To start the year off, Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler sent all students, staff, and faculty an email titled “Building a Diverse, Inclusive Community” that delineated the steps CC will take to become a more “inclusive” and “anti-racist” community. Among the initiatives was the creation of a committee to examine racism and exclusion on campus.
“The members of the Steering Committee were chosen by me in consultation with campus leaders,” said Tiefenthaler. “For example, the CCSGA President and the Butler Center nominated the student members. Neena Grover, Professor of Biochemistry, was one of the faculty selected to be on the committee. After the students brought up the issues of racism on campus and in the classroom climate, we wanted to examine the practice the external review of student experience and classroom experience.”
Grover directly acknowledged the impact racism has on CC and stressed the importance of an external review of racism. “We first want to focus on racism and being anti-racist as it relates to everything else and how [other areas of inequality] should connect to it,” Grover said, “So [our goal is] how to recognize [racism] in ourselves and how to make the culture of CC evolve so that we do a better job, so that we do good by all our students. I’m very, very optimistic.”
So what changes have already been made around campus, and what changes are yet to come? Sophomore and Vice President of Inclusion Cameron Mongoven spoke about his role as a student member of the review committee. “Right now we are in the process of selecting the people who are going to be conducting the external review . . . We’re having an outside organization come in to conduct an objective view of policies, practices, cultural norms as they relate to institutional racism on our campus,” said Mongoyen.
“It’s intentionally called an external review of racism here at CC just because it’s something that I don’t think a lot of other schools will have owned up to; a lot of other reviews are on diversity and inclusion, but here we’re examining race. I cannot express how difficult evaluating something like this is, because it’s not quantifiable, you can’t measure the experiences of other students to [one] another.”
Grover mentioned the abolishment of the West in Time requirement as a direct result of student input that has already elicited positive change. She also spoke to the recent creation of the Indigenous Studies minor backed by the Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies department. “We are making changes slowly, and a lot of the faculty hired in the last few years are hired with the perspective of social justice in mind,” Grover said. “We are increasing the number of African American, Native American, and other underrepresented groups [in both the faculty and the student body].”
Mongoven also highlighted the importance of student voices in the process of creating an anti-racist community on campus. “A lot of this change comes from the voices of students, and they are more than welcome to voice their opinions and experiences to me and others on the committee,” Mongoven said. Grover agreed, citing the group of students of color who presented at the seventh block faculty meeting last year. She concluded, “The executive committee is not one that operates behind closed doors; rather, it flourishes on the words and opinions of the Colorado College community.”