Students call out CSU to hold individuals accountable for hate speech, harassment on campus

CSU students and community members gathered on Sept. 17 in a demonstration against acts of hateful speech on campus toward LGBTQIA, BIPOC and marginalized communities. Photos by John Eisele/CSU Photography

In a peaceful protest Friday, more than 100 Colorado State University students and staff called for University officials to do more to protect them from hate speech, discrimination and harassment on campus, particularly in free-speech zones such as the Lory Student Center Plaza.

“We demand that CSU make this a more inclusive campus for everyone,” said CSU student Ty Smith, a representative from #CallOutCSU. The group organized the protest, which began in the Plaza and then made its way to the Administration Building.

The event was in response to a recent incident where students and members of religious groups clashed on the Plaza over statements from the speakers, often referenced as “preachers,” that were racist, homophobic and xenophobic.

During the event, Smith listed 11 demands for the University, including the creation of a notification system to immediately alert students, staff and faculty when an instance of discriminatory harassment or a racist, transphobic or homophobic act of violence occurs on campus. Additional demands included relocating those participating in hate speech under the First Amendment to the stump in the LSC Plaza so that they are not as disruptive to students going to classes.

Members of #CallOutCSU met with CSU President Joyce McConnell earlier Friday morning. Smith said McConnell was “very supportive of our ideas and we look forward to working with her in the future.”

In a statement to students, faculty and staff, McConnell lauded their right to “feel valued and supported” by the University.

“Hateful words, like those experienced on the LSC Plaza over the past weeks, far too often target LGBTQA+ communities, communities of color, international communities, communities of specific religions and spiritual beliefs and more,” McConnell said. “This harmful rhetoric goes against our Principles of Community and we condemn it whole-heartedly. Even when hateful speech is legally protected, I urge everyone at CSU to use their First Amendment rights to counter speech that diminishes any member of our community. I say to all who have encountered hateful speech, You are valued, you are respected and we want you here.” 

McConnell also noted the recent launch of the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging module to give students an opportunity to explore their own identities and learn more about allyship skills, bystander intervention and self and community care. She also urged members of the CSU community to reach out to University resources, including the Bias Reporting System and Student Support Resources, if they encounter issues of hate speech, harassment or discrimination.