In an attempt to instill a cultural shift toward diversity and inclusion, the Office of the Vice President for Diversity has recently submitted Colorado State University’s new “Principles of Community” for approval by the President’s Cabinet.
If the principles are passed, they will be implemented and incorporated into the CSU culture, both on and off campus.
“It’s about how we interact with each other,” said Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros. “So, if this is adopted, it will be cataloged. It will be the statements that we live by.”
The work put into creating these principles has been tedious and extensive. The process was catalyzed by an incident on campus that took place around 18 months ago. During black history month, a member of the community gave a talk.
A member of the audience commented, “I remember when the n*ggers came.”
Unsure of how to react, the community member that gave the talk shared what she had experienced the next day with the President’s office.
Since that incident, there have been many meetings and Ontiveros and her team have reached out to more than 20 different groups affiliated with CSU — adding up to more than 500 people. The goal for Ontiveros and her team was to find a way to articulate the expectations CSU has for its community.
Because the proposed principles are principles and not policy, they aim to instigate a shift in culture and will be enforced differently in each situation.
“It’s not us who are going to hold people accountable, it’s going to be the environment that they find themselves in,” Ontiveros said. “And so, it is important that everybody knows about this.”
According to Ontiveros, during the process of creating the principles, the people invited in the process didn’t express any fear of being limited and there was no contention on the subject. However, she anticipates some people may see the principles that way.
“There is no intention here to limit voices,” Ontiveros said. “When people hear that we want you to act a certain way, people seem to think that means, ‘You’re wanting me to be politically correct,’ or ‘I can’t say anything.’ In fact, it’s just the opposite. We’re trying to say that this is an environment where it’s safe to have different views.”
The Principles of Community are meant to discourage sexist behavior, racist behavior and other discriminatory behaviors and encourage respectful discussions.
[aesop_document type=”pdf” src=”http://rmsmc.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/CSU-Principles-of-Community-.pdf” caption=”The proposed Principles of Community “]
Many universities, including UC Davis, Virginia Tech, Berkley and UCLA, have already created their own Principles of Community. University of Missouri has a website for their principles, and the irony did not pass by Ontiveros and her team. Examples from other universities can demonstrate that the effectiveness of principles lies beyond their creation and in their implementation and upkeep.
“This is our final,” Ontiveros said, with air quotes around the word ‘final.’ “Our plan is to chat with the Cabinet, and if the Cabinet endorses this, then that will be our green light to go forward.”
Collegian Reporter Tatiana Talesnick-Parafiniuk can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tatianasophiapt.