October 8, 2021 | NEWS | By Tom Byron | Photo by Oliver Kraft
How can we do what we do better? That’s the question Colorado College President L. Song Richardson wants to ask all of us over the course of the next three years through what she’s calling Project 2024.
As she described in her email to the campus community on Sept. 16 and reaffirmed in an interview with The Catalyst, this project is a call for all of us on campus to “engage in conversations” about the future of our college and “dare to imagine” a better CC over the course of the next school year.
President Richardson wants to involve the entire campus community in imagining better ways for CC to function, potentially covering any and every aspect of this institution. According to the email, this year of discussion will be followed by a year of planning in 2022-2023, and finally, a year of implementation from 2023 to CC’s 150th anniversary in 2024.
President Richardson wants Project 2024 to complement current efforts to improve the campus by giving people a place to discuss what a more ideal future might look like. It is meant to work alongside the existing structures that are attempting to solve campus issues, including campus committees, student activist groups, and institutions like Colorado College Student Government Association (CCSGA).
Though she is eager to tackle the many problems that we currently face as a campus, from climate change and racial justice to housing and financial aid, President Richardson wants Project 2024 to provide a space to “focus on the future and not get mired in the past.”
This doesn’t mean pretending our current problems don’t exist, she said, but rather considering the solutions to those problems as part of a forward-looking vision for the future of our college. The ultimate goal of Project 2024 is to find alternate ways for CC to function that solves current issues and prevents future ones from arising, instead of short-term solutions that don’t fundamentally change the way things work.
For example, the housing shortage on campus might require the construction of more housing. But the shortage didn’t arise randomly; it was a result of certain choices that the administration made.
The college decided how to answer questions like whether or not to construct more housing, how many students to admit each year, and how housing is distributed. Our current housing shortage is a result of those choices. Project 2024 wants to consider ideas for how to change the ways the administration makes these choices.
A concrete plan for how these discussions on the future of CC will actually proceed is still in the works, and that part of the project is in the hands of Prof. Susan Ashley rather than President Richardson.
However, the basic structure of the project is simple: The administration plans to organize a series of discussion groups over the course of the next year to collect ideas about how CC could function better and determine which ideas can and should be implemented.
Ultimately, Project 2024 seems to be the outline for a process that could radically restructure the way Colorado College functions, just as the process that led to the Block Plan did more than 50 years ago.
The creation of the Block Plan served as a direct inspiration for this idea, Richardson said, and she’s been thinking about the possibility of replicating that process since before she even became president.
“The more that I read and learned about Colorado College, and how creative and innovative and courageous the school was… the more I wanted to be here,” Richardson said. “Right now — from the students, from the staff, from the faculty — there’s this energy and courage that our community has that I hope Project 2024 will harness.”
And just as during the implementation of the Block Plan in 1968, President Richardson believes that the chaos of 2021 provides a rare chance to truly reimagine our basic institutions.
“This is a period that doesn’t come along very often, where people are questioning everything,” President Richardson said. “And the window to take advantage of that will close very quickly.”
Despite the continuing pandemic, the difficulty of readjusting to campus life, and the endless line of disturbing current events, President Richardson said she believes that times of chaos offer an opportunity to rethink everything we thought was already settled.
“It’s not my vision,” Richardson said when asked about her vision for Project 2024. “It shouldn’t be a top-down thing.”
Community discussion and ideas from every part of campus are central to this project, and its ultimate goal is to cultivate a wide-ranging conversation about how the school could work better in the future.
“Let’s open up these conversations, and then we’ll see what happens,” Richardson said. “It could be anything.”