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OHSU retains former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of Covington & Burling to lead comprehensive, independent investigation of institutional harassment, discrimination, retaliation and racism

Content warning: In support of trauma-informed communications, please be aware that this message contains topics that may be activating for survivors of gender and racial violence. The Confidential Advocacy Program can be reached 24/7 by calling 833-495-2277. Additional resources for OHSU members are available here.

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This message was shared with the OHSU Community Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

Dear OHSU Community,

We share the concerns being expressed across our institution related to gender and racial discrimination as well as harassment incidents that have been reported. OHSU will not achieve its objectives related to anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion with a culture clouded in mistrust of its members, or any policies, programs or procedures that allow inequities or other unacceptable behaviors to exist. Addressing these matters is essential to our mission and core values, and even more importantly, it’s the right thing to do.

As previously announced, we have determined that OHSU needs a nationally respected investigator with deep expertise in handling racial and gender issues in large, complex organizations. To that end, OHSU has retained former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of Covington & Burling LLP to conduct a comprehensive, independent investigation of OHSU’s workplace environment related to sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation and racism. Mr. Holder and Covington have conducted examinations of workplace culture and issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion for corporations including Uber, Starbucks and AirBnB.  The Covington team will be co-led by Nancy Kestenbaum, a former federal prosecutor who has conducted investigations into reports of sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination for a number of educational institutions and other organizations.  Mr. Holder and the Covington team are also currently assessing race, equity, inclusion and diversity policies and practices at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The intent of this investigation is to identify any potential shortcomings, and to solicit and consider actionable recommendations that ensure our institution is aligned with the highest demands and expectations. Based on the investigation’s findings, OHSU will evaluate potential policy changes, accountability, other best practices and targeted investments to ensure every OHSU member feels safe, respected and valued in their workplace.

In compliance with best practices, the board’s HR committee, led by Vice Chairperson Ruth Beyer, with participation from Board Chair Wayne Monfries and Board Director Chad Paulson, will work directly with Mr. Holder and the investigative team to establish the scope of the investigation and its timeline for completion. In addition, opportunities to engage with the investigators as the independent investigation proceeds will be provided. Please expect to hear more about the next steps that will be taken within the next week or so.

Thanks to all who have voiced their support for a deep examination of organizational change.

Sincerely yours,

Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS

Wayne Monfries
OHSU Board of Directors

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