It did not go unnoticed by the Clark College community when several faculty members of color left the college earlier this year. After the Indy first covered the subject in June 2018, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reporter and producer Molly Solomon released a report about racial issues at Clark in October. Solomon granted the Indy’s request for a question and answer session about her story, “Longstanding Equity Issues At Clark College Alienate Staff, Students.”
Question: Why did you want to pursue this story?
Answer: With this story in particular, seeing a pattern was a big clue that there was a bigger story here. I think in any institution when you see a large group of people — whether they’re people of color, women of color — just leave an institution, that could signal that there’s some deeper problems here. It wasn’t just that these people left, I wanted to know whether there was something systemic going on here.
A big thing that we talked about a lot when we were developing this story with my editors was the focus that [Clark] is a community college. You’re talking about a population that’s a lot more diverse, also going to be a lot more first generation [students] going to college. When you have that loss, I think it has a bigger impact when your student body has that kind of makeup.
Question: Did it surprise you, what was happening here?
Answer: I think I was surprised by the patterns that I saw, that this wasn’t a new problem. When I started to talk to people and was finding out that there was other things that had happened ten years ago and it seemed like there hadn’t been much of a change in the response, that was surprising to me. It got me thinking, ‘Okay, what has the school’s administration learned and why does it seem like these cycles are continuing to repeat themselves?’
Question:How would you characterize the response to your story?
Answer: I was surprised by the immediate response from Bob Knight and the administration. [The administration] sent out a day or two later a campus wide email addressing the reporting and basically saying they were taking it seriously. Knight acknowledged it publicly and he didn’t deny that anything we reported was false. The fact that it got brought up at the board meeting that was another thing that I felt like that was important that they at least acknowledged it and talked about it publicly in a forum like that.
I’ve gotten countless emails, text messages, letters from people within the community both who still work at Clark or that live in Vancouver who have just said that the story really resonated with them.
Question: Do you typically go to the board meetings?
Answer: I don’t normally but I did go to the one after the story came out. Because I was curious. It was also obviously at a tense time for the college while they were trying to figure out what to do in response to Patriot Prayer doing a rally on campus. I was both interested to see if they would acknowledge or talk about the reporting that we did but I also wanted to see where they were going in terms of how they were going to react or respond to the Patriot Prayer story.
Here’s our previous coverage on some of these topics: