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CU students challenge CU administrators and staff to respond better to tensions on campus.
The Gender and Racial Justice forum raised questions about ongoing issues dealing with race and diversity that are becoming increasingly apparent on the CU campus in an open forum hosted by the MOVEMENT on Wednesday night. Students gathered to ask questions of CU staff and administration about what is being done to increase values and awareness on campus regarding minorities.
CU students Isra Chaker, Schermisia Chambers and Ida Ghebre said they organized the event in light of recent assaults on campus. The intent of the event was to talk about what is currently being done, and what can be done, to improve social justice on campus.
The forum consisted of a panel of CU administrators, the CUSG president and the CU chief of police who all contributed in answering students’ questions.
Although guidelines for the debate reminded the audience to have a respectful dialogue and to recognize that everyone is coming from different perspectives, the event soon got heated.
Shane Church, a Black Student Alliance representative at large and 20-year-old junior open-option major, said students attempted this before.
“Why wait for a tragic event to have an open forum like this?” Church said. “We tried to hold a forum like this last year, but nobody listened.”
Olubiyi Ogundipe, a 19-year-old economics major and the victim of a recent bias-motivated attack in Boulder, was among the students who spoke out and shared his story.
“Initially, I got verbally assaulted by a bunch of kids who thought it would be good to make fun of me for the way that I look and the way that I am,” Ogundipe said. “I am still living with the scars of what it is going to do to me and my fellow students.”
What started as a discussion about racially based assaults on campus evolved into a discussion of how many students feel CU needs to do more to teach students about the oppression that minorities face daily on campus. Many said that if CU better educated students about racial diversity, it could help prevent occurrences similar to the recent assaults. Students raised questions about the possibility of changing the curriculum to require classes that teach respect and recognition for minorities.
A concern brought up by many in attendance was that the group in the room was a poor representation of the overall student body.
Bianca Williams, a professor in ethnic studies who attended the forum, said she felt the discussion needed to reach a wider audience.
“We need to get the majority in this room to talk about these things,” Williams said. “Everyone needs to be involved in this communiction.”
The members of the panel said more discussion was needed to focus on these issues.
“We need to have much more dialogue,” said Julie Wong, the vice chancellor of student affairs. “We are not meeting often enough to make this university as tolerable and inclusive as it could be.”
Wong also mentioned a campus-climate survey that will be put out and said she encourages all students to participate in it. The survey is conducted by CU-Boulder every four years, according to the CU website, and will be e-mailed to all CU students on Oct. 25 or 26.
Wong said the survey results will help CU administrators to understand the issue.
“Data [from the survey] gets administrators to move and it gets us good resources,” she said. “If we can hear from students then we can show without a shadow of a doubt what direction [this campus] needs to go.”
Many of the students at the forum said they did not think a survey was going to be enough to create major change on campus.
Adrian Green, a recent CU graduate and an employee of Leeds School of Business, said more is needed than a survey.
“What is it going to take for the CU staff and administration to feel what the minorities have felt?” Green said.
After the forum, students stood around with each other and discussed the forum and the panel’s reactions to their questions and comments. Many students said the forum was not enough to create the change they are seeking in the CU community, but that it was a step in the right direction.
“A lot was heard and a lot was said but I don’t know if a lot was felt,” said Luis Morales, a junior Spanish major. “We need a lot more to set it off.”
Although students expressed doubt and frustration, student organizers of the event said that more forums would help.
“It was eye-opening, and administrators finally heard us,” Chaker said. “We will have more of these forums because without holding events like this, who is going to reach out?”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Chelsea Barrett at Chelsea.firstname.lastname@example.org.