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After the results of a social climate survey that was called “sobering” by Bob Boswell, CU’s vice chancellor for diversity, the University of Colorado held a racial and ethnic inclusion forum in the UMC Aspen Room on Thursday, Feb. 11.
The event, titled “Student Voices at CU: What Racial and Ethnic Inclusion Means for Our Campus,” aimed to encourage dialogue among students, faculty and staff to enhance racial and ethnic inclusiveness.
Ben Kirshner, a faculty director of CU Engage, a center that coordinates and sustains various communities on campus, said, “We hoped to generate ideas that could lead to action.”
The event gathered attendees from various races, ethnicities and genders. The aim was to actively engage atendees in various forms of discussion including small group dialogues, a general dialogue and final comments. The forum successfully provided students, faculty and staff with a protected and inclusive place to talk with each other in order to gain a deeper understanding about racial and ethnic inclusiveness.
Vanessa Roberts, an organizer of the event, described how exchanges of ideas and experiences can be successful in motivating changes.
“One of the people in my group commented, ‘This was an inclusive space. We need to learn how to create this in our classrooms.’ And that was to me an ‘Aha!’ moment,” Roberts said.
But there are many difficulties to making this a campus-wide movement.
“We need to have everybody on campus,” said Yohannese Gebremedhin, a student organizer. “We have to have allies.”
After the social climate survey, which was given in 2014 and whose results were released last month, revealed that a large amount of people of color feel unwelcome on CU’s campus, the university has seemed to take steps in reaction, first with this event, and more to follow. (The administration has been making some moves to address racial inequality since last year.) So far, students seem to have a positive impression from the first iteration.
“I think events like this are great,” said Lauren Arnold, a mixed-race English Literature student. “We talked about different ways we can change things. But I think there needs to be action taken. That’s what we talked about today.”
The event was coordinated by multiple CU groups including the Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee (EMAC), CU Engage, the Center for Unity and Engagement (CUE Center), the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement (ODECE) and the BOLD Center.
According to the flyers distributed to participants, “Student Voices at CU” was motivated by the research study “Students of Color are Motivated Agents of Change.” This study described how minority students feel unvalued in the classroom while overexposed as ethnic representatives — people who are singled out to represented. This subtle racism prevents these students from engaging in the community. The researchers called for faculty members to prepare inclusive places for these students to express themselves or to hire more faculty members of color.
The event will be followed by a sequence of other events on equity, diversity and inclusion held by the ODECE and the CUE Center. The event “Racial Justice Organizing Training” was held on Saturday, Feb. 13.