Inclusive Colgate Initiative Forum

The student-run initiative called Inclusive Colgate discussed ways to make Colgate a more respectful and inclusive campus during their open forum in the Robert H. N. Ho Atrium on Monday, April 16. Approximately 300 students, faculty and staff filled the atrium and engaged in conversations about the possible ways to address racial discrimination and how to improve the Colgate experience for all members, especially students of color and international students. 

The Inclusive Colgate team began the forum with a presentation that highlighted recent race-related incidents and movements on campus on a timeline. The slideshow cited the fall 2014 sit-in for #CanYouHearUsNow, the glue gun incident that occurred in spring 2017 and the “Ching Chong” incident from this spring. 

All the presenters emphasized that these are not isolated incidents but rather they are indicative of a campus culture, and one that has not experienced enough change or arrived at concrete solutions. They then stressed that this forum should strive to provide recommendations and continue conversations about what an inclusive Colgate means. 

A short video clip called “I Wish” was played for the audience. The video showed students’ reaction to the “Ching Chong” incident. It ended on a positive note with what Colgate students hope to experience here on campus, with many saying they want to unite to create a better community. 

The team then distributed a four-page “blueprint” of recommendations to the faculty, staff, students and administrators and encouraged everyone to get into small groups to discuss it. 

The room became abuzz, with students, staff and faculty working to generate questions and responses to the four topics that are addressed in the blueprint. 

The first item on the blueprint addresses the process of the Equity Grievance Policy (EGP) and the Code of Conduct. Among their suggestions of improvement to the EGP process, they listed “sanctions for perpetrators of discrimination depending on severity and frequency. Minimum sanctions include mandatory diversity trainings, which may take similar format as alcohol and drug training with Jane Jones.”

The next topic addresses student, faculty and staff training for racial diversity and implicit bias. One of their suggestions lists, “offer racial diversity training to students in a format similar to Haven Plus during the first few weeks of school every year.”

The third topic addresses outlets of support and breaks it down by the ways in which departments can improve. The blueprint lists the Counseling Center, Residential Life, Campus Safety and Office of International Students Services. 

In addressing the Counseling Center, the blueprint suggests Colgate “expand Counseling Center facilities and improve accessibility to Conant House.” Many students echoed this, arguing that the center is understaffed and difficult to get to.

For Campus Safety, the blueprint suggests that they hold more outreach events with students of color and international students. In response to this, a student argued that Campus Safety is able to make themselves more available and therefore more familiar with Greek Organizations because they are frequently in contact with them. The student stressed that Campus Safety should strive to make themselves equally approachable to all students. 

For improvements for the Office of International Students Services, the blueprint argues for the creation of “a permanent safe, communal building for international students and international cultural celebration.” Many students, however, cautioned that interest housing, can inherently lead to the separation and seclusion of identities. 

This section ends with the general suggestion to create more outlets for underrepresented students to establish their presence on campus, and to publicize resources for students of color especially during First-Year Orientation.

The final topic addresses academic changes, pointing to improvements that can be made to the Core Curriculum, First-Year Seminars and Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) Forms. The suggestions for the Core Curriculum directly quote the 21-point action plan from the Fall 2014 sit-in. As taken from the previous action plan, a part of the demand reads, “Core courses include national and worldwide perspectives, not just Western traditions.” 

When asked how they went about creating awareness for this forum, one of the leaders, senior Chi Tran explained their efforts.

“We reached out to different cultural groups and departments on campus and enlisted their help in promoting the events to their members/students. Dean McLoughlin also helped advertise for us in [a] Campus Distribution [email],” Tran said.

Tran also explained what the process was like behind drafting the blueprint. 

“A group primarily consisting of senior international students were drafting it together and we tried very hard to pull everything together the day before the forum. A majority of the blueprint was the hard work of Wanying Yang, who also took leadership in organizing this event as well as the speak out that happened before that. It is by no means perfect, but it was all we could contribute given the tight academic commitments,” Tran said. 

Tran reflected on her involvement with the forum.

“To be honest, as a graduating senior I’m not getting much out of this. However, I’d still like to make Colgate a better place for the international and minority students after me and hope that their experience will differ from what I’ve gone through. There’s also a side of me that can’t stand Colgate’s culture of tolerance towards racial discrimination,” Tran said.

After the forum, a campus-wide email was sent out from Campus Distributions with the blueprint attached including an additional section of the comments generated at the forum. 

The email also included an anonymous Google survey to collect more opinions and suggestions from students and faculty about what the final demands should look like. 

The email emphasizes the importance of community participation. 

It reads: “Your input is crucial to building a better recommendation and designing effective courses of action, which will be passed on to the Colgate Administration as well as the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Taskforce.”

Senior Wanying Yang, one of the leaders of the forum and of Inclusive Colgate, explained what this movement means to her. 

“The racial hate crime that happened to Chinese students was not a singular incident. I have been here for four years and have both directly experienced racism and heard many painful experiences of students of color dealing with racism and marginalization. There are many gaps and holes to fill in the system here at Colgate, but it is so hard to have a conversation that involves everyone – faculty, staff, administration and students because we operate [through] a very decentralized system. Therefore, I really wanted to create a space for people to talk openly about what Colgate as an institution can do moving forward to support students of color and international students, and also what each one of us can do within our individual capacity and role to create positive culture changes on this campus,” Yang said. 

Yang explained her opinion on the purpose of her work.

“The ultimate goal of what we proposed in the blueprint is to educate. At an institution of higher education, I believe it is important to have open, respectful and sometimes challenging conversations. I hope the institution does implement mandatory diversity training sessions for all community members, including students, faculty and staff, so people can begin to learn how to respect and interact with others who are from different cultures or background and minimize the chances of inflicting harm intentionally or unintentionally,” Yang said. 

Contact Maddie Veronis at [email protected].