Hodge: Colorado State diversity not reflected by university

Jayla Hodge

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. 

Last week, President Tony Frank addressed three thousand community members and spoke of the school’s diversity achievements as well as new racial justice goals. The address was framed positively, but it does bring into question the juxtapositions underlined in Frank’s message.

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President Tony Frank is right to celebrate the improvements and the growing number of diverse students enrolling at Colorado State University, but must not let recent progress obscure the idea that the University is an all-inclusive and diverse community. While it is on the path of becoming so, it is still far from it. 

This is reflected in CSU’s statics. According to the University’s census data from fall of 2016, the number of minority students on campus was just 5,412 compared to the 22,885 of non-minority students.  African American and Asian students, made up less than 3% of student body each, while students identifying as multiracial make up slightly above 3%.  Native American and Pacific Islanders make up less than 1% each.  Hispanic/Latino students are almost 11% of the student body. White students made up more than 70% of the student body. In regard to racial diversity, the numbers are extremely disproportionate.

The President mentioned in his speech that we are enjoying record levels of diversity. He did not clarify this statement outside of mentioning that the class of 2021 has an increase of first-generation students. Diversity covers many different intersectionalities from sexuality, race, religion, ethnicity, and more, so simply having 27.1% of the new class identifying as ethnica

Breakdown of CSU diversity | CSU office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness

lly diverse only covers one aspect. Also, 27.1% might be record-breaking but is still statistically low when compared to the student body as a whole.

President Tony Frank is not wrong. CSU as an institution, particularly the efforts of  Tony Frank and other administration members such as the Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche M. Hughes and Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros, have made tremendous strides in recognizing and celebrating diversity. There are numerous programs, offices, and events catered towards marginalized students. They encourage spreading information about diverse cultures and starting conversations. The university has a strong commitment to inclusion.

Though they encourage inclusion, President Tony Frank’s administrative cabinet does not reflect this. It is primarily made up of white men and women. Out of the 23 positions in the cabinet listed, only two are held by apparent women of color, Dr. Mary Ontiveros and Dr. Blanche M. Hughes. The majority of the cabinet and its staff is made up of white individuals. While this does not speak on the ethnicities of these individuals, it does not represent diversity in our leadership which should be a direct reflection of the school and its goals. 

As an African American student, I can tell you that the student body is lacking these socially-inclusive behaviors. Being apart of such a small population presents many challenges for marginalized students. These including feelings of standing out, not belonging, or lacking acceptance among peers.

President Frank highlighted in his speech the areas that need attention and work: “We are the subject of deep societal divides, causing us to pass over all of the common ground we all share and focus on our differences. Decades of averting our gaze from racial injustice as a society have produced a crop of racial tension, and there are those among us who would unsheathe the scythe of hatred to harvest this cursed crop.”

Our President is correct. The school has created diversity offices that help build supporting communities for marginalized students and foster cultural knowledge for all CSU students. It seems that rarely these events and organizations within these offices are supported from our outside peers and community. There is a divide. I’ve attended numerous diversity events over the  years and noticed these events are generally accommodated and attended by more diverse students, not the general student body. Poor incorporation of these communities has created subdivisions within the larger body of CSU.

Regarding the noose in Newsom incident, the school was late to react and initially hesitant in addressing the situation. President Tony Frank didn’t address the incident until 2 weeks after it occurred.

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In response to the noose incident, CSU put on an event titled “The History and Symbolism of Lynching in America,” in which several CSU professors spoke about historical contexts of lynching, and four Black/African American students were asked to speak about racism. After the event, several students voiced their concerns about feeling unsafe and unheard by the CSU faculty, administration and other students.

In a class discussion, I heard from several white peers, that they didn’t understand what the big deal was, that it was probably a joke blown out of proportion rather than a hate act. This is not standing in solidarity with marginalized communities that were deeply hurt over this incident. Often marginalized communities within the greater CSU community have to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ within themselves. We do need to do better in ‘assuring that every member of this community—no matter how vulnerable—knows that they do not hear these ideas alone.’

The university has made a substantial effort to promote diversity and inclusion, but needs to make a stronger effort within its staff and administration. The students themselves must make a greater effort to represent the goals of the school and work to mend a difficult divide—a divide whose existence most students have the privilege of not even recognizing.

Jayla Hodge can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @Jaylahodge