Letter to the Editor: Change is a collective effort

By Autumn Clay | April 18, 2018 6:25pm
Autumn Clay is a sophomore diversity coordinator at the University of Portland.
Media Credit: Olivia Sanchez / The Beacon

To the community of UP:

From recent events, we as a community have been broken, hurt, violated, and objectified. At the Wallys, a student emcee made comments and jokes that entailed misogynistic, oppressive, prejudiced, internally racist, and sexually abusive ideals. In response to the shock and outrage from that night, an apology was sent out by the president of our university. His initial apology did not take responsibility for being a bystander and completely disregarded the students who took a stance against the emcee’s actions. It offered no steps moving for forward and disregarded all the movements, initiatives, and accomplishments on diversity, equity, and inclusion. His second apology wasn’t issued until the students, staff, faculty, and admins of UP came together to make their voices heard and defend their views, issues, and concerns on the lasting effects of the Wallys. 

The movements from this event has inspired me to share my experiences as a biracial, colored woman on campus. My experiences on campus have not always been positive. I have experienced many microaggressions from the students of the UP community. I have been told by five white men saying the “n-word” around and to me was justified by another person of color on campus. I have been told I would not get away with as many things as a white man could because of my skin color. I have argued to many about how my culture is not to be appropriated, but most of all, I have been taught how to caudle white feelings in order to not upset the balance of white privilege and minority complacency. It took me quite some time to learn how to be complacent in order to feel a part of this community. 

Now, I am not telling you about my experiences for pity or to upset anyone, but because I think it is important to know that these biases, imbedded racism, ideas of rape culture, misogyny, etc. are still very prevalent in our community. Because of my experiences, I decided to become a diversity and inclusion coordinator. I wanted to bring awareness to these topics. I wanted to initiate change and be a resource for others who felt like me. However, the longer I stay in this work the more I have come to realize change is a collective effort. Just like how the community of UP was capable of initiating change overnight in response to the Wallys, I would only hope UP can band together like this in all situations that spring from malice and the intent to harm. The issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion are uncomfortable, but where you are comfortable, you are not growing or instilling change.  

So, as a leader on this campus, I ask you all to join me in an effort to ensure situations like the Wallys do not happen again. As a community member, it is important to engage in these dialogues and continue working towards a more fair and equal opportunity future. The future begins with change and change begins with us. As uncomfortable as these discussions might be, I encourage you all to become proactive leaders and emphasize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion by listening, understanding, and taking a stand where the six pillars of our community are falling. 

This student does not reflect our community. This situation will not set us back, but instead push us towards change. Remember your humanity, we’re all people who make mistakes. I am so proud of the quick initiatives and movements happing in response to this event. I can truly say, I am proud of my community and proud to be a pilot. Let’s move forward and work on continuing these open dialogues. 


Autumn Clay


Student Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator 

Autumn Clay is a Biochemisty major and can be reached at clay20@up.edu.