#NotProudToBe presented their demands for institutional change to nearly 50 Colorado State University leaders during a four-hour meeting Monday.
The group had called for the meeting in a letter they sent to University leaders last week. It criticized the University’s apparent lack of action since the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative was announced six months ago to address hostility in the campus environment.
As such, NPTB presented seven new demands for CSU to implement.
NPTB livestreamed the entire meeting on their Instagram page, though the actual event was closed-door.
Presenting were the NPTB organizers — Micaela Parker, Marcela Riddick and Janaye Matthews, senior CSU students who also organized the September silent protest. Attending were administrators from CSU’s top executive leadership, the CSU Police Department, Housing & Dining Services and several other departments.
CSU President Joyce McConnell participated in part of the meeting. She was not present for the first half because she was late to the door closing, and she left before the end for a previously scheduled speech at CSU’s Engagement Symposium, according to her tweets.
Eager to join in conversation with our students at noon today, I was caught in class-change traffic, arrived at 12:06, and not allowed in the room. I am watching the conversation live and I am listening. We can only make progress together.
— Joyce McConnell (@CSUMcConnell) March 9, 2020
President McConnell was allowed into the meeting at 1:35 and has joined the conversation.
— Joyce McConnell (@CSUMcConnell) March 9, 2020
“We know the power in this room,” Matthews said. “We know that we are just students. We also know that as students we have to leave this change, so we take that seriously.”
Matthews described the meeting as a “really aggressive olive branch” because students can no longer wait for a relationship where the administration will actually listen to students.
The meeting was a deeper presentation of the NPTB demands with space for conversation, but Riddick also stated it was not a negotiation.
“Our demands are reasonable and have been researched and proven that they are something we need on campus,” Riddick said.
They cited the slew of recent bias incidents recorded on campus, including white supremacist flyers, a noose hung in Newsom Hall and Nazi swastika graffiti.
Transparency was a major theme of the meeting. While important work is being done about the campus culture, students don’t hear about it, organizers said, giving the impression of institutional complacency.
“When we’re promised something, we want to see it come to fruition,” Matthews said.
Whether it is small progress or an initiative failure, anything is better than radio silence occasionally interrupted by a condemnation of another bias incident. That makes the University look purely reactive, Matthews said.
She also said she wants to see CSU reach a place where she will be able to tell new or incoming students “that this is a place that they can come and be valued. That this is a place that they can come and feel safe. Or at least that we’re working towards making it that way.”
Reviewing #NotProudToBe’s demands
The demands in NPTB’s letter to CSU seek to address some of the recurring gaps in how the University handles incidents of bias and hate.
Holding people accountable
Their first demand came as a direct response to the blackface incident last semester.
When four students posted a Snapchat of themselves in black facemasks doing poses from the movie “Black Panther,” the University wrote that they were unable to take any punitive action against them due to the First Amendment. The students had not violated any CSU rule or regulation, the email read.
This became a major point of frustration for students.
“What is this University doing to help us understand that this is a growth process and that being an adult comes responsibility with being held accountable for when you do things … that are unjust?” Matthews said.
Those students not being punished, their letter says, implies that CSU’s policies do not actually prohibit racially discriminatory acts, even though the Student Code of Conduct prohibits “harassment, in any form.”
In their first demand, NPTB asks the University to look at amending the code to explicitly hold students accountable for acts of racial bias and discrimination.
“Students need to understand that, as they walk across this University, there will be consequences if their actions do not align with the principles, the values and the expectations that this community upholds,” Matthews said.
An administrative member said they are currently in the process of amending the code. The balancing of the First Amendment and addressing discriminatory speech is always a challenge for public institutions, they said.
NPTB also asks for CSU to increase the number of security cameras around the outdoor recreational facilities. It’s a safety issue when perpetrators think they can perform these acts without getting caught, they said.
When the N-word was written inside the stall of an outdoor recreation bathroom, the lack of surveillance stymied the potential for investigation, similar to when a crepe paper noose was hung in Newsom Hall two years prior.
The dorms have since had cameras installed in response to the noose in Newsom, said Maj. Frank Johnson of CSUPD. But they are certainly looking for more student perspectives on such matters.
Staff could also do better by calling the police first when they see hateful graffiti, said Jannine Mohr, deputy general counsel. To minimize the harm, CSU has typically removed vandalism first, but it is foremost a crime and should be investigated as such, she said.
Educating the campus
One major request was for a more transparent and widespread rollout of the EVERFI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training module that has been piloted in student communities already.
The module is similar to the EVERFI training incoming freshmen are required to take on sexual harassment and alcohol use.
Such a course would educate the campus body on critical basic multicultural literacy, speakers said. Having tested the pilot module, Parker said it was high quality and took under two hours.
“I liked it because it was easy to digest,” Parker said. “It’s literally what all of us should be learning and doing on a regular basis, just as humans.”
The expected rollout date is fall 2020, according to an attendee involved with the module’s development. They plan to have the Key Communities, the Career Center and the Office of Financial Aid enrolled in it next summer.
NPTB asks that it be required for all campus leadership, including faculty, staff and student leadership in the Associated Students of CSU. It would provide them with critical resources when shaping the University’s environment.
“It creates a culture of change and saying ‘This is what our norms are as a CSU community,”’ Parker said.
