Malcolm X once said, “You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you’re making progress.” This quote encompasses the effort of diversity at Colorado State University.
At our institution we give a lot of lip-service to diversity but fail to make significant changes.
Now I would be hypocritical to overlook the areas on campus where diversity is strived for. CASA, the advocacy offices, CASAE, SLCE, ASCSU, International Student Services and a number of student organizations make hard fought efforts for diversity on this campus and in Fort Collins.
I even have experienced personal growth from programs like KEY and the Men’s Project, retreats, like the Campus Step-Up Social Justice Retreat, and Black Student Services and the other advocacy offices.
Still this is not enough. These different areas can only address diversity at the surface level and are used by students who seek them out. The real, lasting changes are made at the institutional level and this means the administration needs to step up.
The administration has the power to make a big difference, but fails to use it effectively.
Yes, I know we see stories about efforts and money going toward bringing in more diverse students on this campus, but what does that really do. CSU focuses mainly on recruiting and retention, but quantity does not mean quality.
Diversity means not only worrying about increasing students, but focusing on the experience those students have when they are here.
Colorado State is playing a numbers game. The idea is, if we have a larger numerical value of diverse students, we have the “appearance” of embracing and promoting diversity. Looks can only say so much.
The experience of a diverse student at Colorado State and for that matter the Fort Collins community is complicated. Our first thought is “how am I going to survive in a community where I am not represented?” or “how can I find the products, services, and resources that pertain to me?” As students, we are trying to figure out where we fit in with the campus community and the community at large.
The message students get from the university is “we are glad you are here, now get out of our face . and be sure to bring a high GPA when you come back.”
This campus has amazing staff and faculty members who are passionate about diversity and true change, but they are under pressure, too. CSU makes it hard for faculty to remain here. There is faculty and staff on this campus who has not only touched my life, but many students and could reach many more, but I understand why they leave. With budgets cuts and lack of support, keeping and retaining great faculty is impossible.
They cannot advance here, yet they cannot challenge this like they should, because they have families they need to support and lives they need to tend to and rocking the boat might not be the best idea. If the university treats them as disposable, why would they want to stay? At the same time diverse faculty and staff do not come here, because they can see CSU’s vision of diversity is nothing but a dream.
The administration has the clout to make the campus truly a place where diversity sincerely matters. Give faculty and staff competitive pay. Give assistance to low and middle income students and first generation students. Create an academic department around the Center for Applied Studies in American Ethnicity. Quit pressuring areas of campus, such as the advocacy offices, to increase numbers of students and start focusing on the quality of the experience they have.
There are many things that only institutional/administration forces can really change and those changes are needed and far too important.
There can only be so much, dialogues, conferences, programs and events that address diversity. I’m tired of just talking about diversity; I want to see it in effect. Talk is reactive not proactive.
Talk is cheap, but it stays within the limits of the budget, so I guess it is here to stay.
Tyrone Reese is a sophomore psychology major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.