5 important ASCSU moments from the fall semester

Charlotte Lang

Throughout the fall semester of 2019, the Associated Students of Colorado State University met each week to discuss campus issues and legislation meant to benefit the University.

senetors vote
Associated Students of Colorado State University senators vote during the Nov. 13, 2019, senate session. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

As a “government by the students for the students, based upon the principles of equality and inclusivity for all,” as stated in the ASCSU constitution, the senate spent various meetings during the semester discussing bills and resolutions focused on responding to instances of discrimination and prejudice, both on campus and within their chambers. 

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The senate also discussed new projects and plans for the 2019-20 academic year.

Here are five important moments in the senate from the 2019 fall semester.

1. Senate response to blackface/hate speech incident

Colorado State University biomedical and electrical engineering senior Janaye Matthews speaks at the Associated Students of CSU senate session Sept. 18, 2019, during a discussion of the blackface image that had been circulating on social media. (Anna von Pechmann | Collegian)

Early in the fall semester, an image of CSU students in blackface spread across the University, leading students to call for a response. The ASCSU senate chambers became a prominent place for this discussion as senators, students, community members and others filled the meeting in hopes of making a change.

During the first meeting after the event, Chief of Staff Melissa Quesada said the most important thing ASCSU can do is educate the student body on inclusivity and the implications of such actions. This statement was followed by a discussion about what ASCSU has or has not done to educate the student body, as well as conversations about the hostility of the blackface incident.

More memorably, in a later meeting with hundreds of people in the gallery denouncing the blackface photo, the senate passed two resolutions condemning and holding people accountable for their hate speech. 

CSU students weren’t alone in the meeting. Many students from other universities and schools traveled to attend. Community members and University staff and faculty, such as University President Joyce McConnell, were also present.

The meeting in which these resolutions were passed lasted past midnight, making it the longest senate meeting of the semester. 

2. Support for the Jewish community

In September, students reported drawings of a swastika found in Aggie Village. As a result, members of many Jewish organizations, concerned students and community members attended a senate meeting in hopes of addressing this incident and other feelings of anti-Semitism on campus.

During this meeting, the senate discussed and passed two pieces of legislation meant to support the University’s Jewish community.

ASCSU President Ben Amundson, who authored a resolution calling for unity against anti-Semitism, had said the swastika and hatred behind it is “not part of our University” and “not a part of our community.”

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The bill passed during this meeting approved funding for Holocaust Awareness Week. 

Both pieces of legislation passed with a unanimous vote from the senate. 

In the meeting, Amundson spoke about hopes to create new inclusion and diversity projects as a result of issues such as this occurring on campus. Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Simon had echoed this, saying the legislation from this meeting was the first step in a long list of things ASCSU was working on.

3. Women and Gender Advocacy Center opposes reproductive health resolution

In early October, the senate moved for a resolution regarding reproductive health to be taken off the floor as a result of opposition from the WGAC and claims about misinformation given to students about the legislation. 

In the meeting, Senator Alex Benitez made the motion to remove the resolution due to signature endorsements from students and senators occurring under false pretenses. Students whose names were on the resolution attended the meeting to explain that they were not told the full details of the legislation, and they were not informed that their names would be placed among the endorsements.

The resolution, authored by Senator Lauren Flores and students Maggie Sayers and Veronica Morin, asked for the WGAC to put out an equal amount of information about adoption and crisis pregnancy organizations as abortion organizations.

Concerned students and representatives for the WGAC attended the meeting to speak out against factual errors and misinformation within the resolution.

The resolution was ultimately removed from the floor, meaning it was removed entirely from the senate agenda.

4. Black ASCSU senator removed for Justin Trudeau blackface costume

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Associated Students of Colorado State University senate votes for senator Koby Peters to leave the premises from the meeting after arriving in a blackface costume. (Nathan Tran | Collegian)

For Halloween, various senators attended the weekly meeting in costumes. Senator Koby Peters attended dressed as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface, as Trudeau had recently been exposed for wearing blackface.

The senate voted for Peters to be removed from the meeting as a result of his costume’s offense toward many of the senators and his poor representation of the college he was senator for.

In a later response about the incident, Peters said he had been hoping to create a conversation around Trudeau’s reelection despite the blackface. He also said he believed the students in the college he represents — the College of Engineering — would agree with the intent of the costume. 

“This was, of course, controversial, but it’s necessary in order to kick-start a movement,” Peters said in his response.

A tweet with a video of Peters in costume gained popularity online. Most responses voiced anger with the costume, but others pointed out Peters’ identity as a Black man and discussed whether or not this meant he could wear this costume.

5. Future building projects

Throughout the fall, the senate spoke about goals and projects for the upcoming semester. 

One of the more recent announcements was the report about future building renovations.

Amundson presented possible projects for various buildings around campus. A primary focus for these projects is the Clark building.

Amundson also spoke about hopes for a new building for biomedical students.

Though nothing had been confirmed at the time, Amundson said these are projects the University Facilities Fee Advisory Board was interested in looking at for the future.

Charlotte Lang can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.