The DPD Program's roots began in the fall of 1990. A coalition of student leaders prepared a detailed letter outlining six proposals following a series of racist incidents on campus and amid consistent reports from students of color about a hostile campus climate. The students delivered their demands in a letter to then university president John Byrne. The letter included a proposal that the institution create a "series of courses dealing with cultural and ethnic diversity, as well as racism/discrimination and their origins" (Concerned Student Leaders, 1990, pp. 17-18). This letter started a chain of events that ultimately led to the creation of the Difference, Power, and Discrimination (DPD) Program.
In their response to the students, the university administration tasked the Faculty Senate Baccalaureate Core Committee (BCC) with creating a framework for adding a course dealing with issues of diversity to the Baccalaureate Core curriculum requirements. The BCC worked throughout the 1990-1991 academic year to develop an initial proposal for what they called the "Affirming Diversity" course. During the 1991-1992 academic year, the Affirming Diversity Course Development Committee worked to research similar courses across the United States, gathered input from students, faculty, and staff, and then assembled a proposal. The proposal was approved by the Faculty Senate on May 7, 1992, creating the Difference, Power, and Discrimination Program.
The creation of the DPD Program was the result of student organizing and the work of the Affirming Diversity Course Development Committee. The broader support of students, faculty, and staff held the institution accountable to its stated commitments to diversity and forced it to act in creating the DPD Program. In 1998 when the program faced elimination due to budget cuts, this same coalition came together again and used multiple avenues -- personal conversations, letters of support, public outcry and debate, meetings, and petitions -- to save the program from disappearing. Keeping the institutional memory of the origins and mission of the program enabled a vigorous defense of the value of the program. This kind of student organizing and coalition action with faculty and staff is not an anomaly in the history of Oregon State University, but rather a consistent legacy that is grown and adapted by new generations.
Today, the program continues its important legacy and continually adapts to the changing higher education landscape. Most recently, in alignment with updates to the general education requirements at Oregon State University and recent student demands increased student learning around anti-racism, the program is expanding from one to two courses within the Core Education requirements. The program has also changed its name to the Difference, Power, and Oppression (DPO) Program. This name change reflects the program's ongoing commitment to analyzing the complex ways systems of power and oppression manifest throughout society and results in the inequitable distribution of power and resources within and across communities.
Portions of this text are taken from the first chapter of Transformative Approaches to Social Justice Education: Equity and Access in the College Classroom (Osei-Kofi, Boovy, & Furman, 2022) titled "Student Activism and Institutional Change: A History of the Difference, Power, and Discrimination Program" (Furman, 2022). This entire text is available at OSU as an ebook through the Valley Library catalog.