
university leaders about the issue
and Frank Garcia Jr., director of
the Gov. John Kitzhaber's Office of
Diversity & Inclusion and Affirma
tive Action, also is looking into it.
Alex-Assensoh's memorandum
to Tribal Council said that the re
structuring will include "recruiting
new employees, with the requisite
expertise, to address organizational
changes that respond to institu
tional, Tribal government and com
munity needs."
She said she hoped the restructur
ing "will provide more specific and
efficient attention to structural and
policy issues in each of these areas,
as well as link her office more effec
tively with the other campus units
that also work on these important
issues. It will also engage diverse
communities through a series of
leadership roundtables that facili
tate connections between campus
and community organizations."
"People aren't aware," said Alison
Ball, "that the three assistant vice
presidents were working through
out campus. In all departments."
Jennifer O'Neal, hired in June
as the university's Corrigan Solari
Historian and Archivist, said that
Ball "immediately included" her
in the Native Strategies group for
faculty and staff to work across the
university to make things happen
quicker for the Indian community.
Tom Ball points to his work devel
oping the Native Strategies group
as an example of his successful
communication efforts, and one of
the high points of his years in the
Education offers ChinukWawa classes
The Tribe's Cultural Education Department offers adult Chinuk Wawa
language classes from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday in Room 207
of the Tribal Education Building. Language classes can be taken for college
credit or fun. For more information, call 503-879-2249 or 503-437-4599. B
"The reason I started it was the
level of bureaucracy here," Ball
said. "We had six areas that we
couldn't move forward on: a Native
research center; Native studies;
recruitment and retention; com
munications about all we are doing
on campus; community outreach to
Tribes; and governance and infra
structure funding."
"A program adviser with the cul
tural, political, legal knowledge of In
dian Country provides a resource for
the unique circumstances that nearly
all Indian students face when enter
ing college," said Mercier. "There's
simply no way all the faculty can ac
quire that capacity, so letting a spe
cialist go for the 'distributed model' is
a huge mistake and Indian students
will suffer as a consequence.
"When most public institutions
are just now figuring out the need
for designated personnel to handle
Tribal issues, it seems UofO, a sup
posedly progressive organization, is
going backwards. Federal agencies,
state governments and even the
White House have recently created
positions, such as senior advisers
on Indian Affairs, to increase their
capacity to better serve Tribal com
munities." The failure to include Tribes
in the process is part of a larger
failing, many say, and there are
indications that university leaders
know it.
"I do believe UofO is acutely
aware that they should have con
sulted with Oregon Tribes and with
their own advisory committee,"
wrote Quigley in an e-mail.
University staff and professors
also feel that they have been left
in the dark.
"I think the biggest change will
be just trying to understand how
the office will now operate," said
O'Neal. "Who will we contact about
current and future projects? And
who will focus on the issues facing
Native American faculty and stu
dents? There are just still so many
unanswered questions. I'm trying
to be optimistic, but when you don't
know what the procedures and
policies will be it is very difficult to
know what the future holds."
At the same time, Ball and others
are hopeful that this setback could
translate into something better. The
road there would include a position
that is a liaison between the Tribes
and university president and re
ports directly to the president.
"We need to move this position
out from under the (vice presi
dent's) Office of Equity and Inclu
sion," said Tom Ball. He also would
like to see the relationship between
the university and Tribes spelled
out in binding documents.
'This position never should have
been under another level of bureau
cracy ... with a vice president that
does not know our Tribes, does not
understand sovereignty and does
not know the unique cultural needs
of our Native students, and does
not have a clue as to what Tribal
consultation means."
'The restructuring," wrote Alex
Assensoh in the Tribal Council
memorandum, "will allow us to
build on existing partnerships to do
even more in the future. I respect
the high priority of education for
Tribal governments. We have that
priority in common."
Quigley sees the bumps smooth
ing out. With assurances by the
President's Office that "there is no
intention on the part of UofO to
back away from their commitment
to Native students or their interest
in a positive long-term relationship
with the federally recognized Tribal
governments of Oregon," she added,
T am hopeful that we can use this
opportunity to get the UofO rela
tionship back on a firm and positive
footing going forward."
"Moving forward," said Leno,
"we would be willing to sit down
with the university to discuss our
concerns about the elimination of
Dr. Ball's position."
"There is that possibility that
something really good could come
out of it," said Tom Ball. B
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