Make ripples, become waves at CSU

Anna Mitchell
Anna Mitchell

Last week, Amy Parsons, the vice president of university operations, sent an email to the Colorado State community announcing the launch of a website for the Ripple Effect, an initiative started last year to make CSU the absolute best community for women to live, work and learn.

I’ve long felt that, despite having many resources that could benefit experiences for women on campus, these resources are not really promoted by the university. For example, most female students find out about the Women and Gender Advocacy Center through posters inside bathroom stalls.

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I honestly couldn’t even tell you what other resources are available to women without going to the WGAC and asking them. These communications (or lack thereof) have suggested that CSU doesn’t really care about the female members of the community.

That’s why I am so excited that the Ripple Effect can act as an opportunity to unify, strengthen and improve the on-campus initiatives designed to better the community. For one of the first times at CSU, available resources for diversity, equity, wellness, discovery, balance, leadership and growth and upcoming events are listed in one attainable place (and not just while you are relieving yourself).

Of course, making resources available only to women is a mistake. As one commenter on the website pointed out, the issues discussed mostly aren’t just problems women face, they are “human problems that disproportionately affect women.”

However, problems that disproportionately affect women more than men (ranging from everything from single parenthood to being a victim of sexual assault) are more likely to be overlooked by people in charge (who are generally men), and therefore need far more advocacy to prevent and assist.

And that’s the goal of the Ripple Effect – not to create more gender disparities by only helping women and never helping anyone else, but to make those issues that disproportionately affect women not go by the wayside because no one with power is acknowledging them.

I spent a lot of time exploring the Ripple Effect website (www.rippleeffect.colostate.edu), and have decided that it is easy to use, successfully balancing form and function. Important information is clearly listed and easy to find. Links provide access to a Ripple Effect blog and forum.

The blog has some great posts clearly relevant to improving the conditions of the CSU community, and some that stray. I expect that as time progresses the blog will stay more focused on the theme of helping the CSU become a better place, and look forward to reading posts as they come up.

At first I was worried about the forum because when signing up I had to say which gender I identified with, and the only choices available were “male” or “female.” This dichotomy is a mistake if attempting to create a community where all genders can feel safe and successful.

But the actual forum is creative, innovative and fantastically designed. Regardless of gender, community members are encouraged to become active, engaged members of the conversation by responding to open-ended questions, and rating and commenting on the responses of others.

The greatest (and most unique) aspect of the forum is seeing evidence that the thoughts and experiences are actually being heard. There are many great ideas that are being responded to by important people, such as Lorie Smith, the director of organizational development and university initiatives, saying exactly what the university plans to do with the suggestions. Forum posts can be marked as being “referred” to by the proper party to resolve the problem or marked as being “in progress” of being resolved, along with a description of what is being done and what the next steps are to successfully changing the issue.

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Already I can see a few potential problems with comments on the site. Clear guidelines for what is expected on the forum need to be clearly stated on the site, and then comments need to be monitored and removed if not following those guidelines. The Ripple Effect should strive to be a conducive and positive experience in and of itself, and negative or rude comments can close doors instead of opening them.

As a new initiative, the Ripple Effect still has a lot of details in need of tweaking. But overall it is an example of an outstanding initiative with the ability to successfully create positive change.

So join the conversation. Make a ripple become a wave.

Senior liberal arts major Anna Mitchell likes to make ripples through writing and by skipping stones. Love notes and hate mail may be sent to letters@collegian.com.