From communication shortcomings with bias-related incidents to Chick-fil-A, students brought comments and criticisms alike to Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell’s first student open forum this semester.
Following her presidential inauguration at the University Center for the Arts Nov. 14, the student open forum took place in the Lory Student Center Ballroom D yesterday morning.
McConnell kicked off the session by meeting with students who were in attendance, and this was followed by introductions for Rick Miranda, provost of CSU, and Blanche Hughes, vice president for Student Affairs, as well as other administration members in attendance.
McConnell spoke on the importance of meeting with students privately to hear their concerns, and she mentioned the pride she feels as the first female president of a land-grant University that has admitted women as part of its mission since 1870.
“That’s been very moving to me to be the first woman president and to know it’s having an impact on other people,” McConnell said.
A primary subject of concern brought up by students at the forum was recent communication breakdowns between students and the administration.
One student, who identified with they/them pronouns, said that while RAMweb has a space to insert their preferred name, that name often doesn’t get communicated to professors, and the eID used by services such as RAMweb and Canvas often includes a student’s “deadname,” a term commonly used by the trans community to mean a person’s birth name.
McConnell said the issue was supposed to be addressed, adding that Hughes was taking notes on all the concerns raised to begin problem solving.
“I’m sorry on behalf of the institution, but we’ll work on that now that you’ve raised that,” McConnell said.
One of the great things about these sessions is we get great questions, and then we can do some problem solving.” -Joyce McConnell, president of CSU
There were also questions related to the communication breakdowns around bias-related events that recently occurred on campus.
Students raised concerns that McConnell didn’t condemn bias-related incidents, including the blackface incident in early September.
“I was very direct in condemning those acts in my Fall Address,” McConnell said. “We have an issue with communications and how we let people know this is what’s going on.”
Referencing the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative led by Hughes, McConnell said the University is acting on these incidents. The initiative, which closed for submissions Nov. 11, has received 176 proposals, Hughes said.
McConnell added that CSU is working with the City to have a more complete program for addressing and acting on bias-related incidents.
“We’re in a different time; this is a very different time,” McConnell said.
Other topics students brought up included the potential for different forum formats in the future, as well as the possibility of bringing a Chick-fil-A on campus. McConnell responded to students’ desire for a Chick-fil-A, saying the University carefully decides who to invite onto campus.
“(The University) may not want to be complicit with corporations whose practices violate our community,” McConnell said.
McConnell and Miranda asked for feedback about the best social media platforms to communicate with students, mentioning that older alumni typically use Facebook, and there was a lot of discussion about the blackface incident on that platform.
McConnell emphasized the importance of using new platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat to better communicate with students as events are unfolding.
“One of the great things about these sessions is we get great questions, and then we can do some problem solving,” McConnell said.
Noah Pasley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.