Disclaimer: The views expressed in the opinion section are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Collegian in its entirety.
Remember that kid we all knew growing up who would lose a game, and instead of just accepting it, he would pick up all his toys and go home so no one else could play? Turns out those kids don’t always grow up.
Recently, a bill was put forth in ASCSU to allow student groups that stand for underrepresented minorities of students to have seats in ASCSU. This bill required a 2/3 vote to pass, which it did not meet. Now the dissenting voters of this legislation are forming a new bill to implement what they view is a more appropriate solution. In a normal democratic institution, this would be the end of it.
Instead, the leader of this bill has mobilized a group of like-minded students and is publicly criticizing the senators who voted no on the bill. The leader of this group, Kwon Atlas, has planned protests and threatened to “shut the Senate down.” This kind of behavior does not appreciate the diversity of other people’s opinions or the First Amendment in any way.
If this group follows through with their planned course of action, I believe they will not only trash their own credibility, but also ruin a movement that has a truly significant cause.
According to Tess Holohan, an ASCSU senator, each academic college is given seats in the senate. For example, the College of Business, the College of Liberal Arts, etc. This is because Colorado State University is an academic institution. Furthermore, each college represents thousands of students.
Natalie Dicharry, who voted “no” on the bill, told me that it was proposed to ease entry for minority or oppressed groups on campus that felt “unwelcome” by the atmosphere of ASCSU. This senator expressed concern that forcing ASCSU to accommodate these students does not in any way, shape or form address this unwelcoming atmosphere and would not fix that problem, but would instead circumvent it.
Even worse, according to senator Bailey Ortelli, the bill was amended by Lawrence Horowitz to represent Jewish, Muslim and Catholic groups as well, but was rejected by the original creators. The proposed bill would also have given a proportional number of seats to student groups that don’t represent even close to the number that the academic colleges represent. One senator normally represents 750 students. This bill asked for 13 seats, meaning 9,750 students, even though only 5,250 students at CSU are actually minorities.
In talking with the senators who voted no on the bill, I firmly believe the “no” votes had absolutely nothing to do with racism and everything to do with proportional representation and inclusion of all underrepresented groups, which the bill did not include.
Additionally, elections are held based on merit. Period. Nobody gets special treatment — that’s what equality means. Every single person in this school has an equal opportunity to be recognized in ASCSU through their college. Appointing senators from a handful of student groups instead of requiring them to win an election is not equality, but in fact further strengthens the divide between those who actually worked for their nomination and those who just want to be given one. If you disagree with this, just know there are 10 seats available that any of these students could have run for, but didn’t, according to Juan Caros, the senate recruitment officer.
I think that it is incredibly typical to hear counterarguments to this that claim if someone does not agree with the diversity bill or other related issues of equal importance, then they are racist, homophobic or adhering to the white patriarchy, cisgendered, whatever. This tends to be the narrative when votes like this don’t go in favor of the people supporting them (and most likely, the comment section of this article). However, in this specific situation, these ad hominem attacks are a cop-out. They are the go-to, knee-jerk reaction to anything deemed “offensive” and do not truly get to the actual debate, but rather attack the person making the argument.
This seems to be exactly the narrative being adopted by proponents of the failed bill. However, I feel that shutting down a democratic process to start protesting about the very decision that they intentionally put up for a vote will very quickly lose this group any credibility they had.
After the deciding vote, proponents of the bill said that those who voted no “stomped on (their) voice, (so) it’s time to stomp back,” all because the senators exercised their First-Amendment rights by voting. Now, these senators are claiming harassment from the proponents of the bill. The leader and figurehead of this movement, Kwon Atlas, was actually impeached by ASCSU last year for claims of harassment. When asked about this new harassment accusation, Atlas denied the claims in an interview with the Collegian and instead said that it was him and his colleagues who were actually the ones being harassed. Whatever the truth us, this tit-for-tat game just goes to show how deep and continually-widening the division between these people is.
Is this group asking for support from the student body while they use aggressive tactics? A vote that did not go their way is being countered with threats of “shutting the Senate down,” and somehow this is supposed to draw support from the community.
Here’s the most ironic part of this all: Instead of shrinking the division between underrepresented groups and the majority, they are strengthening it. I believe that 100 percent of the senators in ASCSU support racial, gender and all other forms of equality. When voting on something that had nothing to do with race, these senators, and by extension the school as a whole, are being attacked. Senators that at one point would have actively supported and worked with the minority groups on campus now feel alienated and ostracized. Some students who would love to have worked to make this University better for these underrepresented groups no longer respect these people. Instead of closing the divide, it has reopened it due to an authoritarian tantrum.
Who do these people think they are appealing to when they protest, chant and shout at people on campus? The vast majority of people on campus agree with the platform taken by these minority groups. I believe that the overwhelming majority of people at CSU support and promote diversity, equality and equal representation, and these protesters need support from the rest of the school to be taken seriously. They obviously have a lot of internal support from one another. But when they start protesting in the Plaza, screaming at people through a megaphone on the stump or chanting in libraries, they alienate the very people they need support from. Instead, I see them as childish detractors of the First Amendment, which accomplishes nothing.
Many in support of this bill, upon reading this, will likely exclaim that nothing else can be done — their voice has been silenced. They will say that the protesting and chanting is the only way to make themselves heard and that these actions are the last resort. Their actions are also a freedom of speech, and they should be heard. But here is the bottom line: Solutions are derived from compromise and communication, neither of which this group is willing to do. Until compromise and communication can be achieved, this division will continue to grow.
Collegian Columnist Taylor Tougaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @TTougaw.