By Max Kronstadt | Illustration by Cate Johnson
In my three and seven-eighths years at Colorado College, I’ve had the opportunity to work with my peers, faculty, and staff to try to improve CC in a variety of ways, whether through student government, the sustainability council, student clubs, or informal organizing efforts. It’s been at times rewarding, at times frustrating, but I’ve learned a lot and I am forever grateful to everyone who’s put time and effort into making this school better these last four years.
Part of me feels like I was just getting the hang of things, just now starting to understand how decisions are made and how change happens at CC, which is unfortunate timing since in three weeks I’ll no longer be a student here — but I think that’s usually how it goes.
Anyhow, I thought that in my last block it’d be worthwhile to take some time to reflect on what’s happened these past four years, what it’s taught me about this school, the potential it has, the challenges it faces, and what, if I had another four years here, I would want to work to change. Obviously, there’s a lot to cover and I only have 800 words, plus I’ve wasted like 200 on this annoying intro, so I’m going to have to focus on a couple issues I see as most critical and illustrative of larger phenomena.
The implementation of CC’s antiracism initiative represents both the school’s greatest challenge and greatest opportunity. Over the past year, the administration’s unwillingness to involve groups of students in decision-making processes and its ineffectiveness at communicating about those decisions or processes led to the creation of a plan that didn’t represent student wishes and damaged relationships between administrators and students, particularly students of color. It didn’t have to be that way.
As a modified version of a common community organizing adage goes, decisions made about us shouldn’t be made without us. That means that decisions about students shouldn’t be made without students present, and decisions about marginalized students shouldn’t be made without marginalized students present. If I had another four years here, I would work to get more students into rooms where important conversations are being had, whether those are search committees, campus-wide committees, oversight committees, task forces, working groups, or whatever other liberal-artsy name you want to come up with for a group of people getting together to talk about a thing.
But while our administration bears much of the responsibility for allowing students to participate in the governance of the college, student involvement is a two-way street. I think it would be dishonest for us not to acknowledge that the majority of students at the open forum on the anti-racism implementation plan hadn’t actually read it, and that even fewer read the first draft of the plan when it went out. If we want to be involved, we have to be proactive about involving ourselves.
I couldn’t say for certain why so many students at CC appear disinterested in the governance of the college, their home for four years. Maybe it’s because the Block Plan is so demanding that it leaves little time for anything else, though frankly, I doubt it. Maybe it’s because they don’t feel like anything they could do would make a difference. Or maybe it’s because there’s so much to change and they don’t know where to start.
On the off chance it’s that last one, I have some ideas. The following are, in no particular order, things I’d like to work on if I had another four years here.
Colorado College became carbon neutral in 2020, which is a big deal, but there’s still a lot to be done to reduce our carbon and ecological footprints. The food we eat on the meal plan could be far more sustainably sourced and we eat it with disposable plates and silverware at Benji’s and the Preserve. We have yet to account for the emissions we produce traveling to and from school or driving around during block break. And our endowment is still invested in fossil fuels.
Textbooks are really expensive, the hidden fees of an education at Colorado College. But by using more Open Educational Resources — high quality, open-source textbooks available for free online — we can save students money and make an education at CC more accessible to all.
Speaking of the accessibility of a Colorado College education, CC could do more to enable low and middle-income students to come here. To its credit, it has taken serious steps in the last few years, rolling out the Colorado Pledge and Stroud Scholars program, and steadily increasing the percentage of students on financial aid.
But all of that was when times were good. The Budget Scenarios working group assembled last week is looking at budget shortfalls of anywhere from $5 million to $15 million, and the Yield the Class working group has been scrambling to prevent too many incoming first-years from deferring their admission a year.
In the coming years, the school will have to make difficult financial decisions, and the decisions it makes will be a reflection of its values. Students should fight hard to be included in the groups that make these decisions, and then to ensure that budget cuts don’t come at the expense of our most vulnerable classmates and classmates to be.
I’m bummed I won’t get to participate, but I’m excited to see what the generation is able to do.