While attendees did point out current training resources for faculty (such as requesting training from the Office of the Vice President for Diversity), Parker emphasized that these discussions must be ongoing and evolving as supremacy changes.
In particular, residence halls and staff must be trained and have their bias response processes reformed, an NPTB request states.
“To know that these are the festering hot spots for these incidents is really eye opening,” Parker said.
Students who commit acts of bias should be assigned EVERFI modules or reeducated like how they may be if they are caught underage drinking in dorms, Parker said.
NPTB also brought back a request from 2015, where students recommended requiring introduction to ethnic studies and introduction to women’s studies for all students. That was deemed technically infeasible by CSU, but NPTB has proposed alternatives like a campus-wide mandatory seminar on diversity and equity.
Supporting students’ mental health
Dealing with racism and discrimination takes a major mental toll on students, according to the American Psychological Association — which is why CSU must provide the resources for students to holistically manage their mental health.
Right now, the Student Diversity Programs and Services offices have a goal to obtain one counseling liaison each to help students navigate racial battle fatigue, which is not a good system, the letter says. Even worse is that members of minoritized religions don’t even have that, Matthews said.
“Our Jewish students or our Muslim students are going through hell on this campus,” Matthews said. “Their battlefield is ours.”
Supporting all communities and doing it well means providing more inclusive and accessible options like support groups instead of just one-on-one counseling sessions, Matthews said. Services should build cultural awareness into understanding and work to destigmatize mental health.
“We look for spaces where we’re comfortable being vulnerable, when we can open up, and that’s not the same for everyone,” Matthews said.
Addressing the mental health crisis “is about the development of our students so that when they graduate … they have a better understanding of themselves as holistic people and that they’re aware of what their limits are,” Matthews said.
Empowering student voices
As part of bridging the gap between students and administration, the NPTB letter offers two ways for students to better exercise their voices.
First, the University needs to standardize a consistent protocol for reporting discrimination. The biggest frustration Riddick said she hears from students is they keep getting rerouted when trying to seek help.
“If somebody has already gone through trauma and they’re trying to report it through the channels that we have provided them, and they’re just reliving and reliving it to different people, and they’re getting told that this isn’t the right space, … where are they supposed to go?” Riddick said.
One possible area is an online form from the Office of Support and Safety Assessment. The availability of resources and responses may vary, though, based on the nature of the incident.
The University should be making it as easy and accessible as possible for students to “let the University know what they’re going through on a daily basis,” Riddick said. And the fact that it isn’t means students are being silenced.
“If students can’t have channels to advocate for themselves, they will never be heard,” Riddick said.
Finally, ASCSU needs to be better understood. NPTB asks for an increase in education about the organization’s structure and operations so students can hold their elected representatives accountable. That could be something as simple as putting pictures of a college’s representatives on the website, speakers said.
ASCSU President Ben Amundson said he would be happy to talk with NPTB in looking at how to improve student government transparency. They plan to start posting CTV reports of senate sessions on their website, for example.
“We want students to be able to advocate for themselves and ask for things that they want,” Riddick said. “And we believe that ASCSU can be an incredible channel to not only bridge different departments on campus, … but students on campus, so it’s something we feel very strongly about.”
Voice for the students
The three NPTB organizers made clear from the beginning they are representing students.
“I don’t want you to be thinking, … ‘Well, these are just three college students’ because it’s not just us three,” Matthews said at the meeting.
Much of their work has come from direct feedback from other students, particularly in the last six months, Matthews said.
At least two dozen of those other students showed up in support of the NPTB founders before the meeting. They gathered in black, chanted on The Plaza and several stuck around to show their support during the livestream.
“We’re hoping to have a presence to show that we’re still waiting for a response and make sure we’re being heard,” said Ezi Ohaya, a fourth-year biology major.
Ash Powers, a student in the School of Social Work, said they’ve seen all the labor the NPTB founders have put into the meeting and truly believe in them.
“I want everyone to feel actually comfortable in this space,” Powers said. “I don’t want it to be a pretend support when it’s not actually happening. And I think what they’ve created will actually create institutional change.”
Though NPTB recognizes the changes they demand cannot happen overnight, they said they hope establishing this accountable relationship between the administration and students will make a difference for those carrying the work forward.
“I do this work for the people who came before me,” Riddick said. “I do this work for the students who are coming after me. I do this work so that nobody has to do it again.”
All NPTB demands
Spring 2020 student demands
Assess and revise the Colorado State University Student Code of Conduct to ensure that it includes prohibition for racially biased and discriminatory acts.
Implement the pilot EVERFI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training module campuswide.
Reform Housing and Dining Services policies to state consequences for bias-related incidents and provide training resources for staff to support underrepresented students.
Develop an initiative that enables students to take a more proactive role in maintaining their mental health and well-being.
Develop a University-wide protocol for all entities to use in responding to bias-related incidents.
Increase the security cameras around the outdoor recreational facilities.
Increase education about the structure and operations of the Associated Students of Colorado State University.
Additionally: Transparency Clause
Significantly increase the percentage of racially diverse faculty and staff.
Increased funding and resources for the SDPS offices and increased funding resources for mental health issues specifically dealing with racial oppression and racial battle fatigue.
A campuswide curriculum change to require introduction to ethnic studies and introduction to women’s studies to be taken by all students. | Replaced with the 2020 addendum: Develop a campus-wide graduation requirement for all students to participate in a seminar on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Samantha Ye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @samxye4.