May 12, 2023 | OPINION | By Kate Holbrook

Disclaimer: This Letter to the Editors is written by Kate Holbrook, Chaplain at Colorado College. It has been edited for form and/or length.

As a community, it is important that all members feel safe and supported on campus. When hateful incidents happen on and/or close to campus, such violations wound the people we care about and love. 

The recent spray painting of a swastika in the public alleyway near the Interfaith House was hurtful, causing harm to members of our Jewish community and to everyone who values human life and justice. The symbol is threatening and an affront to our sense of community and our collective values, including respecting every person’s dignity and worth.   

Nationally, antisemitic hate crimes rose 35% during 2022 and continue to rise. Even though we know that antisemitism, islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and other forms of bigotry exist in society, when they show up on or near our campus, it can still be shocking and distressing.

As caring and concerned community members, it should be upsetting when words, symbols and acts of hate appear in such bold and aggressive ways. Being able to recognize and respect the experiences of others’ pain is important. The ability to speak up, defend, and support our community members, in partnership and as allies, isparamount.  

The antisemitic graffiti has been investigated by Colorado Springs Police Department; there are no suspects at this time. Additional safety measures around the Interfaith House are continuing, along with conversations around exploring action in partnership with the Jewish community.

At Colorado College, when incidents of hate happen, we seek to holistically support each other and our community. This includes listening deeply to the varying needs of affected individuals and communities and responding in partnership with them. Sometimes, needs and desired responses change over time and support and responses may also change. In addition, holistic care includes responses in accordance with policy and procedure.  

Office of Civil Rights and Title IX has proposed a new bias incident reporting policy, and the Antiracism Diversity, Equity & Inclusion leadership team is conducting the standard review process. The proposal will be open to the community for a standard 30-day review soon.

This new policy will create a bias response team who will be able to swiftly respond to incidents which affect our community in ways that will be culturally relevant, restorative in nature, and centered around the needs of targeted individuals and/or groups. No one pre-packaged response can or should meet the needs of every situation.

The proposed protocol includes a team that will be responsive and creative in its approaches to varying situations in a timely manner. This policy and team would allow us to address broader community needs with an array of responses.  

As a campus, our work around antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion includes a commitment to spiritual and religious diversity and pluralism, as well as the intersections between religious and cultural identities.  Sometimes, this may not be apparent.

Perhaps our own different thoughts about spiritual practice, religion, and/or the intersections of religion and cultural identity are not as present in daily life, make us uncomfortable, or are not particularly important to us. This commitment, though, invites us to take seriously an essential part of the human experience AND many of our communities’ experiences, identities, and what is held as most dear.  

We are a community that values and is committed to growth. If you are interested in exploring and deepening your own learning and exploration in the coming years, the following are some opportunities to do so: 

Commit to learning and training about antisemitism, islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination and bias through collaborative partnerships between the Chaplain’s Office, the ADEI leadership team, and the Butler Center. 

Engage in Interfaith learning, relationships, and literacy – and experience the diversity of spirituality, religious life, and contemplative practices on campus and in wider community through programs in the Chaplain’s Office. 

Explore related topics through Academic study in the Departments of Religion; History; Political Science; Arabic, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies; Hebrew; Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies; among many others. 

As a community, we are committed to continually supporting all members of our community who feel targeted by any and all forms of discrimination. May each of us find ways to honor, respect, value the inherent worth of each member of our community. And may we find ways to accompany each other, supporting and speaking up against all that harms us. 

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