The Historical Equity Project
By Michael Gorman | Photo by Daniel de Koning
This project was inspired by the work of Professor Ratchford and each student that has passed through the Introduction to REMS course and pored through the archives for their final project to study the nature of race, gender, and equity at the college. Before the anti-racism report was even conceived of, Professor Ratchford, as well as REMS majors, minors, and other interested students, have been doing this anti-racism work through these projects. Now, we seek to share these important stories with the Colorado College community. If you took part in the Introduction to REMS course or have completed a project into the issue of equity in CC’s history, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for submissions or questions.
What better way to learn about Colorado College and its complicated history than through the archives? Dr. Ratchford’s Introduction to the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity provides students the opportunity to research a project of their choosing in the CC archives with help from the legendary Jessy Randall, the CC archivist and curator of special collections. Her work resurfacing former-president Slocum’s lechery, fraud, and college building is crucial to our anti-racist work as an institution.
Credit is also due to Emily Kressley ’20 who published her findings in The Catalyst back in 2017, helping to bring Randall’s findings to an even greater light. Her piece in The Catalyst, as well as on-campus controversy about what is now South Hall, inspired my research into Slocum’s horrible actions.
As largely revealed across campus, President Slocum was a powerful white man exerting this power through sexually assaulting dozens of women in order to further terrify those he had power over and to continue to amass wealth.
Slocum has been honored throughout the college’s history as one of its founding fathers. During his reign from 1888 to 1917, student attendance grew over tenfold and the campus expanded with many new academic and athletic buildings. Especially during the first 15 to 20 years of his tenure, he had cult-like respect from the school and greater Colorado Springs area.
He gave weekly “ethicals,” a series of speeches that preached “duty, truth, loyalty, steadfastness, and self-respect,” but it wasn’t long before the student body started to turn on him. Rumors of his abuse spread amongst faculty and students alike, and a few brave women managed to publicly state their case. While this new evidence couldn’t convince many, these public cases eventually led to his departure from the school in 1917.
Further helping the cause of removing Slocum from office were several cases of financial wrongdoing — as the supreme leader of the school in so many ways, his controlling nature befell him, clouding his judgment and ability to serve as president.
As rumors of abuse and financial foul play grew in number, Slocum became distrusted, and in 1916 the Board of Trustees requested his resignation. After a year away, he accepted, bringing the school to a screeching halt as its loyal leader was dominantly perceived to be kicked out of power over some complaints. At least that’s how it has been remembered by the school.
Colorado College managed to hide most evidence of misconduct, and in testimonials about him over time, Slocum was described as “full of vigor, enthusiasm, and boundless faith.” In 1975, the CC Bulletin published this outrageous sentence: “The last years of his presidency were marred … by allegations that the aging Slocum might even be succumbing to a primitive urge to pat and squeeze a pretty female here and there.” Even 60 years later, the school still couldn’t come to terms with the harm of its past.
And it took work from Randall and Kressley to bring it to the public, about 100 years after his resignation. Being able to research this issue in class is important because of the core lesson it teaches — powerful people can do anything to cover up misconduct, and it’s up to us to hold them accountable.