I recall my first few weeks at CSU and the apprehensiveness that came with it. At the time, I was a registered Republican, a church-going Christian and a strong advocate of almost anything considered “conservative.”
And I had already learned that college campuses, on average, tended to lean to the left.
As such, I was on the defensive, and I knew that I couldn’t expect to find a “Christian Conservative Student Services” office anywhere on campus. So when I strolled through the Lory Student Center for the first time and confirmed my suspicions, I was not surprised – nor was I offended in any way.
I found myself apprehensive around those offices. I didn’t know what to expect from the students emerging from their doors, nor did I understand what my behavior should resemble whenever I was in their close proximity.
So I avoided them at all costs.
Then I met Cirano, a fellow mathematics major here at CSU, when I was studying for my first bachelor’s degree. Cirano is of Native American descent, and he regularly visited and worked at the Native American Student Services.
One day, Cirano and I agreed to meet in order to finish some homework that we could not complete individually, and he suggested we meet at the NASS office. I distinctly recall asking him hesitantly, “Is that allowed? Can I go in there?”
Cirano laughed and responded jovially, “Of course! Anybody can go in there.”
And so, for the first time, I found myself inside one of CSU’s many advocacy offices. To my surprise, I didn’t receive any reproachful stares, any criticizing questions or any requests to leave. Since then, I have never felt any sort of trepidation in approaching or entering these offices.
Just last week, it was announced that a committee at CSU had opted to change the names of the advocacy offices, which includes the Native American Student Services, to “Cultural Centers.”
I approve of this step and rightfully so. As a white student of primarily Irish, Scottish and Polish descent, I originally felt as though CSU was intentionally dismissing me since my skin color was in the majority.
What CSU failed to recognize, however, is that my opinions, beliefs and political stance were in the minority. Instead of spending a little money to reach out to me, they decided instead to focus on those who had a different skin color — because, according to CSU and other higher education institutions, diversity can only be defined by the pigmentation in one’s epidermis.
While focusing on all the negative stereotypes associated with non-whites, CSU and other institutions have decidedly avoided confronting negative stereotypes associated with whites. For instance, since I have been at CSU, I have continually been reminded that my ancestors may have been slave-owners, and as such, I have a natural tendency toward an evil disposition. Also, I can’t jump, I can’t dance and I’m a racist.
Now, this is not to say that the newly named Cultural Centers don’t have their place at CSU or any other college campus. It is difficult for me, as a white male, to fully understand how a black man must feel when he is called the N-word. It’s like trying to understand how my older brother felt coming under constant attack while stationed in Iraq. I can appreciate the situation, yes, but I can never fully understand it.
I recently spoke with a good friend of mine, Mike, and asked him his opinion on the subject. Mike is a black CSU alumnus who regularly volunteered for the Black Student Services office at CSU and had this to say on the topic: “CSU should concentrate on making all students successful, regardless of race or background”, and ” . if maintaining these advocacy offices is what it takes to ensure that, then so be it. And if CSU felt the need to create a ‘White American Cultural Center,’ then so be it.”
I tend to agree with Mike. CSU has failed to make it known to the student body that these offices are available to all students, which is unfortunate considering that we all pay for them.
While not all students are being fairly represented (where are the Russian, German and Australian advocacy offices?), I think it’s safe to say that CSU has made a positive step in focusing on commonality, rather than diversity, to ensure that students of all backgrounds begin to feel supported here.
So next time you’re near the Native American Cultural Center and you need to print off that 20-page midterm paper that’s due within the next two hours, don’t hesitate to stop in.
Josh Phillips is a senior business administration major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.