Honoring the experiences of BIPOC students across Oregon universities

This Instagram page holds Oregon universities accountable, one post at a time

Natalie‌ ‌Dean‌ ‌|‌ ‌Entertainment‌ ‌Editor‌ ‌ ‌

The college experience can be an exciting time for many students, and it can also be inherently stressful — the days are full of cramming study sessions, keeping up with assignments and too many late nights. Unfortunately, there are larger issues that have been running rampant across many universities in Oregon, ones that heavily impact Black, Indigenous and People of Color students and their ability to feel safe on campuses. 

One student at Western Oregon University saw the need for a space where BIPOC students can voice their experiences with racism and harassment, so they created the Instagram account @bipocatoregonuniversities. They post experiences that are submitted anonymously through Google Forms, it allows for students from Western Oregon University, University of Oregon and Oregon State University to submit their stories anonymously. 

The creator of this page first saw a need for a safe space over the summer of 2020. They felt compelled to make the account after being profiled for a second time during Winter term of 2021, when trying to buy food at the Valsetz Dining Hall. They recounted this experience, “To people it may not be a huge deal, but for me when the simplest task of getting food is met with bias and assumptions based upon how I look, it can be difficult to feel welcome in a place you pay thousands of dollars a term to attend.” 

After experiencing this racial discrimination on Western’s campus, they followed their gut instinct and created the page to share stories from other students of color, and the page has been active since March 1, 2021.

“The purpose of this page is to make sure that universities do not have any room to think they can silence students of color’s voices by creating policies and forms that statistically deter students rather than helping them get the help and resources they need.”

Since the page started, students across universities have reached out to safely share their experiences, with the creator of the account saying, “So far this experience has been nothing short of phenomenally amazing. I have received overwhelming support from students around the state, as well as faculty, department heads, staff, and employees. I have encountered a particular post that was extremely ignorant and simply uneducated. I made sure to make an example out of what this page was not created to publicize. This page is for students of color, this is a time for particularly white students, staff, and faculty to acknowledge and truly listen to what students on this campus have endured.”

Additionally, “There are always ways for universities to grow and provide support for BIPOC students, such as hiring students of color for student work and leadership positions, a well-funded diversity center and additional supervisors, advisors and counselors of color.

There are many ways white students and staff can uplift BIPOC students, by “understand(ing) why our country, and why our world is the way it is. If you see something that is wrong, don’t just stand there and let it happen. Speak up, and just do the right thing. It’s okay to make good trouble.”

Students deserve to feel safe and represented on their campuses, and Instagram pages such as @bipocatoregonuniversities provide a space for students to be heard until the colleges decide to take further measures to address racism at their own schools.

Contact the author at ndean17@wou.edu

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