Colorado College’s Native American Student Union announced their disaffiliation from The Butler Center in a press release on Feb. 27, 2019. Though NASU chose to disaffiliate around the same time as the Asian Student Union and the Korean-American Student Association, NASU co-chair Mateo Parsons ’19 said, “)ur rationale is distinct and complex.”
The Feb. 27 press release was written to “dispel rumors and clarify our rationale” for disaffiliating with The Butler Center. For NASU, the choice to disaffiliate centered largely around the hiring process for an Indigenous/Native American Student Support Specialist, a newly established staff position at CC.
Native American Student Union’s mission, “to support Indigenous and Native American students at the Colorado College in safely and comfortably expressing their cultural elements while garnering a college education,” led them to lobby the CC administration to create this specialist position. As Parsons described, it was “designed to provide unique administrative support to Indigenous and Native American students at CC.”
The Butler Center successfully collaborated with NASU in making this position a reality. According to the Feb. 27 press release, they “supported [NASU]’s efforts and … led the hiring process for this new position.” But according to NASU leadership, their input was largely excluded once the hiring process began. “We had hoped that the dually elected leadership of the NASU would be directly and closely involved with the search process,” according to the press release. But in reality, “Our community was offered limited opportunities for feedback and engagement.”
Native American Student Union and The Butler Center had a somewhat complex relationship beforehand. “Our relationship has not always been a good one, but it has always been a functional, working relationship,” Parsons said. Parsons added that NASU leadership had actively been working toward improving their rapport, until the hiring process. It was not the first time disaffiliation had been discussed, “But this was the first time the move had full support of all leaders and all of our members,” Parsons said.
By disaffiliating, NASU aimed to protect its relationship with the local Indigenous community, which they worried the hiring process might have damaged. “We fear that the manner in which the process has been conducted has harmed the reputation of Colorado College, The Butler Center, and the NASU within the Colorado Springs Indigenous community,” the press release reads. “Given the extent of our efforts to establish ties with the Colorado Springs Indigenous community, we see it necessary to be clear that we were not consulted in this process, nor were we directly involved. This, first and foremost, is the reason for our disaffiliation from The Butler Center.”
Though there were “certainly questions and a long debate,” once NASU members reached a decision, the disaffiliation process was “straightforward,” said Parsons. He described The Butler Center as “gracious” during this time.
Despite disaffiliating, NASU is looking forward to working with The Butler Center in other ways. “We hope that they will continue to seek mutual and reciprocal collaboration with our leaders and community,” said Parsons. “We believe that can continue in a collaborative way, without affiliation.”
During Block 6, The Butler Center announced it was disbanding the affiliate model altogether. However, in an email on behalf of the Butler Center Associate Director Pearl Leonard Rock said groups such as NASU will still be able to collaborate on short-term projects of advising. “We hope to have a more innovative structure that better supports the needs of students and Butler Center staff toward our mission,” said The Butler Center.
Native American Student Union remains active on campus and is committed to their mission moving forward. The annual CC Powwow that recently took place “was the largest and most successful yet,” said Parsons. He also voiced appreciation for the naming of Tava Quad saying, “We look forward to a formal dedication ceremony during Homecoming 2019 with invited guests from the Ute Nations.”
As the contentious hiring process ultimately didn’t yield a hire, NASU is excited to see that position fully realized in the future. “We are looking forward to the hiring process for the Indigenous/NativeAmerican Student Support Specialist starting up again, so that we can have someone in an administrative support role to advocate for, and provide resources to, Indigenous and Native American students,” said Parsons.