May 022005
 
Authors: Tim Pennington

Racial discrimination has resonated through universities across the state, with CSU being no exception.

After a string of hateful acts, Colorado campuses will be scarred for years to come with the after-effects of discrimination.

With several incidents occurring on campus, the CSU Police Department is trying to make the most of a harmful situation by educating all sides in the incidents about the actions they are taking.

"We are always trying to teach people civility by bringing CSU diversity on different subjects and on different people," said Yvonne Paez, the public information officer for CSUPD. "We need to embrace various people and embrace our differences."

The police department often has to respond to the hate crimes with a reactionary mindset instead of being proactive in the community.

"Some people aren't sensitive at all," Paez said. "We have no control over those people."

Earlier this month several black students transferred from the University of Colorado-Boulder because of what they called racial incidents and a lack of awareness by the administration. Also, a CSU-Pueblo professor was accused of using a racially discriminatory statement in one of his classes in early March.

"The universities are being hypocritical," said Chantel Reed, a black sophomore sociology major at CSU. "They say they want diversity on campus, but when something like this happens, they don't do anything about it."

Some people involved with Black Student Services at CSU are concerned that if awareness is not raised, something like the CU incidents could happen here.

"We want to support CU by sending letters to the president and voicing our support to the black students at CU," said Theresa Grangruth, administrative assistant to BSS. "We need to tell them they are not alone. Transfer here; we want to reach out."

The issue of raising awareness is one that the Muslim Student Association thought would bring further education and understanding to its culture. The association recently had a brick thrown through its window at the end of a weeklong celebration of diversity and understanding.

"We're not looking short term, but long term," said Khaleel Al-Yahya, the Muslim Student Association president. "We need more programs, more support to educate and to stop people from hating us, or by changing their ideas about us."

Not long before the vandalism, members of the association had another discrimination incident at Morgan Library, Al-Yahya said.

Two Muslim women were walking through the library when someone they described as a "skinhead" approached them and started verbally assaulting them. The man told them to step outside, where his friends were waiting.

The women approached a library assistant, who held them in the back room until the police were able to come.

"It's common for Muslims to face discrimination," Al-Yahya said. "The girls face hate because they dress differently and that right there sets them apart."

There are more than 200 students on campus who identify themselves as being Muslim, Al-Yahya said.

"We've heard things in the media that were misconceptions and we need to change the wrong idea some people have," said Zaki Safar, the association's program coordinator and a sophomore electrical engineering major.

Paez said many cultural differences make incidents such as the library harassment an opportunity for discussion and education.

This cultural barrier is one that Paez hopes CSUPD can change in the community.

"With hate crime incidents there are more people involved then you may think," Paez said. "There is education on both sides of any incident."

It is not just one or two groups that appear to be experiencing discrimination. In fact, many advocacy offices have expressed a desire for the CSU community to understand that respect is a universal theme.

"I personally don't see racism because I'm not looking for it," said Colin Strack, a member of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and sophomore biology major. "What really bothers me is when people use the word 'gay' in casual conversation as a derogatory term without thinking of who is around or who might take offense to it."

A main concern on campus is the ever-growing amount of hate against a particular religion, race or sexual orientation, according to members of the GLBT community.

"If you don't like me, that's fine. I don't like idiots," said Jesus Seda, an open-option seeking engineering major and an active member of the Native American Student Services. "People are taking it personal, which is good. It's starting a sort of uprising."

This uprising has brought awareness in many advocacy groups that people need to stand up for what they believe is important to all students – human dignity.

"People ask me all the time what I think about Communism, simply because I'm Vietnamese," said PhuongAnh Nguyen, a senior chemical engineering major. "They look at you as a representative of the whole country, not an individual."

Nguyen thinks that if people on campus stop looking at people of a certain race as the spokesperson for their group, many racial stereotypes will end.

The issue of discrimination becomes extremely personal to CSU students when physical and emotional violence is used to intimidate people.

CSUPD had two hate crimes reported from 2004, one being related to religion and the other to race.

"(CSUPD) Chief (Dexter) Yarbrough is a part of the 'Not In Our Town' board, which is a Fort Collins commission dedicated to preventing all discrimination in the city," said Joan Williams, the records manager for the campus police. "(The police department) can't control discrimination in the city. We can only have control over ourselves."

The CSUPD has diversity training for its employees but no plan of action for changing the community, Williams said.

The police can also use an "enhancer" to further the consequences of hate incidents that occur.

"By using the enhancer, if there is any indication of a hate crime we can increase the penalties of say, someone getting their car keyed," Paez said.

Even with the steps the university is taking to raise awareness of different cultures, some students feel that more needs to be done.

"I'm not expecting immediate consequences; you just can't see results right away," said Wilhelmina Proby, a senior psychology major and a Black Student Services advocate. "I've never been spit on, but you can't say that CSU is completely free from racism. If we ignore this issue and leave it, we're not addressing important issues that affect everyone."

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