Sit-in continues at Lewis & Clark; students hold 'speak-out' at PSU

Issues of race on Portland campuses

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Race relations are a hot-button issue on college campuses in Portland.

A sit-in continues at Lewis & Clark College, and students held a "speak-out" at Portland State University.

But these protests are different from other race-related events at college campuses across the country. There is not an "us versus them" mentality about these events. In fact, the students said they were encouraged by the support of the administration. But that doesn't mean they were satisfied with the state of race relations on campus.

"As students of color our voices aren't heard, especially in predominantly white institutions," said Tony Funchess, a student organizer at Portland State.

He says he is tired of his voice being ignored on campus, and he helped organize the "speak-out" event at Portland State. It was an informed, peaceful and educational event.

Melika Belhaj helped get the event to campus, held in the Smith Ballroom.

"We're really in awe of the institution's support and we are also still demanding several things from them," said Belhaj.

Those demands include more diversity and cultural needs in the classroom and campus-wide. Students said they hope this is the first event of many and they hope the institution will continue to support their voices.

"We show up, we make noise," Funchess said. "We're in classes but to really have our issues held before our peers, before the administration, so that way real change can take place it's taken this type of action."

It appears the administration is listening. The President of PSU sent an email encouraging everyone to attend the "speak-out" event.

The issue of race is also a hot button issue on the campus of Lewis & Clark College.

"I'm speaking as a woman, as a person of color, as a non-black person of color," Sandy Taylor told KGW. At Lewis & Clark, protesters have been occupying the president's building, known as Frank Manor, for several days. It's a peaceful sit-in.

Tuesday, an entire class decided to leave their classroom, and hold their lessons in the President's building too. It was a sign of solidarity. Taylor was one of the students.

"The more student engagement within policy, within curriculum, within admission, that would be a first step," she said.

During their sit-in, the protesters have asked the Lewis & Clark President to address their "vision statement." It includes diversity, race and issues of safety on campus. The president has now responded, by setting a meeting for Monday with the school's committee of diversity and inclusion. Staff members say they have the same goals as the students have, and that is equality for everyone.

"Progress doesn't have an end point. We will always be improving, we will always have more diversity on campus, we can always do more to engage communities of color," said Roy Kaufmann, college public relations director.


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