Administrators and Students Discuss Progress of ACC’s Action Plan

On Tuesday, October 23, Colgate held its first open forum titled, “Colgate for All,” aimed to address all campus climate issues. The forum consisted of a panel of three members of the Colgate administration, President Jeffrey Herbst, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Douglas Hicks and Vice President and Dean of the College Suzy Nelson, along with President of the Student Government Association (SGA), senior Sarah Rende. After the panelists discussed the progress made with the 21-step action plan – a road map written cooperatively between the administration and the Association of Critical Collegians (ACC) during the sit-in in September – members of the audience were encouraged to ask questions, raise ideas and engage in a dialogue regarding the university’s plan to recognize diversity and inclusivity going forward.

Herbst began the conversation by briefly summarizing the 21-step action plan and expressing what has been done – and what will be done – in response to the concerns raised by the students at the sit-in.

“The sit-in was an important moment in Colgate’s history. With these forums we strive to promote a safe, open, diverse and inclusive campus environment and achieve our academic and social potential as a university,” Herbst said.

In terms of progress, all panelists and many audience members agreed that the approach will not be to simply check items off of a list, but to create a sustainable and constant awareness and acknowledgement of diversity on campus for years to come.

Hicks also considered the issue of diversity from an academic standpoint. 

“We need to establish a curriculum that meets the demands of the 21st century,” Hicks said.

The conversation opened to the students and faculty in the audience following the panelists’ discussion. A common concern held by multiple students was that the format of the forum itself was not conducive to the kind of change they wished to see. Many students questioned why the SGA was represented on the panel, yet the ACC, the Association responsible for the action and rhetoric addressing the problem of diversity and inclusivity, was not. Additionally, many pointed out that the formality of a panel did not align with the desire to naturally and conversationally practice diversity and inclusivity in day-to-day life at Colgate.

“Clearly this is the wrong set up for this forum. We are looking to all of you for feedback as this is a learning process for us all,” Nelson said.

Both students and faculty supported the establishment of a location where one can propose suggestions and ideas on how to address social problems witnessed on campus. The hope is that this solution will allow greater participation and representation of student and faculty ideas and will be a less formal, more frequent approach to fixing the problem at hand.

Professor of Sociology Rhonda Levine spoke regarding her view of the ways in which diversity has been address at Colgate over the last three decades. Levine referenced Colgate’s first diversity committee, established in 1988. Although she mentioned how addressing the issue of diversity has changed from a faculty-driven initiative to a student-led initiative, the question of accountability still remains.

“Progress should not be associated with our particular names, but with Colgate as a university,” Herbst said.