How does CSU deal with racist professors?

Dorina Vida

Since the start of the fall 2019 semester, Colorado State University has been dealing with accusations and incidents of racism, including the blackface photo incident, a swastika found drawn in Aggie Village, the N-word found written in an IM Fields bathroom and Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump Jr.’s “Culture War” event

But how does the University handle such accusations and incidents, especially when faced with a faculty or staff member’s actions of racial discrimination toward a student?

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“We hope that if anything like that happens, people in the classroom would speak up, go to their department chair or dean and report such actions and that the University would then respond appropriately,” said Dan Bush, vice provost for Faculty Affairs at CSU.

When the University is met with this type of situation, the first step is to investigate, Bush said. If a situation involving a faculty member is found, the University moves to have a conversation with the individual in question, talking them through what happened and determining whether it will happen again or not. 

We can provide the listening, the caring, the being there, which is all very important. But where do we go from there? That’s just addressing the symptoms and not the cause.” -Oscar Felix, special assistant, El Centro

“We could encourage or require that they go to some kind of counseling or mentoring, and they would be watched closely going into the future to make sure this kind of behavior doesn’t happen again,” Bush said.

Bush said a supervisor would approach the faculty or staff member if they commit a similar action six months later. The supervisor would explain to them that there’s a paper trail of their actions and would give that person a warning, as well as the opportunity to correct their behavior.

If a faculty or staff member continues to persist rather than take those opportunities, they would then be terminated, Bush said. 

“For the student, we would approach them with sympathy and respect, letting the individual know that the institution will investigate and take appropriate action,” Bush said.

Oscar Felix, special assistant with El Centro, said cultural centers like El Centro provide students with a safe space: a place for students to open up and discuss what they’ve been through and a place where students know they have someone they can trust who will listen. 

“We can provide the listening, the caring, the being there, which is all very important,” Felix said. “But where do we go from there? That’s just addressing the symptoms and not the cause.”

The way professors teach has a large impact on students to the extent that students can feel lost as a result of what they’ve been told by someone in a position of trust and knowledge, Felix said.

“It’s not necessarily about freedom of expression or what have you,” Felix said. “If the way I am teaching is hurtful, I would want to know that so I can be a better instructor, a better professor.”

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CSU did a good job of putting diverse faces on their recruitment pamphlets, but coming here was a shock. My experience here has been simply finding a place where I feel safe enough to be me.” Rachel Jackson, chapter vice president of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.

Felix said El Centro is a place for students to go when they are lost, need to vocalize their pain and direct their needs to get the best resources for their situation. El Centro aids students in going through the mechanisms to launch a formal complaint.

“There are two ways to go about it: one which is that formal route and the other allowing students to express their frustration and outrage that still very much exists,” Felix said. “We provide a healthy way for students to express their frustration over something that should have been gone many years ago.”

There are much quieter ways in which CSU exhibits racial discrimination, not just in the form of blackface and racial slurs, said Rachel Jackson, chapter vice president of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.

“There is a constant feeling that I don’t belong here on campus or even in the state of Colorado,” Jackson said. “CSU did a good job of putting diverse faces on their recruitment pamphlets, but coming here was a shock. My experience here has been simply finding a place where I feel safe enough to be me.”

Dorina Vida can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @simply_she_.