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Troutdale Democrat Representative Chris Gorsek passes bill focused on cultural inclusion.

FILE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-TroutdaleNewly-passed legislation from the Oregon House would require community colleges and public universities to establish an oversight committee for cultural inclusion.

Supporters say House Bill 2864 ensures state-run centers of higher learning and their employees have proper guidelines for "cultural competency."

According to the text of the bill, "cultural competency" is the ability to respond respectfully to people from all cultures, economic statuses, language and ethnic backgrounds, races, disabilities, religions, gender identities, sexual orientations and veteran statuses.

In other words, the legislation mandates that public education institutions act in a way that "recognizes, affirms, and values the worth, and preserves the dignity, of individuals, families and communities."

The bill, which has Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, among its chief sponsors, passed through the house 45 to 15. It was primarily backed by Democrats, with a sprinkling of Republican support, including Rep. Mark Johnson, who represents all of Hood River County as well as Boring, Sandy, Corbett and other sections of East Multnomah County.

In a speech at the state Capitol, Gorsek said his day job as a Mt. Hood Community College educator gave the bill personal meaning.

"Improving the etiquette of both students and faculty in our institutions is a goal as old as civilization," he testified. "Informing our interactions in such a way allows our colleges to become more responsive to the needs of our increasingly diverse student bodies providing a skillset that will carry them throughout their careers."

An announcement sent by the Oregon Democrats' press office notes that many colleges and universities already engage in inclusion work, but states the bill will create a universal framework.

The oversight committee would be required to give equal weight to the input of administrators, faculty members, staff and students. A progress report would be issued every two years, and the committee also would be charged with creating benchmarks to monitor progress.

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