Editor’s note: Colorado State University President Tony Frank sent this message to the entire campus community on March 9, 2018.
I always send a spring break message to our students at this time of year – urging you to take care of each other, get some rest, and come back to us after break ready for the last dash to the end of the academic year. This year’s message is a little bit different, I’m afraid…and it comes with an invitation.
Once again this week, our Facilities Management crews had to remove white supremacist literature that was posted overnight on campus—this time in the Lory Student Center. We have chosen, based in no small part on feedback we received from members of our campus community, to be transparent about these issues at Colorado State University and to share information with you on incidents of hate through our Public Safety website and email alert system. This is not a common practice at most institutions and certainly not without risks of its own, such as making it appear these incidents happen only at CSU when, in reality, they are occurring with frequency at college campuses across the nation (the Anti-Defamation League reports a 3X increase in white supremacist postings at college campuses between fall 2016 and fall 2017).
Before classes even started in the fall, there was a noose hung in one of our residence halls. Swastikas appeared on a Jewish student’s whiteboard. There has been racist and sexist graffiti drawn in locations around campus. Again, while none of this is unique to CSU, it is happening here, and silence will not wish it away. We need to stand up to it.
We’ve adopted the alert system around hate incidents because we believe it is important for all of us to understand that these assaults on members of our community are happening, that we have an opportunity as a university to condemn these acts as they occur, and that those who are directly targeted by such acts know that they do not stand alone against this hatred and that the university has resources, support services, and reporting mechanisms to help support their safety and well-being.
In that spirit, I am writing today to invite all members of our campus community to participate in a solidarity walk and community gathering on March 29. We will meet at Newton’s Corner (the sculpture at Pitkin and Center just south of the Behavioral Sciences Building) at 3 p.m. From there, we will walk to the Lory Student Center Plaza, standing together in support of what we value and against these acts of hate and oppression, with the ultimate goal of inspiring learning and action for real change in our own campus culture and in our world. We are calling this event CSUnite: No Place for Hate.
All of us, though we may believe differently about many things, can come together in support of our Principles of Community and to speak out against the corrosive impacts of hate on our character and our campus. Through CSUnite, we are acknowledging that while we cannot prevent such acts, we can be united and we can refuse to be silent in response. We all have a role, an opportunity, and responsibility to confront acts of hate and discriminatory bias when they occur. In participating in this walk and gathering together, we reach across whatever divides us and accept our responsibility to uphold one another, to be alongside those who have been personally harmed or targeted by acts of hate and bias, and to acknowledge the harm such acts cause to all of us as members of this community. What affects one of us, affects all of us.
We also recognize that this is primarily a symbolic act. It is not a solution, nor is it a substitute for the strenuous and difficult work that occurs around these issues on our campus every day. It is simply a step; one small effort in a long journey we are undertaking – and must undertake – together to confront ignorance and hate with education, knowledge, and understanding. This is a statement of community and solidarity, and it will also include resources and tools for people who want to learn more about actions they can take every day to educate themselves, communicate more effectively across our differences, and support a more inclusive, safe, and welcoming CSU experience for all people.
Representatives from nearly every campus division, our employee councils, ASCSU, Athletics, and the City of Fort Collins have all played a key role in organizing this event in a very short time. Most of all, I want to recognize the student leaders of the President’s Multicultural Student Advisory Committee (PMSAC), who represent the Black African American Cultural Center, El Centro, Asian Pacific American Cultural Center, Native American Cultural Center, Adult Learners and Veterans Services, Resources for Disabled Students, the PRIDE Resource Center, International Programs, the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, student-athletes, and the Center for Public Deliberation. The idea for this event originated with PMSAC, and they have been involved in it at every stage. Their leadership, criticism, and insight throughout this year have challenged all of us to recognize the serious issues we face, the need to mitigate and condemn these actions, and to step up and do better together.
I hope you will join me for CSUnite at 3 p.m. March 29. For more information on CSUnite: No Place for Hate, visit CSU’s First Amendment website.
In the meantime, please have a great and restful break, make smart choices, and take care of yourselves and one another.
Dr. Tony Frank