Sept. 4, 2020 | By Anusha Khanal | Illustration by Xixi Qin

Before Colorado College shut down in March last academic year, the Solidarity Coalition, a student organization, organized an open forum on campus to hold the administration accountable and to demand the retraction of the Antiracism Implementation Plan, which was criticized for not including student voices. The Plan, which was born out of the External Review of Racism conducted by Roger Worthington in 2018/19, has not been retracted, and has moved forward with some developments. In the final review conducted by Worthington, he provided nine goals for the college in order to work towards becoming an anti-racist institution. They are as follows:

  • Goal #1: Develop a Collaborative Implementation Plan for the Antiracism Initiative
  • Goal #2: Build Coalitions to Develop, Advance and Promote the Antiracism Initiative
  • Goal #3: Connect the CC Core Values to a Pledge of Antiracism at CC 
  • Goal #4: Appoint Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion 
  • Goal #5: Establish an Antiracist Curriculum Transformation Initiative 
  • Goal #6: Enrollment Management and Student Life
  • Goal #7: Increase Faculty Diversity and Leadership
  • Goal #8: Increase Staff Diversity and Leadership 
  • Goal #9: Strategic Communications Plan for the Antiracism Initiative

As a goal to include Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts in college leadership, the college has hired Peony Fhagen as the Senior Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion, and Faculty Development. Rosalie Rodriguez, hired as the Senior Associate Dean of Students for Equity and Inclusion, will also be serving as the new Director of the Butler Center. While the college has yet to find the Director of DEI for Staff, Barbara Wilson will be serving in an interim capacity.

In a conversation with Fhagen and Rodriguez, the two said that although the pandemic has occupied everyone’s attention, the college remains unfazed with its priority in the Antiracism Initiative. The pandemic has further highlighted inequities and the deep and systemic ways they take root, highlighting the need to incorporate COVID-19 management and support into the Initiative. 

Since the arrival of Fhagen as the SAD, the DEI development program for faculty searches has been up and running. The program is aimed at “decreasing bias during the faculty search process and to give search committees the tools and strategies that promote diversity, equity, inclusion throughout the search process.”

The program will be aimed at increasing diversity in college leadership, including antiracist and inclusive methods in the hiring process and increasing the retention numbers for faculty from marginalized backgrounds. 

Fhagen conducted a Faculty Forum before the academic year began with the theme: “How to become an Anti-Racist educator?” She has now been working for various campus offices, consulting with faculty of CC120 and CC100 on how to bring an antiracist lens into their classroom. Finally, she has also been working with incorporating DEI and antiracist lenses in the advising process.

Rodriguez has been working in the COVID Advisory Leadership Team as a DEI representative. She highlighted how the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting students of color, students with disabilities, international students, and students who are RAs (and usually on some form of financial aid) who have had to take on responsibilities inside quarantined dorms while still juggling school. She stressed the significance of “taking an antiracism lens to COVID.”

The DEI Team as a whole has been working on identifying inequities within different groups on campus, how the pandemic has played out differently for faculty, staff, and students, and the disparities within these groups. For example, faculty have the choice to work remotely, whereas some staff are unable to do so. The DEI team and the college will be developing an Oversight Committee in order to ensure that the Antiracism Implementation Plan initiatives are being carried out.

The college has also received $1 million from Susie Burghart ’77, a CC Board of Trustees Chair, in order to support and accelerate the work of the DEI leadership team. The DEI team has not yet specified where the budget will be used.

On a policy level, a new general requirement has been added into the curriculum: starting this fall, CC students must take two blocks of Equity and Power courses during their college career. According to the general requirement page on the college website, courses that fulfill this requirement expect students to examine how systems of power create and shape notions of self, relations with others, access to resources and opportunities, and the production of knowledge. The necessity of diversifying the curriculum has long been pointed out by students. As a result of student resistance led by the Black Student Union in 2018, the West in Time requirement was done away with by the college.

To make antiracism efforts foundational to CC, student conduct policies (more commonly known as the Pathfinder) were examined by consultant Takiyah Amin through an antiracism and anti-oppression lens. The recommended changes are to be implemented for this academic year. Further, a Student Conduct Advisory Group was formed to review these policies annually. According to Nicolette Gordillo-LaRiviere ’21, who served in the Advisory Group, the changes include policies regarding freedom of speech and protests on campus and introducing Restorative Justice in the Community Standards and Conduct Policy.

Amin developed an antiracism evaluation tool that measures DEI efforts across five areas, including personnel, policies, practices, assessment, and collaborative efforts. This method aims to help offices and programs examine their policies, practices, and cultures to identify areas of racial bias and inequity, and to make changes to support the college’s anti-racism efforts.

In order to provide more support to international students and address concerns regarding visa issues, housing, academics, and mental health support, Shiyanke Goonetilleke, from the Center for Global Education and Field Study, will be serving as the primary resource.

The college has also made an effort to include marginalized voices in its communications. From hosting online panel discussions to initiating the Untold Stories — a collection of the lived experiences of marginalized members of the CC community — CC has made some improvements in terms of acknowledging and elevating these voices and their perspectives.

The Office of Communications hopes to develop an antiracism strategic communications plan, consulting with the new DEI leadership to make antiracism communications central to the college and build a shared understanding of our goals. 

The college has kept its word and continued its efforts on antiracism. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown other aspects of racism and inequality playing out in the lives of community members. Most of the work done until now is foundational, but infrastructural. A lot of work has yet to be done and will take an ongoing endeavor from all of us.

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