Race, Bias and Equity Initiative entering new chapter

Since Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell launched the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative in September 2019, the RBEI has experienced a surge of interest, growth and collective involvement across the entire university community. Critical developments have included the selection of Blanche Hughes, vice president for student affairs, as the chair of the initiative; the naming of a core team; and the review of more than 100 proposals submitted by the CSU community.

Now the RBEI is experiencing another milestone: McConnell announced that she has named Mary Ontiveros, vice president for diversity, as co-chair, with Hughes, for the initiative.

Why now and why this move?

McConnell’s original goal for the RBEI was that it would eventually work in close partnership with existing units, including the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, the Student Diversity Programs and Services offices, campus communicators and more. What became clear from the sheer number of proposals submitted to, however, was that the university community is eager for large and sweeping action.

Student demands

In addition to the substantial RBEI proposals, university leadership also received a list of demands from a student group in early March. This group, which identifies itself as #NotProudToBe, marched in silent protest during McConnell’s Fall Address and have remained active since. Their demands, which can be found here,  included a request for a meeting with some 50 members of the CSU administration.  During this meeting, on March 9, three student leaders of #NPTB further articulated  concerns about an apparent lack of communication and movement on equity issues on the part of the university.

Mary Ontiveros portrait

Mary Ontiveros, Vice President for Diversity

“Our university community is hungry for visible signs of unity and of commitment to improving our campus climate,” McConnell said. “Formally aligning the VPD and the RBEI by appointing Mary to a leadership role will go a long way to answering those needs. Not only does Mary have tremendous experience with diversity work at CSU, she has a talented, passionately committed team who already work with our faculty and staff.”

Ontiveros serving as co-chair will enable the resources of the Office of the Vice President for Diversity to align with the needs of the RBEI, including the critical need for more regular and wide-reaching communication efforts. Brit Heiring, director of communications for the VPD, will take the lead on an RBEI communications plan and begin sharing updates through a variety of channels, including social and digital media. Heiring will work in partnership with teams within the President’s Office, the Division of University Communications, and the RBEI core team. Tonie Miyamoto, director of communications for Housing & Dining Services, will also assist coordinating RBEI communication efforts.

Proposal review outcomes

The first step for the new RBEI leadership team will be to share an update on the outcomes of the proposal review process, which was completed prior to the COVID-19 crisis. The RBEI will also communicate the actions planned in relation to the student demands and what initiatives are underway.

“I am grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to launch the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative at CSU: Blanche, Mary, and the rest of the core team; the many members of our campus community who submitted proposals and ideas; the dozens of faculty and staff members who volunteered to read and respond to proposals; and the students who have engaged in these conversations at every step of the way,” said McConnell. “I am excited about our next steps in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus and I know you will all be hearing more about our efforts very soon.”