Cracking Down on Discrimination in Portland
January 4, 2019
AWP has received correspondence recently from a number of our members who expressed their deep disapproval, outrage, indignation, and consternation regarding an incident of blatantly racially-based discrimination directed at an African-American hotel guest that took place in late December at the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland, Oregon. That hotel is a central venue for the upcoming AWP Conference & Bookfair, both for events and for the provision of guest rooms, and what transpired at that hotel–all captured on video–gave us reason for genuine concern.
We quickly engaged both with the senior management of the hotel and with senior management of the affiliated national hotel chain–Hilton. We also made contact with relevant Portland city officials. In all of our communications, our message was straightforward: AWP views this incident as abhorrent, AWP will not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and AWP demands credible assurances that essential steps are being taken promptly to remedy this problem and ensure that it will not reappear in any form during our upcoming Conference & Bookfair.
I am pleased to report that the attention, concern, and engagement of the hotel management–locally and nationally–has been robust and comprehensive. The two employees involved were terminated, and a full internal investigation was carried out immediately. The hotel is currently arranging for an appropriately qualified third party to conduct a full audit of the incident and review the DoubleTree’s internal processes, personnel policies, protocols and staff trainings. DoubleTree has already scheduled diversity trainings starting Monday, January 7, utilizing Hilton’s “Diversity and Unconscious Bias” training module which is now part of the Hilton system-wide mandatory training. In addition, Hilton has arranged for a 2-day in-person “Diversity in Hospitality” training for all 233 hotel staff at the DoubleTree in Portland, to be scheduled in the very near future. The DoubleTree Hotel has also reached out to the NAACP and to Travel Portland’s Vice President of diversity and inclusion, to further augment the hotel’s training with appropriate local resources.
In a message to AWP from the DoubleTree Hotel’s General Manager, Mr. Paul Peralta stated:
“…we’d like to also apologize to you for causing our values, ethics and standards to come into question. We want to assure you that we have zero-tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and do not stand for behavior of this nature. Still it is not lost on us that trust in our hotel has understandably been brought into question, and we know that rebuilding that trust will take time. Which is why we’ve chosen to seek to understand the mistakes we have made and to correct them.”
AWP believes that the hotel concerned is making a concerted, good-faith, and properly resourced effort to resolve the conditions that allowed such an incident to have taken place, and to ensure that no such problems reoccur. For our part, AWP will work with the DoubleTree Hotel and with all of our designated Conference & Bookfair hotel venues to monitor their efforts in diversity training while taking the safeguard of establishing a neutral and appropriately qualified and resourced third party for Conference participants to reach out to in case any discrimination incidents arise during the Conference.
Chloe Schwenke, Ph.D.
Interim Executive Director