Safe spaces for difficult conversation


Many members of our campus community have expressed a desire for safe places and opportunities to join in conversations about the complex, difficult issues of race, justice, and equality in our society. Several incidents in the past year, including the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown last fall and the recent murder of three Muslim students in North Carolina, have left many among us wrestling with anger, disappointment, fear, resentment, and sadness – and uncertain of how to engage the conversation about these issues with those around us.

As CSU President Tony Frank wrote in a message to the campus community last fall, “No place is more equipped to pilot these difficult conversations than a university ­– a community committed to the safe debate and exchange of ideas.” That is our purpose in writing to you today.

Our university has a series of discussion opportunities available for those who want to explore these complex issues and express their feelings and thoughts in a safe environment. Under the direction of the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and the Division of Student Affairs, some of these critical conversations will be topic- driven, but for most, the discussion agenda will not be set, but rather will develop more organically, arising from the issues of the day and the needs of those participating.

This is an important time in the history of our country, and an important time for all of us in higher education to engage thoughtfully in the issues and challenges before us – to comfort each other, to listen, and to learn from one another as well as from current events. The goal in offering some facilitated dialogues will be to create safe spaces in which to have these candid, and likely uncomfortable, critical conversations – spaces where people can feel safe to ask questions and express their feelings.

We are fortunate that there are already many opportunities on our campus for this kind of dialogue, including programs offered through Ethnic Studies, Student Diversity Programs and Services, the President’s Commission on Women and Gender Equity and others. We are also creating some new venues to help address this need. The following opportunities to connect and talk are planned by various offices this semester:

  • The Multicultural Staff and Faculty Network will host several discussions throughout the semester, offering opportunities for campus community members to connect and talk about diversity, inclusion, and other difficult topics. These discussions will be posted on the Office of the Vice President for Diversity website. The MSFN will host a discussion at the College of Business regarding “Raising Diverse Children in Today’s America,” at noon, today, February 20, in Rockwell Hall Room 119.


  • A collective group of offices within the Division of Student Affairs will host a series called “Cookies & Conversations” for students who want to talk about issues of identity, societal dynamics, and social justice – and meet others interested in the same things. All sessions will be held from 3-4:30 p.m. in Room 226-228 of the Lory Student Center. Dates for this semester are today (February 20), March 6 and 27, April 10 and 24 and May 8.


  • The Black/African American Cultural Center hosts a weekly program for students called REAL Talk, designed to give students the opportunity to discuss various “hot topics” in an open environment with student facilitators.  These sessions are held every Tuesday afternoon at 4 pm in Room 335 of the Lory Student Center (the B/AACC Office).


  • The Vice President for Diversity will host a series of open discussions for faculty and staff at the Diversity House, on the corner of Laurel and Shields. If there is a specific topic scheduled, that will be posted on the Diversity website in advance; otherwise, discussion will focus on current issues of concern to participants. Sessions for this semester will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. February 26, March 30, April 27, and May 18. Visit the website for more information.

We invite all members of our community who want to participate in these dialogues to join us this semester.

Dr. Blanche Hughes
Vice President for Student Affairs

Dr. Mary Ontiveros

Vice President for Diversity