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Letter to the Editor: Diversity scholarships impact Indigenous journalism students

“Alexa, play the 'Rocky' soundtrack." Last night, I cleaned my house, while my four-year-old and eleven-year-old swirled with laughs, coughs from allergies and sibling bickering. I needed music. I needed to clean. Now, I need to write. Writing, music, dancing and cleaning (apparently) all have helped me cope. My anger has now turned into sadness. Seeing an Indigenous-preferred scholarship in writing that my school cannot award because of an interpretation of the law almost shut me down again here. There are more than 850 members in the Indigenous Journalists Association

Ohio University has had Indigenous journalism students, including one who just started a prominent Indigenous Affairs job, but sadly, the system here -- like what is in place now with the deletion of scholarships -- does not support them. Ohio University could be more inclusive of Indigenous students, but I am not sure it wants to be from my experience here. The university systems make it hard, and it falls on the faculty member who supports the initiative. I am pretty popular at OU during November, when I can benefit someone, but now when Indigenous people, and students, need someone to stand up for their scholarships, silence. Choices turn into law. 

Today, I woke up at 5 a.m., nauseous and unable to sleep. I walked into my office, after dropping off my child at school around 9 a.m. and I still felt like I wanted to vomit.  My office door is on the corner of "The Green;" you can see the "class gateway" where graduating students will don their best smile and snap a quick phone photo. Those smiles may look a lot less like me in years to come, considering the state of scholarships at this school. Both women and minorities have been deleted from being supported.  I am not going to go over everything that has happened here. My director, Dr. Eddith Dashiell said it better than I can and has been saying it for a while here. 

As we close a semester, I will note that we need to remember history. There are reasons that society needed a Black Press and Indigenous Press. There are reasons why there are organizations such as the Indigenous Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association, South Asian American Journalists Association, The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists and Trans Journalists Association.

As I said on my LinkedIn page, my best academic advice considering the disheartening and discouraging changes being made is the following: If you have donated money to a university, in any capacity, to help an underserved community, pull it now and donate it directly to the organizations I mention above. In Appalachia, I would add The Athens County Independent, as the organization (outside of our university) which supports future journalists, covering inequity and all the intricacies of our region.

In my experience, people who hate journalists, people who try to attack our profession; people who try to take us over and people who don’t respond to us, hide from the light of truth. They do that to maintain their own power and control, which usually benefits them and people like them.

Journalists, like those trained in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, follow a code of ethics and chronicle history. Who has the opportunity to chronicle this history may be more limited considering funding is now being deleted.  To have a more accurate and well-sourced history,  we must have a more equitable one.  

Now time to get out my "Sage Against the Machine Search" shirt.

Victoria LaPoe is a professor and a former Vice President of Native American Journalists Association and is currently an Indigenous Journalists Association Committee Member. 

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