Chancellor DiStefano discusses diversity and sexual misconduct at Spring Town Hall

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The fourth annual University of Colorado Spring Town Hall was held on Thursday in the University Memorial Center Ballroom. It focused on the campus climate survey results released earlier this year.

The results of the survey indicated that only 38 percent of African American undergraduates felt welcome on campus. This was addressed in the meeting’s opening remarks. After that, Chancellor Philip DiStefano answered questions from the two moderators, Joseph Soto and John Lurquin.

Soto and Lurquin are both presidents of the CU Student Government. The former is in charge of external affairs, while the latter leads student affairs.

The Town Hall was one of the few forums designed to discuss the university’s push for inclusive excellence. But the plan to get there isn’t quite set yet. Chancellor Philip DiStefano talked about possible actions that can be taken to achieve this goal that had been submitted by students and staff. The administration plans to look at these submissions and move forward from there.

DiStefano pointed to the school’s retention rates as an indicator of the problems the university needs to address. He opined that the retention rates aren’t as high as the school wants because of the lack of inclusivity.

The panel also mentioned some of the strides made by the school to improve. Resident advisors are now being trained in cultural awareness, and there are more events being held wherein students and staff can discuss these issues. The social dynamic panels, the first of which was March 9 and the second of which will be held on April 15, are just some examples of these forums.

Also addressed at the panel was the racist graffiti found in a restroom on campus. DiStefano said that the Black Student Alliance posted about the incident and within an hour, the graffiti was covered up. He went on to say that the administration went back to the spot a couple days later to make sure that it was still blocked.

For a meeting characterized by a lot of negatives, some were able to find the light. Though he mostly reported on bad news, having the chancellor at the event was seen as a good thing to some who attended.

“It’s awesome that he’s actually engaging on this topic,” Lurquin said. “We’ve been working on this for years and a lot of it is student driven. Obviously, the more faculty and the more administration that can join us, the more our movement can succeed.”

The chancellor’s main focus for the meeting was that the fight for inclusion is not a one man battle. He said he could only do so much on his own, and asked the audience for their help as well. Mostly, the crowd was urged to participate in as many forums and discussions as possible.

One of the questions asked at the event was about the results of the sexual misconduct survey, which were released in February. 28 percent of undergraduate students reported being sexually assaulted. DiStefano said that the numbers reported were similar to what other universities were reporting, but emphasized that any percentage above zero was too high.

The talk also included mention of the recently proposed tuition plan. Based on the plan, tuition next year would increase by five percent for incoming freshmen, and wouldn’t change for four years for those students. Incoming freshmen the following year would also see their costs increase five percent, but then they would be locked in at that rate. The chancellor believes this consistency will prove effective and allow for potential CU students to know exactly what they would be paying.

While it remains to be seen how the administration plans to tackle the problems of diversity and inclusivity on campus, the frequent discussions and forums revolving around the topics are keeping the topic at the forefront of campus priorities.

Jake Mauff

Jake Mauff is the Editor-in-Chief and staff writer for the CU Independent. He enjoys biking, hiking and running in what little free time that he has, and he has interviewed a variety of interesting people including a presidential candidate. You can follow him on Twitter at @jake_mauff.

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