Prejudice and discrimination: The effect on Rams

Gerson Flores

When incidents of bias hit Colorado State University in the fall semester, including a blackface photo, a swastika drawn at Aggie Village and the N-word found written in the IM field bathrooms, CSU responded to the situation, but the aftermath for some students is ongoing.

While determining the steps CSU would take next, one question came up among students: How do incidents of bias and discrimination affect students on campus, especially students that come from marginalized identities? 


The stress that comes from dealing with incidents of bias can create different effects on students at CSU.

One of the effects can come in the form of the stereotype threat. Ernest Chavez, a professor in the psychology department at CSU, describes the stereotype threat as a person having their results affected by others believing stereotypes about them. 

“There is more prevalent overt prejudice than there used to be,” Chavez said. “It was more covert (and) more implicit rather than explicit.”

One example Chavez presents is a test — two groups of women are given the same test, but one is told women tend to do worse than men, which can lower the women’s results.

“If that task is important to you, then it affects your performance,” Chavez said.

When students are victims of discrimination or prejudice, they cannot just go to class and forget it because it affects them, Chavez said.

“Their mind is going to be playing that out, and (that will) affect their performance,” Chavez said. “Stress affects your sleeping pattern, your appetites and, if you’re in chronic stress, it affects your immune system.”

Being in an environment that is inherently biased creates fear in a student’s mind, Chavez said.

“There is a term called racial battle fatigue,” said Adam-Jon Aparicio, the mental health clinician for diversity and outreach services at CSU. “It is the process of being in an environment that is inherently biased and the fatigue that comes from having to wear armor to protect oneself.”

Aparicio said anything that hurts a student also hurts our campus.


Dismissing the issue and making it less than it is is also counterproductive, Chavez said.

“If I tell you that you’re not entitled to feel this way, it makes it worse,” Chavez said.

Students made this clear last semester with demonstrations like the #NotProudToBe march and writing letters to the editor that they were not happy with the way the institution handled the blackface incident. 

Media also plays a role in the discrimination and prejudice people believe in, Chavez said.

“None of us are born racist or prejudiced, and a lot of the media helps portray stereotypes,” Chavez said. “The media perpetuates a lot of our stereotypes, (including) gender stereotypes and racial stereotypes.”

Chavez believes the media has a tendency to show all the terrible things but doesn’t put enough emphasis on the ways we get along. 

“We have a need to know that it’s happening, but we also have the need to know that people are tolerant,” Chavez said. 

Apart from the media giving voices to marginalized communities, there are steps students can also take to alleviate the stress, fear and fatigue, Aparicio and Chavez said.

“Just listen; that’s what it takes to build a more inclusive community,” Aparicio said. “First and foremost, it’s examining ourselves, asking ourselves, ‘Am I living with an inclusive mindset? Am I seeking to understand rather than forcing my opinion on someone? Can I be empathetic rather than sympathetic?’”

“(It’s about) recognizing that anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, anti-immigrant (rhetoric) are all similar,” Chavez similarly said. “Learning to not judge the book by the cover, but finding out what they have on the inside is what we need to do.”

Also, feeling secure in who one is can help alleviate the stress a bit, Chavez said.

“Feeling strong enough about your identity, where that prejudice doesn’t have to speak to you, having confidence in your social identity,” Chavez said.

Chavez also acknowledges that feeling secure can be a difficult task and recognizes that the actions by other students will have an impact no matter what, like calling someone a derogatory term.

When students and professors make discriminatory comments, there are steps students can take. CSU also takes steps if a faculty member is being racist.

While counselors cannot take much action because most of their work is done in confidentiality, they can advocate for the issues of students, Aparicio said.

“I may be able to go to this office or faculty member and advocate for that person’s issue but not for that person,” Aparicio said.

But there are offices that can offer the help students need. Offices like the Student Resolution Center are available to all CSU students.

“We really are wanting the community to know that there are offices that do the work that we can’t do,” Aparicio said.

If students feel the need, they can also advocate in their classes for tolerance from faculty and other students.

“Approach the faculty member directly, maybe with friends or family, and say, ‘This word is offensive,’” Chavez said. 

The problem with that is students aren’t typically in the power position to do that, Chavez said. He also said faculty should be educating themselves on how derogatory terms will affect others, not waiting for the students to do so.

Chavez also said, in the current environment of the United States, people from marginalized communities may find themselves in a state of fear more often than not.

“If you are an immigrant in the current environment, you are probably fearful for your family, even if you were born here,” Chavez said.

Many of the students that come in seeking support from Aparicio find themselves victims of discrimination. Aparicio finds most of his workload to be students who come from marginalized communities.

Students need to do this while realizing that some people mean no harm; they just lack background information, Chavez said. 

“That’s a start,” Chavez said. “We have to make people aware of the fact that some people don’t mean to be prejudiced. They just need to be educated.” 

As for CSU, the first thing they need to be prepared for is to not ignore it, Chavez said.

“The school needs to not ignore it,” Chavez said. “(CSU) needs to speak out on ignorance and intolerance. The school should never be silent. My hope is that, through education, we can teach folks to be more tolerable.”

Gerson Flores Rojas can be reached at or on Twitter @GersonFloresRo1.