During Block 5 this year, several Colorado College student groups chose to disaffiliate from the Butler Center, including the Asian Student Union, the Korean-American Student Association, and the Native American Student Union.
In a letter announcing their groups’ disaffiliation from the Butler Center on Jan. 16, ASU’s and KASA’s executive leadership wrote, “This is in response to the prolonged and unanimous feelings of discomfort and disappointment with The Butler Center. Too many of our interactions with the center have left us feeling abandoned, angry, confused, and frustrated.”
The letter highlighted the lack of Asian and/or Asian-American representation for students among Butler Center staff, as well as the Butler Center’s “overly-PC” culture, which students felt prohibited open and clear communication. The KASA and ASU leadership described feeling a lack of support when they aired these concerns: “We feel that the issues we have raised on multiple occasions were superficially addressed with sympathy, but then lacked any actions or efforts to make genuine and lasting change, which we have not and do not expect to see. Thus, we can no longer support The Butler Center in its current state.”
The affiliation model has been the structure by which The Butler Center has sought to fulfill its goal of offering “a range of outstanding services and support for the student organizations.” This model mostly covered interactions between club leadership and The Butler Center through advising and blockly Heads of State meetings with the executive leadership from all affiliated clubs.
Jio Chang ’20, co-chair of KASA, said that most club members were “pretty indifferent” to the executive board’s decision to disaffiliate, since interaction with the Butler Center mostly occurred at the leadership level. However, as a co-chair, she described the process leading up to disaffiliation as, “pretty personal, and emotional, and overwhelming at times.”
The move to disaffiliate has been in the works for a while. Chang explained, “Previous co-chairs did seriously consider it, but it never happened.” This year, Chang and other executive board members initiated critical conversations with the Butler Center as early as the beginning of Block 2, but these interactions left them feeling “unsupported in a variety of ways,” solidifying the choice to officially disaffiliate.
The Butler Center said, “‘Disaffiliation’ is really a misnomer,” explaining that the model has always been an opt-in, opt-out situation. But, Butler Center paperwork for clubs clearly describes opting out as a “disaffiliation process,” and Chang explained that this is the official language they have been using.
During Block 6, the Butler Center announced that they would disband the affiliate model altogether. According to the Butler Center, this change has been considered for three and a half years, but they “waited [for] our fifth year as this is an appropriate time for changes such as this.” From the perspective of club leadership who had disaffiliated already, the timing was disconcerting. “We definitely believe that their staff has discussed it in passing, but we also are confused about the relationship between the timing of the change and of ASU, KASA, and NASU’s disaffiliation. We still are unclear on why now and why we had never heard of this being an issue from them if it’s been in the works for so long,” said Chang.
The Butler Center said that they “hope to have a more innovative structure that better supports the needs of students and Butler Center staff toward our mission” and that they “anticipate new gathering opportunities and coalition building initiatives,” by changing the affiliate model. They described last semester’s conversations with ASU and KASA as enabling them “to learn more about what the leaders and members wanted,” emphasizing, “We continue to offer support for students of Asian heritage at CC.”
Moving forward, ASU and KASA have scheduled a few workshops and dialogues with the Butler Center post-disaffiliation. In the Jan. 16 letter, executive leadership wrote, “This is not necessarily a permanent decision; we leave the choice of re-affiliating to future executive board members.” In the new Butler Center model, student groups won’t be able to affiliate, but may still choose to collaborate in short-term projects or seek advising.
Coming up this Saturday, April 6, Asian Cultures’ Night will take place in the Cornerstone Mainspace at 5:30 p.m., so make sure to grab a ticket at the Worner Campus Center Desk. “We are really excited and hopeful for the future!” said Chang, “We are absolutely going to continue not only spreading Asian culture and awareness on CC’s campus but also strengthen the Asian American student community.”