Graffiti Prompts Creation of Colgate Creed

Diane Kahng

It was a one-man effort for the most part, but junior Javier Diaz took immediate action against the racist graffiti found in Alumni Hall last semester. As a senator for his class, Diaz has authored the “Colgate Creed” that will be incorporated into the Fall 2009 Student Handbook.

As of next semester, members of the Colgate community may be encouraged to sign the Creed as a commitment to respecting the racial, religious and sexual orientation diversity celebrated on Colgate’s campus. It has taken three months of meetings, planning and drafting, but Diaz has been persistent in creating a document that he believes is long overdue.

In the past, Diaz had noticed other, smaller acts of intolerance that have bothered him, but the graffiti last fall finally prompted him to draft the following Colgate Creed:

“Colgate University is an institution made up of a richly diverse body of individuals — faculty, staff and students. People of different races, religions, sexual orientations, economic backgrounds, abilities and various other backgrounds are present within this community, and the institution takes great pride in this diversity.

As a member of the Colgate Community, I pledge to treat others who are different from me with the same respect and dignity that I wish upon myself.

I will strive to accept the differences of others and work to end intolerance towards other people.

I will respect both the intellectual and physical property of other members of the community.

I will maintain both academic and personal integrity.

The freedoms to work and thrive in a safe and respectful environment are two basic rights that every member of the Colgate Community is entitled to. As such, I will work to uphold these rights for the good of the community, not only as a matter of security, but to preserve the civil rights of all individuals on this campus.”

Originally, this statement was meant to be signed by every student, but a new format has been chosen to make it a more flexible document, according to Diaz.

“We didn’t want it to become a piece of paper students signed, then forgot about,” Diaz said. “We want this to serve as an inspirational document and as an expectation of every Colgate individual. The Creed is not the first of its kind nor is it completely radical. It’s not being imposed on students but is to be used as a reference point. The Creed will be most successful when students themselves choose to abide by its ideals and maintain its code of conduct.”

Support for the Creed has been nearly unanimous, yet some have questioned its effectiveness. There are some concerns over how to effectively make the Creed a living, breathing document on campus.

Speaker of the Senate senior Alana Newhook confirmed that while this was an issue, she was confident that the Creed would inspire the community to uphold its ideals.

Additionally, there is concern that the Creed may alarm prospective students. Onlookers may think that this doctrine was drafted to contain a race problem specific to Colgate.

Newhook, however, disagrees with this analysis.

“I don’t think that will be the case. We’re not going to be more race-conscious in a negative way. We are aware of our differences and we celebrate them. As unique individuals, we are equal parts in what makes Colgate Colgate,” Newhook said.

While the Creed awaits approval in the next month by the Academic Affairs Committee and the Student Affairs Board, Diaz reports that it has already been approved by the Senate in a unanimous vote and that news of it and of its ideas has already reached the ears of at least 300 students.

Many, including Vice President and Dean of Diversity and Associate Professor of Africana and Latin American Studies Keenan Grenell, have been supportive of the Creed.

“This Creed will be the rallying call for setting the tone of Colgate behavior in the 21st century,” Grenell said.

Diaz’s fellow senators have likewise backed his creation.

“As a Senate, we all thought this was a great idea, and we applaud Javi in his pro-activism,” Senator and junior Fred Sisenda said.

First-year Ryan Nelson explained how the Creed and other solidarity efforts have influenced his perception of Colgate.

“Being a freshman, I was first put off by the graffiti incident, but the response I saw through the gathering at the Chapel, the new Colgate Creed and the student involvement in pushing for change was heartening,” Nelson said. “I didn’t expect this incident coming to Colgate, but it has brought us together and founded a sense of community.”