Tusinski: University marches for MLK Day, ignores #NotProudToBe demands

A protest without action is just a parade.


Collegian | Charlie Cohen

Dylan Tusinski, Staff Reporter

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.

A week ago, more than 1,500 people gathered and marched to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


Colorado State University students, Fort Collins community members and other activists symbolically marched on a route that acknowledged Black families who settled in Fort Collins in the early 1900s. The day culminated in a set of speeches at the Lory Student Center from local politicians and community leaders. Only around 250 people stuck around for the speeches following the march.

Do you know what would be better than a performative celebration of MLK Day? Actually honoring the demands of Black student activists and addressing racism on campus.

I mean, let’s be blunt here: This was not a march in honor of racial justice, nor was it in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, the march outright opposed many of the beliefs that King actually held.

CSU organized the march in coordination with both Fort Collins Police Services and the CSU Police Department despite King’s distrust and criticism of the police. The march was sponsored by corporations such as Target, the Fort Collins Downtown Business Association and SummitStone Health Partners in spite of King’s anti-capitalist beliefs.

“In the months following the address, though, it became clear how little the university actually cared about racial justice. Since its inception, the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative has not done much other than launch a ‘Pronoun Statement’ website and delete its Twitter account.”

The march was not a gathering of community members yearning to seek racial justice. Rather, it was a publicity stunt meant to give better optics to a university with a history of racism and a city whose population is only 1.5% Black.

The already performative nature of the event was only underscored by CSU’s longstanding refusal to acknowledge the demands of #NotProudToBe — a group of student activists who organized in 2019 to confront racism in both CSU’s student body and administration.

#NPTB quickly made itself a force on campus, organizing hundreds of students to silently protest former university President Joyce McConnell’s first-ever Fall Address. During the protest, McConnell directly addressed the group by unveiling the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative and leading the crowd through a two-minute standing ovation.

In the months following the address, it became clear how little the university actually cared about racial justice. Since its inception, the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative has not done much other than launch a “Pronoun Statement” website and delete its Twitter account.

Months after the launch of the initiative and the subsequent inaction, #NPTB sent a list of seven demands to the university administration amid an uptick in bias-related incidents and nationwide racial justice protests that quickly made their way to Fort Collins.


As far as demands for institutional change go, #NPTB’s list was pretty tame. In short, the group wanted the university to create a standard for addressing racial bias on campus, enforce punishment for offenders and training for staff and increase diversity initiatives in student housing.

It’s been three years since the group released the demands. Despite McConnell’s resignation as university president, the school’s administration has still not addressed the majority of #NPTB’s seven demands.

The Race, Bias and Equity Initiative launched a “Student Activism” page to show all the ways they were supposedly addressing #NPTB’s demands, and to call it underwhelming would be a severe understatement.

If you scroll through and read about the work the university is doing, you’ll see that aside from implementing a new bias reporting system and an optional module about race for students to take, not much — if any — concrete action has actually been taken.

The website says a number of “task forces” and “advisory committees” have been created, but given the page hasn’t been updated since November 2021, how much work do you think is actually getting done?

Racism is deeply embedded in CSU’s community, as it is in our country, and it won’t be easy to change that. But at the end of the day, students deserve an administration that will act to address their needs. If the past few years have been any indicator, CSU’s beliefs on racial bias and justice have been nothing but performative.

Reach Dylan Tusinski at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @dylantusinski.