ASCSU discusses bias-motivated incidents, need for action

Natalia Sperry

The Associated Students of Colorado State University formally discussed, for the first time on Wednesday night, bias-motivated incidents that occurred on campus during the 2017-2018 academic year.

In response to the increase of bias-motivated incidents on campus, Senator Tamera Breidenbach opened up the Senate floor for a “real talk” discussion.

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Student Body President Michael Wells speaks to the ASCSU Senate Feb. 28, 2018, about bias-motivated incidents on campus. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

“I can no longer stand by and get emails from Tony Frank and the safety emails from campus and not say anything,” Breidenbach said. “We’ve done some great things in Senate, but in the grand scheme of things those were really things we want. I feel like to address this issue is the most important one, because that’s what we’re here to do, represent everyone, right?” 

Student body president Michael Wells, citing issues such as the noose found in Newsom, swastikas found in Residence Halls and white supremacist propaganda put up in Clark, said there is a necessity for Senate to take action.

“This is a problem that has affected us all year and I’m sure it hasn’t just been this year, it’s been a problem that’s across the country right now, it’s been a problem that we see all the time. It is something that shouldn’t be stood for and shouldn’t happen. We as students have the opportunity to actually make the difference,” Wells said. “Hatred doesn’t belong on this campus, it doesn’t belong anywhere in this world. I think that we have the opportunity to say no and to fight back.”

Wells announced the CSU Administration is hosting an event called CSUnite on March 29 from 3 to 5 p.m., aimed at promoting a community discussion about the issue. 

“This is a small opportunity we have, but it’s something where we get to come together as students, as faculty, as staff, as a community to say that this is not about politics, it’s not about right or wrong, it’s not about anything (other) than that people are hurt,” Wells said. 

Other Senators, such as Senator Merall Sherif, expressed frustration at the lack of action on the part of the Senate. 

Senator Sherif said she encouraged the Senate to go beyond giving a voice to constituents, to work towards creating a space where students feel comfortable coming to their representatives. 

“We always talk about how we’re giving people a voice, but I truly don’t believe in speaking for people who have been formerly silenced. I believe in creating a space to allow those people to feel safe and comfortable and listened to when they come forward,” Sherif said.”We’re supposed to connect those human experiences to this greater conversation.” 

In response to this, President of the Residence Hall Association Kyra Ferguson and Director of Residential Events and Programming Wes Taylor proposed collaboration between the two bodies in the form of a joint resolution. Speaker of the Senate Isabel Brown also encouraged all ASCSU committees to discuss the issue further in their sessions next week.

Senator Josh Williams said one of the tangible actions ASCSU can take is not accusing those that disagree of being biased. 

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“It’s easy to call those you disagree with racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, whatever, but when you call everyone you disagree with a racist … that portion of the community that wants to help gets alienated,” Williams said. “We want to help with these issues, we really do — but it’s kind of hard to when you’re already lumped in with those people who would do these terrible things.” 

Senator Jennifer Murray said before ASCSU could take on these issues for the broader community, they first need to address bias within the organization. 

ASCSU Senator Jennifer Murray speaks to the ASCSU Senate body Feb. 28, 2018, about bias-motivated incidents on campus and within the ASCSU organization. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

“I can only say that we need to fix ourselves. There have been moments in the last year that I have lost complete hope in this organization. The culture has been so toxic in the last year,” Murray said. “If we can’t address ourselves, why do we think we think we have a right to speak out on campus?”

Associate Justice Madison Taylor argued that, while this generalization of people could be damaging to public discourse, that does not excuse people from their contribution to institutionalized issues.

“At the end of the day, those little things add up, and they become the kindling that allows the fire of bias-motivated instances to ignite,” Taylor said.

Collegian reporter Natalia Sperry can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @natalia_sperry.