Feb 222009
Authors: Ryan Sheine

Be sure to check out more Black History month coverage from The Rocky Mountain Collegian, CTV Channel 11, KCSU 90.5-FM, and College Avenue magazine at http://studentmediacorp.com/multimedia/blackhistory.

In a year when Americans decided they were ready to shatter one of the biggest racial barriers in the history of the U.S., students and staff members with minority advocacy groups at CSU are saying the same thing: There’s still a long way to go on the road to racial equality.

Mike Dinwiddie, the public relations director for the board of United Men of Color at CSU, said last week that, while Barack Obama was elected President of the United States last year, much still must be done to bring an equal voice to the small black community here.

Dinwiddie cited efforts by the black student population this month to bring light to racial issues through displays in the Lory Student Center about black history — initiatives he said saw thin support from the non-black community at CSU.

The lack of support exemplifies what student leaders said is an undertone of racism that is swept under the rug by a fa/ade of activism.

Marlon Blake, an active student leader in CSU’s black community, said, “Racism is everywhere. In the ’60s and before, it was blunt. Now it’s being channeled into more low key ways.”

“You don’t see it because people don’t want to see it,” he added. “(But) racism is everywhere — even in lovely Fort Collins. Racism in Fort Collins comes in many forms and fashions.”

Dinwiddie agrees.

“People who say racism is dead need to open their eyes,” he said. “In reality, racism is alive and well.”

Blake said an education is paramount in understanding and defeating racism.

“Just like how myself, as a heterosexual can’t fully understand the plight of a homosexual until I interact with them and see first hand their struggle; people have to interact and put yourself out there to make something happen.”

Marcus Elliot, the director of Black Student Services, said that while CSU has a long list of racial equality initiatives to bring a level playing field for the minority population here, he agreed with Blake that racism is pervasive in American society.

“I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a level of inequality. It’s just the nature of this society, especially in America. It’s extremely unfortunate,” he said. “From an opportunity stand point, of course we are equal, but there’s always room to grow.”

Elliot says he is still optimistic even with the hurdle the black community still faces at CSU.

“I couldn’t imagine going to school in the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, and even 60’s. When you could easily count the total number of minority students,” he said. “I think there is always progress. The rate of progress may not be what some people wish. They would like progress to move a lot quicker. The idea of moving, even at a snail pace, is good.”

He said the biggest issue that CSU hasn’t overcome is a “ridiculous” level of inequality among faculty at the university.

“One percent of tenured staff here is black — that is appalling,” he said. “We need to hire more black faculty and work actively to keep them here.”

Blanche Hughes, the director of Student Affairs, said last week that the low number of minority faculty and staff here can only be alleviated through active recruitment and networking/by the entire university population./CSU’s retention rate for minority staff, she said,/reflects a small minority population in the Fort Collins community, but added that university diversity initiatives bolster ongoing trends that have seen minority populations here grow substantially in the past two decades.

Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Timeline of Black History

1939 –/The first black student athlete, John Mosely, enrolled in classes at the then-Colorado State College of Agriculture. Mosely later became one of the first black men to enlist in the Air Force and flew during World War II.

1968 –/The black and Latino student communities at CSU staged a series of protests, eventually landing the students in a sit-in with then-President William Morgan. Their efforts later resulted in El Centro Student Services and Black Student Services.

1976 –/Black Student Services was created under the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity.

1979 — Title IX was signed into law. The federal action, most cited for cases in intercollegiate athletics, bars discrimination for institutions that receive federal money. The law mandates that every applicant be considered equally, but widespread controversy over Bush administration efforts to limit the law’s scope has equal rights activists calling for an enforcement task force under the Obama administration.

1990 — The University Diversity Plan attempted to refocus CSU’s commitment to a more diverse student population and culture at CSU, mandating that the university actively campaign to bring “numerous opportunities for learning … Including educational programs, student organizations, internships, retreats, leadership development, and expanded multicultural experiences.”

1990 –/Al Yates appointed as the first black university president.

2008 — Amendment 48 fails. The controversial measure was drafted to eliminate affirmative action in Colorado and bar state institutions from providing special programs for minority groups. The law would have mandated that CSU rename all of its school-sponsored scholarships for minority students and changed the names of its advocacy offices.

2009 –/A mandate from student leaders university-wide dictates that every student, regardless of major, must take certain ethnic studies course by the time they graduate.

2009 — Despite growth in the minority population over the years, this year CSU remains one of the least culturally diverse universities in the nation, with 13.3 percent of enrolled students identifying themselves as minorities — a 2 percent increase from 1999. The number of black students at CSU this year is 534.

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