Senior Issue: Social Justice at Colgate and Administrative Inaction


Miller Downer, Managing Editor

I think my first red flag at Colgate was when my freshman year roommate had asked me if I “knew any Black people,” but it might’ve also been when I had first arrived on campus and witnessed the Class of 2021 firsthand. Staring out into the sea of Vineyard Vines, designer shades and luggage, Rolexes and the like, I had to stop and wonder how a metaphorical sizar like me had travelled from a small town in Mississippi to this grossly homogeneous university full of the very people I had only read about on the occasion: the six-figure-rich, the privileged upper-middle, the most insufferable people on the planet. Oh, and all of you who earn more than that: I don’t like you either.

Of course, growing up in the South, I was rarely exposed to ideas of social justice, gender identity and the various -isms that many on Colgate’s campus love to tote around like Kappa cups (thank god I don’t have to see any of those anymore). That being said, I find it incredibly interesting that students can have an encyclopedic knowledge of liberal values and ideas while being so far separated from events and goings-on on campus. Throughout my four years (and even prior), there were countless events of microaggressions as well as blatant hate crimes that marked our class’s progress on the hill. Frankly, looking back on them now (and after asking various friends), I can’t even remember which events happened when; all I have is a vague memory of students grouping together for about three hours, participating in a “protest,” if that’s what you would want to call it, and post-event emails from admin that boiled down to hamfisted apologies for anyone who may have felt attacked at any point in Colgate’s extensively disappointing history repeat ad nauseam. As an outsider looking in on the infamous “glue gun incident,” the University’s response looked incredibly disingenuous, handwavy, and most importantly tonedeaf; now that I’ve spent four years here, I’m happy to report it feels just as bad as it looks. Oh, wait! I forgot the mandatory workshops the university requires you know, the ones people don’t want to go to due to triggering content and, as we can see currently, stunningly lackluster results.

If there’s anything I’ve learned at Colgate, it’s the following: no one cares not the admin, not the staff, and certainly not the student body. In my brief stint as Delta Upsilon’s Sustainability Chair, I couldn’t even convince the house to recycle to actively earn money for drinking copious cans of Keystone so they could buy more beer, rage more face, and punch more holes into their ceilings and walls (no, seriously). As Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair (which was not my official position; our actual chair was only in the position to fluff his resume), I met semi-weekly in the COOP meeting room with other GLO reps, speaking in circles without ever actually making any real progress whatsoever in improving Colgate’s blatantly problematic Greek system. And, in all fairness, what were we supposed to do when GLO members express vocally to their DEI Chairs that they just don’t care at all about the issue? How can change happen if those in the system don’t want to change it? This problem gets more complicated when you consider who’s donating to Colgate University: alumni that were members of the very system that Colgate eventually hopes to abolish; this seems like a conflict of interest, if you ask me.

Point-blank, Colgate’s student body and administration love to behind buzzwords while refusing to actively participate in any actual social change. This has been a common complaint for my peers and myself, and frankly, the University in the past four years has done very little to rectify the situation. I’m writing this article now to urge future classes to do the one thing I could not: make actual change in the University. The next time someone commits a microaggression against international students, instead of going to some sad Brian Casey pity party, get fucking angry. The next time someone comes forward regarding sexual assault and harassment at a GLO house, hold that organization accountable. It’s the student body’s responsibility to push for actual social development on this campus, because I can tell you right now that the administration won’t lift a finger unless you tell them to do so.