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 Tuesday, March 22, 2005 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Rebuilding Our Community
By Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano

In recent weeks, our campus has suffered a disturbing number of racially motivated incidents. As a community, we struggle both to understand and respond effectively to these demeaning and hateful incidents.

Many of us have expressed bewilderment, as well as outrage, about the motivation of such acts. A 2003 report by the U.S. Department of Justice may shed some light. According to the report, there is no place where hate crimes are occurring with greater frequency, more visibility and deeper hostility, than in institutions of higher education. The report cites rising competition among many students, resentment of perceived special treatment, feelings of insecurity, and difficulties in dealing with differences between groups.

At CU-Boulder, we have tried to better understand these issues by coming together to talk, question, debate and - most importantly - take action. In March, a group of concerned faculty and staff met with administrators to discuss response and prevention strategies. A campus forum was held on April 5 with students, legislators, members of the Board of Regents, administrators and other community members to discuss students' concerns. A follow-up meeting was held on April 8 with faculty, staff and students. These meetings have been very productive and I greatly appreciate the support of all who participate. We need everyone's help to ensure a safe and welcoming environment at CU-Boulder. To that end, I'd like to share some of the key strategies that are in place or being developed to address climate issues on our campus.

Campus Strategies

  • Response protocols are in place for racist incidents in housing areas, including timely notification of residents, requests for help in identifying perpetrators, rewards offered, support offered to victims, and timely investigations by campus police. Hall councils and faculty are involved as needed.

  • Prevention initiatives underway include anti-racism poster campaigns, an anti-racism commission convened by the Residence Hall Association student organization, the development of new initiatives suggested by the Shoulder2Shoulder group, the Colorado Creed and mandatory training in diversity and social justice issues for resident advisors and all residence hall staff.

  • A campus harassment and discrimination policy and program has been drafted to further define and address procedures related to acts of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The policy is in the final stages of development and commitments have been made to allocate resources to implement the initiatives.

  • A harassment response card is being created to provide information on campus policy on harassment as well as how to respond and report such incidents. The card will be ready for distribution to community members this fall.

  • A coalition of individuals and groups, including members of the Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment Working Group, Diversity Education Team, Residence Life Coordinators and Freshman Council is developing training modules on bystander training to encourage students to intercede when another person may be acting or planning to act in such a way that might be harmful to their own or another's health, safety and welfare. The sessions will be implemented this fall.

  • In addition to training and education strategies for undergraduate coursework, bystander training and harassment policy training, discussions are in progress to further strengthen and expand current ongoing training opportunities and requirements for faculty and staff. This training would involve issues of understanding and supporting differences in the university community that would include race, ethnicity, gender, ability, sexual orientation and other dimensions of diversity and is scheduled for implementation next spring.

  • A formal course structure informally referred to as "University 101" or, more formally, "The CU Experience" will be implemented for all students. The goal is to make it a requirement for incoming first-year and transfer students, which will be phased in over a three-year period. This course, supervised by academic faculty and taught by faculty, staff and peer counselors, will specifically focus on several areas of college life deemed most critical to students' success in our environment, including expectations, diversity education, civility, academic skills, alcohol and drug education and conflict resolution.

  • Last fall, the Office of Orientation began plans to include diversity training in New Student Orientation. An internship program was developed in collaboration with the Housing department and the associate vice chancellor for diversity and equity. The first intern will begin work next month.

  • The Colorado Creed is a social behavior statement of standards that CU students, faculty and staff are expected to uphold. The values of the Creed include personal responsibilities, respect, civility and acceptance. Student leaders from a breadth of areas around campus have been involved in this effort for the past year. Installation of the Creed plaque, as well as flagstones with the seven guiding principles, is underway at various locations around campus. Education for incoming students will begin this summer.

  • The Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs (CACMA) will provide oversight for the initiatives that are being implemented to address the campus climate. The intent is to assess the success of the strategies and to recommend improvements to close gaps. CACMA is also a resource for all University departments and individuals seeking to improve CU-Boulder's climate for diversity.

  • We are working with the Boulder City Manager's Office, permanent presidents, and business leaders to address the climate in Boulder for people of color.

  • Students have organized to take a stand against acts of intolerance on campus and in our community through the group "Shoulder2Shoulder." The phrase is taken from the CU fight song and is designed to unify the student body and promote the true meaning of standing side by side with one another through periods when acts of racism, homophobia, sexual assault and discrimination occur. Three rallies held last month drew more than 600 participants.

Changing the Campus Culture
I am encouraged by the positive force and unified nature of all of these efforts that are laying the groundwork for substantive and campus-wide initiatives.

Each of you can help by attending campus forums on these issues, participating in educational efforts, reporting bias-motivated incidents and talking with colleagues about the current climate in your department and changes you can implement to create a more welcoming environment. Your efforts are vital to the continued success of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Thank you.

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