To all students of the University of Portland,
My name is Alexa Gris, and I am a graduate of the class of 2018. In the spring of 2018, I was amongst many students who voiced their concerns about the administration’s failure to prioritize diversity on campus. Such concerns came long before our class, but my class was especially enraged by the university’s indifference. We had had enough of the vague, long emails claiming that change was in the making, claiming that the administration was moving forward in the direction of progress. We demanded that a tangible, resourceful space be created, one centered on intersectional justice, equity and inclusivity. We dreamt of a space unmitigated by finances, size and functionality. Thus, when I heard that a Diversity Center opened in the fall of 2018, I was instilled with so much pride for my alma mater.
Recently, through an article in The Beacon, I heard that the administration ultimately decided to virtualize the commencement of the class of 2020, as opposed to postponing it to a later time. My heart ached for the seniors. I remembered what it was like to live on The Bluff, to breathe the fresh Oregon air, to gaze at the springtime cherry blossoms, and to walk into the doors of the beautiful brick building of Franz Hall. These articles prompted me to explore The Beacon’s website more closely, which brought me to this piece about diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at UP. I was extremely disheartened to hear that the Diversity Center has been provided with insufficient resources, a notably small space and inadequate funding.
Was I surprised?
To the administration: When students speak, you may hear them — but unfortunately, you are not listening. Please take into consideration the student body’s voice, always. The Bluff will forever be a second home to them. It is still and always will be home to me. But do take the time to realize that the university would not be what it is today without its passionate and courageous students, who spur such incredible progress. The Bluff is nothing without its Pilots.
I am a proud alumnus of the University of Portland. But it’s not the administration I’m proud of.
What I am proud of are the students, who have shown the will and intelligence to demand continuous and significant change. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to each of those who have dedicated their time, blood, sweat and tears to make voices be heard. I am honored to have taken classes with faculty members who care deeply for their students, and who influence students’ lives far after they have graduated. Through all the obstacles, each of you has bolstered intersectional justice on campus. You have all engaged in some of the most important work of all — activism.
I’m proud of you all. Never stop fighting.
Alexa Gris is an alumnus of the University of Portland (‘18). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.