April 14, 2023 | OPINION | By Emily McKinley
On Feb. 21, 2023, Colorado College communications sent an email titled “Launching Speak Up Colorado College.” Around two weeks later, when my professor brought up Speak Up CC in class, I had no idea what he was referencing. For those who still don’t know what Speak Up CC is, read on. It impacts us all.
Per the email, Speak Up CC is a “24-hour reporting system where you can confidentially and anonymously submit your concerns.” CC’s website supplies the following statement: “The college strives to provide a secure and healthy atmosphere for students, staff, faculty, vendors, and visitors alike. Colorado College wants every employee and student to have a reliable, confidential, and anonymous communication tool to report concerns, and violations of Colorado College policies, or ask questions in a timely manner.”
The email also contains a list of potential reporting areas: misuse of college funds, misuse of confidential information, discrimination or harassment, including violations of Title IX and Title VII, and violations of any college policy or handbook rules and regulations.
At a technical level, Speak Up CC uses a third-party portal called OneTrust to run this anonymous reporting system. When a student, staff, or faculty member submits a concern to Speak Up CC, authorized members of the college receive an email notification, and they can login to the system to view the question or concern reported. Reports may then get transferred to the correct offices, depending on their subject matter.
The implementation of this platform comes out of two separate recommendations: one from an outside firm in Denver who reviewed CC’s code of ethics policies, and a working group of faculty, staff, and students at CC.
Lyrae Williams, the Associate Vice President of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, and one of the authorized users of Speak Up Colorado College, said the goal of the platform is, “…if you see something, we want you to speak up. So, we are all members of this community, we want to have a safe community that we feel safe to be at, safe to work at, safe to come to school at.”
I agree with her. I think this tool will do exactly what it is meant to: provide a safe reporting space. What I am not sure of is how the platform will impact trust at CC. OneTrust’s tagline on their website says, “Strengthen your ability to monitor, create, and maintain a culture of ethics and trust where your team can thrive.” Are authentic trust and ethics created through anonymity and more monitoring?
According to Williams, “People are safe to report, and they can do it without fear of retaliation… It builds trust in that if people trust the system and the process and they know, one, I can bring something forward without fear, then I feel safe. Especially if you see something, you want to feel safe reporting.”
Again, I agree with Williams. As a community, trustworthy reporting systems are vital. I do believe Speak Up CC will allow people to feel safe from retaliation. However, feeling safe from retaliation and trusting the system are two separate issues. If we need an anonymous reporting tool because of distrust in current reporting systems, does Speak Up Colorado College address the root of the issue?
Distrust in systems exists across campus in a variety of ways. After speaking to friends who went through housing this week, the distrust between students and the housing system is clear. I know peers who don’t trust the Title IX office because of their own reporting experiences or hearing friends’ experiences.
There’s a split between whether students trust the new seniority-based pre-registration system. In the case of Speak Up CC, I am simply asking whether we could achieve trust in reporting systems without anonymity, and if not, what does that say about our cultures of trust on campus, both systemically and interpersonally?