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Blouch: Dear Joyce McConnell, watch your hypocrisy

a crowd of people listen to a speaker
People listen to President Joyce McConnell speak on the west lawn of the Lory Student Center for the Fall Reflection Sept. 1. While reflecting on the past year, McConnell said, “We don’t need a speech as much as we need a moment.” (Ryan Schmidt | The Collegian)

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.

The Fall Address is a long-standing Colorado State University tradition wherein the president of the University gives a presidential address recapping the past year. That’s a tall order this time around — how exactly do you summarize the collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic over a casual lunch? 

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No matter which angle Joyce McConnell, the current CSU president, took at the reflection, it was bound to fall short of truly encapsulating the hurt this community faced over the past 18 months. Many of us are still hurting; a number of us have lost loved ones. Countless people have life-long trauma, and healing these wounds takes time. There is no single event that can truly capture the pain. 

This pain is what makes the hypocrisy of McConnell’s speech all the more frustrating.

“This is the part of the traditional Fall Address where I would launch into my speech,” McConnell said three minutes into her 13-minute speech. “But we don’t need a speech as much as we need a moment.”

When McConnell’s speech is compared to her lack of real action behind the scenes, it affirms that her role is a politician before a leader that truly considers, or at the very least acknowledges, the needs of the community she serves.”

The contradictions didn’t stop there, as McConnell started her address with what can only be explained as a rehearsed piece of performative activism regarding CSU’s work in providing opportunities for Indigenous peoples.

“The Land Acknowledgment is an intentional and meaningful reminder of the impact the founding of this and other Land Grant institutions has had on our Native nations, people and their land,” McConnell said. 

While McConnell found it important to acknowledge the Land Acknowledgment in her address, she was silent when the Board of Governors of the CSU System excluded the voices of Indigenous peoples in the discussion of whether to sell the Hughes Stadium property to the City of Fort Collins, despite pushback from the local Indigenous community. 

The decision to decline the Intertribal Alliance for Right Relations’ request to regain stewardship of the Hughes plot is an overt contradiction to the Land Acknowledgment, and it is nothing short of an act of institutional racism. 

The board’s verdict becomes even more egregious with McConnell’s silence around the situation. Citing the Land Acknowledgment and boasting CSU’s alleged accomplishments in providing opportunities for Native communities as an introduction to her speech while completely ignoring the fight over Hughes was entirely inappropriate, hypocritical and performative. 

Furthermore, McConnell’s comparison of the insurmountable challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic to a flood at the University in 1997 was distasteful.

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“Facilities staff worked tirelessly to mitigate water damage,” McConnell said. “Faculty pivoted to get courses ready across the University. Rams pulled together to restore campus.”

While I can only imagine the immense strain a community undergoes in rebuilding after a natural disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic is an incomparable and unprecedented hardship. Damage to infrastructure cannot be put on the same level as the loss of life and lasting trauma this community is still working through as a result of the pandemic. 

When McConnell’s speech is compared to her lack of real action behind the scenes, it affirms that her role is a politician before a leader that truly considers, or at the very least acknowledges, the needs of the community she serves. As the Hughes Stadium land issue develops further and we continue to work through our struggles during this pandemic, I urge McConnell to move past pandering and set a better example for the public officials that run this University.

Cat Blouch can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @BlouchCat.

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About the Contributor
Cat Blouch
Cat Blouch, Social Media Editor
Cat Blouch is the social media editor at The Collegian. They are a fourth-year student at Colorado State University studying business administration with a concentration in marketing and a minor in statistics from Delta, Colorado. They have been on The Collegian's team since the summer of 2020, starting on the opinion desk and later joining the photo team. Blouch began their social media interest by working on the @colostatememes page on Instagram and looked at the social media editor position as a way to further engage with the CSU community. They are excited to find new ways to hear the voice of the student body and engage more with readers through their positions at The Collegian. Blouch enjoys the flexibility of being able to pursue creativity in multiple mediums at The Collegian. When Blouch is off the clock, you can find them engaging in other creative areas such as creating music, writing poetry or filming a video. They hope to continue their creative pursuits after college through work in marketing analytics and content creation.

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