By Sam Seymour
On Jan. 20, the first day of the second semester, Colorado College held a day of events to commemorate the life and activism of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although both CC and the city of Colorado Springs lack diversity and struggle with the inclusion of people of color, in addition to the college currently facing their own controversy over racism, the event strove to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy.
To celebrate MLK Day, CC hosted a fundraiser to raise money for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as well as Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission scholarship programs. The day commenced with an All People’s Breakfast which consisted of keynote speakers and performances by members of the Colorado Springs community. After the breakfast, the crowd of over 500 people participated in a march downtown to Acacia Park, where a rally took place. In the evening, CC hosted a performance by the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, a local dance group that aims to “honor African American heritage and explore the human condition” through dance.
It was crucial for CC, an institution that has struggled in its efforts to combat racism, to take some action, especially during such an important day. Although the Student Demographics website, published by Institutional Planning and Effectiveness Colorado College, reports that the school moved from a 75% to a 65% white student body between 2011 and 2019, CC is far from being a completely inclusive environment for all. CC has had multiple high-profile incidents regarding racism including the racist messages on Yik Yak in 2015; the racist email in the spring of 2018; desecration of a tipi on campus a few years ago; and the 2019 incident involving students of color being turned away from the hockey house, to name a few.
Seemingly, the administration attempts to at least appear transparent about its difficulties regarding inclusivity. In response to both recent major incidences of racism as well as constant perceptible implicit racism on campus, the school launched an Anti-Racism Implementation Plan. After sending a draft to students earlier in the school year, the administration released the final draft on Nov. 18, 2019. In the memo, CC acknowledged the deep history of racism at the institution, its roots extending back to CC’s construction on the unceded land of the Ute peoples, which has also been occupied by the Arapaho, Apache, Comanche, and Cheyenne peoples.
“Racism has been present at CC since its formation, and continues today, in the actions of individuals and groups, in the outcomes of policies, and in the experiences of our physical environment,” the plan noted. “Racism remains systemic. We are not in a post-racist society or institution; we feel the effects of racism daily.”
In order to make sure the plan is correctly implemented, the administration designed a three-person campus committee to oversee its progress and to guide it towards success. The director of the Butler Center, currently Dr. Paul Buckley, was meant to fill one of these positions, along with a Senior Associate Dean and a Human Resources leader.
The implementation plan claims that the committee will focus on antiracism in student life, in academics, and among employees. However, the plan would disrupt the workings of the Center itself: Dr. Buckley’s current position, Assistant Vice President/Director of the Butler Center, is set to be terminated by the end of the year. The new position of Senior Associate Dean of Students/Director of the Butler Center, for which Dr. Buckley would need to reapply to be considered, will report to the Dean of Students/Vice President of Student Life. This would also mean that there will no longer be a centralized office solely focused on diversity and inclusion.
The stated goals of the Anti-Racism Implementation Plan are to make diversity and antiracism a key expectation of the CC community and to listen to students more about these issues. However, the new plan hasn’t been popular among some of the student body. An open letter crafted by students calls for the retraction of the new plan and an apology to both the community and Dr. Buckley, as well as for an open forum about anti-racism measurements at CC. The letter has been signed by nearly 550 students, as well as 14 faculty members or administrators. The letter voices numerous issues with the new plan, specifically over the new limited role of Dr. Buckley, the degradation of the Butler Center, and the lack of student input that went into this final draft.
Next week, Sam Seymour will be interviewing both students and non-students on their opinions on the anti-racism implementation plan to find out exactly how this affects us as a community, and how we can move forward from this event.