Advancing racial equity at PSU

August 21, 2020

Dear Campus Community, 

Last week, we made an important announcement regarding a new approach to campus safety. Next week, we will welcome Dr. Ame Lambert as PSU’s new Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion. I wanted to take just a moment today to share with you my commitment that our collective work to address structural racial inequity extends well beyond either of these headlines. 

In recent months, as I listened to your experiences and took time for my own learning and reflection, I have wrestled with how to authentically lead Portland State closer to our equity aspirations. Recognizing that systemic racism is entrenched in every aspect of life, it is important that we amplify our efforts across campus to dismantle systems that oppress Black people and other people of color and attend to the healing needed in our community. We need to respect and appreciate indigenous cultures and address the injustices suffered by indigenous people.

For many PSU faculty, staff and students, equity is their everyday commitment. Every action we have taken toward diversity, equity and inclusion is highly valued, but it is not enough. Dismantling systemic racism is the responsibility of everyone in the PSU community.  

It must start with me, as president, and with all of the university’s leaders. The executive team will be trained to apply an anti-racist lens to all decisions and we will build an interculturally fluent leadership paradigm. Across PSU, we need to review policies and practices and work to identify and ameliorate implicit biases and racism that perpetuate oppression. Further, we need to develop policies and programs that promote equity and create a culture that supports everyone in our diverse campus community.

I appreciate the commitment of the Faculty Senate, which in June passed a resolution against racism and discrimination and in support of underrepresented faculty. Many schools and colleges at PSU as well as academic and non-academic departments have reiterated their commitment to racial justice and are working on thorough reviews of their own practices and policies.

Throughout this effort we must center and involve our students. PSU enrolls the most diverse student population in Oregon, but too often we fall short in our support of marginalized communities. We will work with our students, in partnership with ASPSU and other student organizations, to elevate their ideas and achieve the rich and inclusive academic environment that diversity enables.

This summer we created a racial equity fund — $1.5 million over three years— for investments to advance student retention and success, nurture an empowering climate for BIPOC employees, and support the development and deployment of an anti-racist lens. Campus conversations will begin in fall to determine the best use of funds.

We have the opportunity to truly build an infrastructure that will drive equity and justice at PSU. When Dr. Lambert arrives next week, she will help us extend the work so many of you have been doing. Watch for opportunities to meet with her and an upcoming summit on racial equity for the entire campus community. 

Change must, and will, happen. I can guarantee you full engagement and support from me and from my leadership team, and I ask that the whole campus community work together to make PSU truly diverse, equitable and inclusive. I will continue to listen to your voices and needs and to partner with you to move racial justice and equity forward. 


Stephen Percy

Portland State University