Nov 20, 2020 | NEWS | By Flora Block | Photo by John Le
In November 2019, Colorado College began its journey towards becoming an antiracist institution. By initiating an internal assessment of racial bias and discrimination at CC and following with codified actionable goals, CC set intentions to combat its contribution to institutionalized racism.
Following these intentions, in June, CC students, faculty, staff, and alumni formed the Collective for Antiracism and Liberation (CAL). Since its inception, this collective — a student-led, democratic organization of community members — has dedicated itself to several diverse projects centered around “the abolition of racist and classist carceral systems, the liberation of all oppressed peoples, and the creation of safe communities.”
Individual CC students act as leaders or “point people” for each project, but according to Sophie Cardin ’22, the CCSGA VP of Outreach, “CAL doesn’t necessarily have positions. It’s pretty horizontal and democratic. People volunteer based on how much time they can put in and what their interests are … There’s no formal leadership. Anyone can come and go at any time, or start projects, lead initiatives, and participate.”
Cardin clarified, “CAL’s not in any way a single-issue group.” The collective has been involved in several projects at CC and in the larger Colorado Springs community. Some of these projects have included working with Citizens Project to gather data related to transparency within the Colorado Springs Police Department, partnering with CC faculty and community organizers to host discussions and presentations on abolitionism, and their campaign to “Drop Sodexo” and cut ties with other companies that support and use prison labor.
Most recently, and most visibly, CAL has been advocating for CC’s divestment from the CSPD. In September, after collecting data related to policing on CC’s campus and in the broader Colorado Springs community, CAL released its initial proposal to the CC administration calling for partial divestment from the CSPD.
For activists in CAL, divesting from the CSPD is the necessary next step towards becoming an antiracist institution. In their proposal, CAL states, “we believe that a community cannot be committed to antiracism, equity, and inclusion while simultaneously maintaining a relationship with an inherently racist institution, such as the police.”
Initially, CAL attempted to collaborate with the CC administration, but said they received little to no support or enthusiasm. According to Martrice Ellis ’21, a point person for the divestment campaign, “we reached out to the administration … to help out or to share the information that we found with them, but it didn’t come across to us that it would be accepted or wanted … [We released the proposal] to show them that we want to get involved in this process.”
This initial proposal focused on the demonstrated futility of CSPD presence on campus, specifically related to the role of Campus Resource Officer (CRO) and the CC7, a group of seven CSPD officers hired to aid Campus Safety on “high risk” evenings, but who, since the onset of the pandemic in March, have not been an active group.
According to Ellis, “the CRO is supposed to engage in campus culture … if you were to ask a lot of CC students who the CRO is, you wouldn’t get a name. Nobody knows who he is. That clearly shows he’s not engaging in campus culture … What do we need the CRO for? What do we need the CC7 for?”
However, following the CC town hall meeting about policing on Oct. 21, CAL revised its listed demands to move from partial to full divestment from the CSPD.
According to Ellis, “[CAL] moved to full divestment based off of the town hall, and realizing that CSPD does have a lot of racism intertwined with them … being generally part of the traditional task of policing, and they also have a history of doing certain things that highlight racism, such as protecting officers that have [demonstrated] racist behavior.”
The proposal offers extensive evidence of racist policing practices within the Colorado Springs Police Department. Most notably, the proposal’s research highlighted disparate arrest rates for Black people in the Springs, who account for 18% of all arrests, but only 6% of the population. This is in juxtaposition to other racial groups whose arrest rates coincide with their proportion of the population.
The new proposal extends to full divestment, but maintains initial intentions of fund reallocation towards community resources for people of color, survivors of sexual violence, and those in need of mental health support. The proposal also emphasizes shifting CC campus culture from one of punitive policing to one of care and support.
According to Ellis, the intention behind this proposal to divest from the CSPD is to “highlight and start this process for CC to begin moving in the way that an antiracist institution [does].”
Ellis continues, “Being antiracist is an action … there are going to have to be steps to break down the current systems … to reimagine something that’s actually antiracist, equitable, etc. … That’s going to take work. There has to be some kind of action. It can’t just be words.”
For students and community members who are interested in working with the Collective for Antiracism and Liberation, CAL meets on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. MST.