My Colgate has a four year history. In May 2008 the last pages will be written in this history, a history that includes Greek acquisition, SA4C, a lobby to rename Cutten complex and construction on both Case library and the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center.
We think in four year increments. I am part of Colgate’s incoming class of 2004 and graduating class of 2008; these are my four years. Even though many alumni stay engaged with the University, their view is shaped by their time here. And this is a great challenge faced by our institution. We need to look past our four-year Colgate views and build the bridges of our history to evaluate where we are today and where we are going.
Saturday is the six year anniversary of the infamous Oak Drive accident that took the lives of four people, including then Colgate first-year Katie Almeter. A small garden outside of West Hall was planted in her memory, and a rock and occasional flowers mark the scarred tree along Oak Drive where the students lost their lives.
This event is far from the four year memories of Colgate students, but not far from the memory of the University. Colgate Cruisers, blue lights and the Broad Street Initiative were all results of the tragic accident, as Colgate began to evaluate the community and its safety standards. The very face of Broad Street was subtly changed into the Broad Street we know today.
In the same month of November 2001, Colgate also faced a series of racially charged events that led to a seven-hour sit-in protest in the Admission Office, as 75 students requested to meet with various members of the administration. Nine demands were issued at the sit-in, including calls for the University to diversify the student body and acknowledge Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with cancelled classes and mandatory workshops.
Diversity is still an issue at Colgate, but the events in November 2001 proved to be an impetus for a number of new measures, from the commemoration of Martin Luther King Day to the creation of the Diversity Council which released its final Executive Committee on the Diversity Initiative report at the end of 2005. Speakers such as Dr. Rev. Bernice A. King and Anna Deavere Smith have offered keynote addresses for the January celebration, while other speakers such as Lisa Delpit, who gave Tuesday’s Race and Education lecture, have also facilitiated discussions of race.
As Colgate students, we need to think beyond our four years here. Colgate is not just the institution name that will be printed on our degrees. It is our alma mater. Colgate’s history is our history, a past that we need to stay in touch with as we move forward.