Letter from the President: Responding to diversity petition

Dear CC Students,

In Block 7 we received a petition signed by five hundred students that has engaged faculty, administrators, and peers in important conversations about diversity and inclusion.

We welcome your reflections on what you are learning and your ideas about what we can do to provide the breadth and depth of knowledge and skills you hope to acquire through your undergraduate experience at Colorado College. Unfettered inquiry, probing questions, critical analysis—these are the hallmarks of a liberal arts education, one that fosters a vigorous exchange of ideas, pushes us to the edge of our comfort zone, and ensures a safe place for expression, conversation and argument.

In this letter, we affirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion and describe our efforts to address the issues and concerns you raise.

  1. “The College needs a diverse curriculum; a commitment to including marginalized and/or outsider perspectives needs to be reflected in the syllabi of every single department or program on Colorado College’s campus.” Because we value academic freedom, there are limits to what we can or should do to mandate a curriculum or dictate what is taught. Nonetheless, some faculty do include “marginalized and/or outsider perspectives” in their syllabi, and some engage the topics of race, class, gender, and ability in their courses. Departments and programs can certainly do more to expand and diversify the authorities and literatures they teach and to include and examine the formation and evolution of their disciplines. We will encourage and support department plans to initiate these discussions and we will facilitate conversations across departments and programs.
  2. The College needs to reassess the current all-college requirements “to ensure that students are taking courses that are rigorous for an introduction to issues of global and social inequality.” This year marks the formation of a Diversity and Equity Advisory Board. One of its primary aims is to review our all-college requirements, specifically those designated as West in Time, Social Inequality and Global Cultures. The board will work with the campus Curriculum Committee to address the following questions: What is the purpose of these requirements? Are the designated courses accomplishing what we intend? When should students take these courses? How many of these courses do most students take? To what extent are students likely to engage this subject matter in more than two courses?
  3. “Faculty development is the core of a diverse curriculum and pedagogy; this means the College needs to focus on committing to the development of the current faculty so that they are well-equipped to handle these issues in their classes, as relevant to specific disciplines.” This year is the first anniversary of The Butler Center and the arrival of its Inaugural Director, Dr. Paul Buckley, Assistant Vice President of Diversity. Dr. Buckley is building on the accomplishments of the former Office of Minority and International Students (OMIS) as we gain a clearer understanding of what diversity means on a college campus, now, and in the future.

Beginning next fall, at least one person on every search committee for new faculty and staff will participate in Paul Buckley’s session “Good to Great: Journey to Inclusion.” In addition, the Academic Deans, the Curriculum Committee, and the Crown Faculty Center will organize meetings and forums that enable faculty to exchange ideas about diverse curricula and pedagogies within and across fields of study. Dr. Tim Eatman, of Imagining America, will lead a kick-off event in September. While faculty would like to be “well-equipped” to handle complex issues in their classes, it is important that they have more knowledge about specific issues that affect students in and outside of the classroom. We have asked the co-authors of the petition to gather input from students about their interactions and experiences, and they have agreed to do so.

The college fully intends to continue hiring faculty and staff who can contribute to a diverse campus and curriculum. In the past three years, we have hired 30 faculty in tenure-track positions. Fourteen of these recently hired faculty members are persons of color. Next year, we will welcome six Riley Scholars-in-Residence to campus.

  1. “The forthcoming proposal to make Race, Ethnic Studies, and Migration a major should be fully funded and supported by Colorado College.” All majors are reviewed and approved through a process that involves the Curriculum Committee and requires faculty vote. The faculty awaits the submission of this proposed major for review and consideration.

We aim to position CC as a leader among colleges that emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion in higher education and in a globalized world. By understanding the enduring impact of historical processes and events, and by recognizing multiple sources of meaning and identity, we will create a learning community that is all the more vibrant, precisely because it draws from different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences.

Faculty, administrators, and staff care deeply about what students are learning and encountering in their courses. We wish to ensure that students from all walks of life are welcomed at the table and fully engaged in the intellectual and social life of our classrooms and campus. We will provide opportunities to look reflectively at what is taught and heighten awareness of practices and assumptions that compromise inclusivity.

Sincerely,

Jill Tiefenthaler, President of the College, Professor of Economics

Sandra Wong, Dean of the College and Faculty, Associate Professor of Sociology

Gail Murphy-Geiss, Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, Associate Professor of Sociology

Bryan Rommel-Ruiz, Chair of the Curriculum Committee, Professor of History

 

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