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dos Santos

Journalism student Destiniee Jaram (left) speaks with Mat dos Santos after his "90 Minutes" interview in Schoonover Center

Photographer: George E. Mauzy Jr.

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Executive director of Oregon ACLU tells students to use their voice to change America

After three years, '90 Minutes' series likely to end


After several years of providing riveting and difficult conversations on the world’s most controversial and polarizing topics, the Ohio University “90 Minutes” series likely came to an end on March 27.

Created by Scripps College of Communication professors Justice Hill and Tom Costello, the series brought an assortment of speakers to the Athens Campus to tackle issues such as politics, racism and sexism.

Since Costello left the University almost two years ago to return to his native city Detroit, Hill has been coordinating the series by himself, but now he has decided to leave his teaching position at OHIO to pursue other career opportunities after this semester.

During the past three years, Hill said the series has hosted three death-row inmates who were exonerated, women in the workplace and women in politics panels, several spoken word artists, an openly gay federal judge, many political activists and numerous sports journalists who write about race and politicians.

The final guest speaker was Mat dos Santos, executive director of the Oregon American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He spoke primarily about the tragic February 2017 death of Portland teenager Quanice Hayes, who was shot and killed by Portland Police Officer Andrew Hearst despite being unarmed and in the act of surrender.

According to dos Santos, the deposition hearing for Hearst was being held in Portland as he spoke and that he was keeping tabs on it. He said the Oregon ACLU is providing support to the Hayes’ family’s attorneys but are not directly involved in the case.  

dos Santos told the audience that deaths at the hands of police officers happen too frequently in America. An attorney by trade, he said prosecuting the cases of overly aggressive police officers across the nation has been a difficult challenge.  

After getting to know the Hayes family after the shooting, dos Santos said they have a sadness that may never be resolved.

“The Quanice Hayes case didn’t get the national attention that other high-profile cases did, but even proven killers get court cases and appeals before being executed,” dos Santos said. “Quanice didn’t. It’s sad because it feels like no one cares and the lights are dim.”

The son of Portuguese immigrants, dos Santos told the audience that as members of a democracy, “you must exercise your voice.” He said that as citizens, we should all plug into issues that we care about.

“Community organizing is hard and has a lot of losing in it, but you can view your losses as educational,” dos Santos said. “It can be depressing and the hardest part is keeping the thread in the middle.”

He also advised the audience to hold their elected political officials accountable.

“Most people don’t even know who their district attorney is,” dos Santos said. “These people have so much power and no one knows it.”

Abby Jeffers, a freshman journalism major from Columbus, said the “90 Minutes” series did a really good job of exposing students to issues of diversity that they may not otherwise experience.

“It is especially important when you are training to become a member of the media who is going to have an influence on how the public sees these issues,” Jeffers said.

Danielle Klein, a freshman industrial and systems engineering major from Athens, said she appreciated how dos Santos talked about implicit bias and how it works with big social systems.

“It was interesting to hear how police interact with their communities and the justice system,” Klein said. “I think a lot about gender and systems and how we should speak about race on a very large scale. I enjoyed his talk very much.” 

Hill reflected on the “90 Minutes” series after dos Santos’ talk.

“I’m glad we created the series because it exposed people to uncomfortable conversations,” Hill said. “If your mission as a university is to have diversity as a core value, then you have to live by that creed or get rid of it … someone has to make the effort, so Tom [Costello] and I did that. We just wanted ‘90 Minutes’ to be a forum where people could come and talk about issues that we don’t necessarily talk about in the classroom. I think we certainly affected some people in a positive way.”