Students tired of CSU’s lack of measures to combat racism

Laura Studley

In the past year, a swastika was drawn on a wall in a student residential facility, students posted a picture in blackface and the N-word was written in the outdoor restrooms of the intramural fields.

Unfortunately, there is an even longer history of these incidents prior to last year. 

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Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell has sent out countless emails, claiming she supports the student body and promising action. But students remain unsatisfied, according to speakers at the DreamN2020 event on Friday

“This is only the beginning because we know CSU has its problems, and we’ve been calling them out on them, but we’re not seeing any progress,” said Janaye Matthews, a fifth-year student. “I want action, not words. I’m done with the emails. I’m done with them.” 

McConnell released a statement to The Collegian stating that CSU is committed to making members of the University community feel “welcomed and valued.”  

“We will continue to both work on equity initiatives at every level and share the concrete outcomes of our work with the University and the broader community,” the statement read.

During the event, multiple speakers demanded the University do something about racism, prejudice and discrimination prevalent on campus.

How is it that CSU has such an amazingly outlined code of conduct and diversity policy, but when students are reported for blackface, blatant discrimination, hanging a noose outside a Black student’s dorm room, … how is it that no one is held accountable?” -Jocelyn Lapham, third-year, biological science

“I want action, to know that Black students will not have to continue to see their race be made a mockery of on this campus,” Matthews said. “I want action, to know that our Jewish students will be able to walk on their campus without feeling like they’re being threatened simply for existing.”

Held on the 57th anniversary of the first March on Washington, this event sought to educate and move forward while also remembering the Black lives lost to racial strife.

Speakers voiced their struggles with CSU, including third-year biology major Jocelyn Lapham. 

Lapham said that, despite the University being a large research-I school characterized by CSU’s high engagement in research, the Black female population in particular is still underrepresented.  

The reason for this underrepresentation in research is that the University is a predominantly white institution. According to the Institution Research, Planning and Effectiveness’ factbook for the 2019-2020 academic year, undergraduate enrollment showed that there were 6,217 students classified under minority status, compared to 18,383 non-minority students.

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“How is it that CSU has such an amazingly outlined code of conduct and diversity policy, but when students are reported for Blackface, blatant discrimination, hanging a noose outside a Black student’s dorm room, … how is it that no one is held accountable?” Lapham said. “And even worse, nothing seems to be learned from it because every year there’s a new incident that’s added to this list.”

Lapham proposed solutions that could start CSU on the path to positive change, including holding open forums, adding mandatory courses to the All University Core Curriculum, hiring more teachers of color and hosting school events all with the goal to help “educate our students to do better, be better.” 

“I would understand if I were the first Black student at CSU,” she said. “Go ahead, let me set the tone. But CSU was founded in 1870. That’s 150 years ago.” 

Lapham found a safe place in the Black/African American Cultural Center, where she was accepted, listened to and given resources to learn more about Black history — something that Lapham noted “CSU still fails to do.”

In her statement, McConnell said that the University is working to meet the demands of students, including focusing on mandatory courses covering “diversity and dialogue” and recruiting efforts on hiring more teachers of color.

“We’ve also communicated broadly about our Bias Reporting System, where any member of the University community can report a bias incident they have experienced or witnessed,” the statement read. 

Lead organizer of DreamN2020 and former student Julius Philpot said that the movement is more than a walk, similar to how it takes more than an email. He said, “It’s about action.”

Philpot explained that he wanted attendees of the event to experience the discomfort of being on a campus where discriminatory acts are comical.

“You walk around on campus screaming you’re ‘proud to be,’” Philpot said. “I am proud to be Black, but I am not proud to be in a space where they perpetuate these things. Where Black people and people of color go unnoticed. … Where there is more concern with you turning in that homework and acting as if nothing has happened. We are not going to change and conform to them.” 

He explained that people cannot change the world if they do not first look inward and make a change themselves. It is more than just showing up, he explained. 

This is only the beginning because we know CSU has its problems, and we’ve been calling them out on them, but we’re not seeing any progress. I want action, not words.” –Janaye Matthews, fifth-year student

“My question is, ‘Are you going to show out?’” Philpot said. “Because if you can show up to a volleyball game or a basketball game and have more energy there, you need to check yourself. … You’re not showing that same energy when you were ‘proud to be’ in the stands.” 

Philpot explained that students must put effort into changing things that are directly happening on campus and the names that are being affected, referring to Barry Wesley, a CSU offensive lineman who was held at gunpoint in Loveland, Colorado. 

“Know your people, know who you stand next to to your left and your right,” he said. “Because if we’re fighting for equality, this is who you’re standing up with.” 

Laura Studley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @laurastudley_