By Michael Gorman
Oh, how good it is to return to Colorado College. This year, we were welcomed back by warm embraces from our friends, new coconut-shaving turf on Washburn, sweet Colorado summer air, construction on Nevada, loving RAs, and “No Trespassing” signs.
If you haven’t noticed the signs, take a walk through campus. They went up in numerous locations around campus at the beginning of the summer. They read “Colorado College” in white, “Private Property” in a muted gray, “No Trespassing” in bold red, and then list a couple different emergency phone numbers in white at the bottom.
I believe these signs are a bad idea for several reasons. First, I am concerned that they will lead to racial and class-based profiling by empowering people to report someone who doesn’t “look” like they belong on campus. Second, the signs are likely to damage our already difficult relationship with the surrounding community, contradicting everything our administration purports to value in terms of the importance of sense of place and community engagement. And third, they look bad.
The “No Trespassing” signs beg an obvious question: who is welcome on campus and who is trespassing? I find it hard to believe that they are meant to keep out anyone who isn’t a student or employee of the college, in which case the lines around who are welcome and who aren’t become blurry. Is a long-time resident of the Old North End allowed to walk their dog across campus? What about someone sleeping on a bench in Acacia Park who cuts across Tava Quad on their way to Penrose Hospital?
We presume that anyone who is a guest of a student or employee of the college will be welcome on campus. And we also think it’s safe to assume that the signs aren’t intended to be used as an excuse to kick random passersbys off campus, but rather as a way to kick out people who are exhibiting behavior we find inappropriate.
Which is all well and good, except that it is impossible to free what we deem as appropriate behavior from implicit bias.
From Lolade Siyonbola, a black Yale University law student who was harassed by campus police for taking a nap in her dorm’s common room, to Alexander McNab, a Black student at Columbia University forced to leave the school’s library by campus police, to countless others, racial profiling, by both students and campus law enforcement, is a common occurrence on college campuses. And it doesn’t just affect current community members. Just up I-25 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, two Native American prospective students on an admission tour were called into Campus Police for alleged suspicious behavior.
While we greatly appreciate Campus Safety and what they do for CC students, we believe that to blindly trust them (or anybody) to enforce new trespassing rules without bias ignores centuries of history between law enforcement and communities of color.
The question of who is welcome on campus under the new “No Trespassing” regime is also relevant to our neighbors in the Colorado Springs community. It’s no secret that CC has a troubled relationship with Colorado Springs, for a number of different reasons related to the actions of both students and the administration.
Yet, a number of groups on campus are working hard to improve our relationship with the local Colorado Springs community. The Collaborative for Community Engagement is an organization comprised of faculty and staff in various departments that works on community-based projects, CCSGA, and with a host of student organizations that do work in local schools and with local community groups. This work is made more difficult, however, when the administration takes action with little regard for these community relationships, as they did in the case of the “No Trespassing” signs.
In conversations with these groups, many have told The Catalyst that members of the Colorado Springs community often say they don’t feel welcome on campus. I feel confident that the “No Trespassing” signs aren’t going to make them feel more welcome.
As students, it’s our responsibility to make sure that our administration lives up to its professed values. I feel that these signs are an affront to these values, and call on our administration to take them down.