The Feminist Fight Club panel kicked off Diversity Week 2018. Photo by John Eisele, CSU Photography
Colorado State University’s Feminist Fight Club kicked off this year’s Diversity Symposium week with a panel discussion on culture change and a focus on the role men can play to advance gender equity on campus. The panel, moderated by Cori Wong, Ph.D., assistant vice president for gender equity and director of the Women & Gender Collaborative, featured President Tony Frank who was joined by three other panelists: Tom Biedscheid, director of the Office of Financial Aid; Carl Olsen, program coordinator for men’s programming and violence prevention with the Women and Gender Advocacy Center; and Herman Shelton, executive director of the Access Center.
Panelists shared how they approach working toward gender equity on campus, including collaborating with the Women & Gender Collaborative to facilitate the Man: Educate Yourself program and helping set up the Feminist Fight Club at CSU for Men. They also discussed what type of learning is required to support the university’s mission to improve the culture and climate around gender, and the need for more people to engage in the work for greater gender equity. Frank said CSU is an institution that wants to improve in this space, and many inspirational people on campus are involved in these efforts but there is more left to do.
“As an organization we’ve rolled up our sleeves and we are in the hard work of bringing cultural change,” said Frank. “And for me personally that also meant rolling up my sleeves and trying to get better at this, and recognizing there’s a lot of ways I have to improve. So, it’s been for me not just in a position of authority but on a personal level, as well.”
Wong asked the panel to share what they have learned as men doing gender equity work, and what they think is important for other men to know starting out.
“There is a sense of urgency where we can’t afford to wait for men to be in the right disposition to do this work. So, it’s time to push some of that aside,” said Olsen. “We say this is hard work but we also don’t face a daily obstacle course of sexism and racism. It’s time for a lot of men, especially men who believe themselves to be good men, to really push themselves to be better.”
Wong said for people who want to get engaged but are concerned they might not be ready or that they still have too much to learn to do this work well, that should not hold them back.
“There is always a lot more to learn, continuously,” said Wong. “If it feels very high stakes to start just acting, then there are other ways that one can also learn that doesn’t have to be through failure or faux pas, but by really having conversations, looking up resources and through the Man: Educate Yourself program.”
The FFC @ CSU is one of the projects spearheaded by the Women & Gender Collaborative. Wong said a primary goal is to provide the campus community with shared language and resources so people can better support each other in an inclusive effort to challenge subtle sexism and bias.
Membership continues to grow
CSU became the first higher education institution in the country to develop a university-sanctioned Feminist Fight Club program based on the bestselling book of the same name by Jessica Bennett. It officially launched during last year’s Diversity Symposium when Bennett visited campus for a series of workshops and a fireside chat with Wong. Wong said FFC @ CSU has about 200 members so far and attendance at monthly meetings is growing.
“For the year ahead, we are focusing on building structures within the Feminist Fight Club at CSU and across campus to provide ways for more people to get involved and expand the conversations around how to practice accountability, proactively support others, and interrupt problematic behaviors,” said Wong. “A major priority is to create space for men to easily participate with support and critical reflection in their efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive culture.”
The Women & Gender Collaborative, FFC members and campus partners have spent the past year building a portfolio of downloadable resources, which include a supplemental reading guide on intersectionality and inclusivity, fight move tip sheets, and a toolkit for groups considering bringing the FFC into their unit.
Anyone interested in learning more about the FFC @ CSU can contact Cori Wong at Cori.Wong@colostate.edu.
What’s ahead: Diversity Symposium 2018
Tuesday, Oct. 2
CSU Inspire brings an Ignite-style session to the Lory Student Center Theatre, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The talks, by CSU faculty and staff, featuring cutting-edge research on diversity and inclusion, in short 8-minute presentations. Presenters include Elizabeth Sink, Tom Biedscheid, Bridgette Johnson, and Vincent Basile. Light lunch will be provided. Tickets are not required but seating is limited, so come early.
Wednesday, Oct. 3
Cornell William Brooks, civil rights attorney and past president of NAACP, delivers the symposium’s keynote address in the LSC Theater, 5:30-7 p.m. During his tenure, 2014-17, he led the NAACP to 11 victories against voter suppression. A graduate of both Head Start and Yale Law School, Brooks is also an ordained minister, social justice activist, coalition builder and writer.
Thursday, Oct. 4
Susan Faircloth, Ph.D., new director of the CSU School of Education, presents Beyond Feathers and Fluff: Teaching About and With American Indians, in the LSC Theater, 9-11 a.m.
New this year, Diversity Connection offers CSU students and student organizations an exclusive opportunity to meet and make meaningful connections with employers especially interested in hiring students from traditionally underrepresented populations, 4-6:30 in the LSC Theater.
Friday, Oct. 5
The week wraps up when Lecia Brooks, outreach director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, returns to campus, 8:30-10 a.m., in the Longs Peak Room of the LSC. Brooks, who spoke at CSU during Black History Month this year, also serves as director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama, designed to provide a deeper understanding of the civil rights movement in the U.S.
Three full days of sessions
In addition to these remarkable sessions, the 2018 Diversity Symposium includes nearly 50 different presentations on topics ranging from bias awareness and relationships across lines of difference to culturally responsive teaching and disability rights advocacy, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday; no sessions scheduled on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., to allow the campus community to attend the President’s Fall Address and University Picnic on the Oval.
The complete schedule for the Diversity Symposium is on the Office of the Vice President for Diversity website, and is also available through the Guidebook app for smartphones.