Campus Coalition Demands Changes to University Bias Policy


In the wake of student out­rage over racially charged anon­ymous comments that were posted on the Maroon-News website, a new student organi­zation has emerged demanding changes to Colgate’s “Policy on Bias-Related Conduct.”

Calling themselves “Students Demanding Change,” the coalition is led by junior Samuel Spitz and seniors Yasmin Mannan and Trinel Torian. Spitz, along with several other students, began organizing the coalition to provide a source of power to the individuals, himself included, who were victims of big­otry and felt that their voices had been overshadowed.

Their mission statement, ac­cording to Spitz, is to function as “a coalition of students that no longer wish to be invisible. Who no longer will keep silent about the abuses they endure. This is a coalition of Students Demanding Change.”

Members repeated the “coali­tion” element of their movement, emphasizing their desire to include members from disparate parts of the Colgate community and unite in a mutual desire for concrete changes to the way the university deals with bias-related incidents.

“We’re not a group,” Torian, who joined to assist in the lead­ership of the organization, said. “We’re a coalition. We are bound together by hundreds of years of institutionalized oppression.”

The coalition hopes to work within Colgate’s points system and add a mandatory five-point consequence to any student found in violation of this policy.

According to the addendem hand­ed out this Tuesday, this would include “parent or legal guardian notification, prohibition from participating in the off-campus lottery, suspension from student organizations and groups for a period determined by the student misconduct board and an educational program designed by…the National Coalition Building Institute and the African, Latin, Asian, & Native Amer­ican (ALANA) Affairs Committee.”

“There have been some unsuc­cessful groups focused on abstract solutions and abstract change,” To­rian said. “That’s not to say abstract solutions aren’t important, they should have equal weight. But we want an actual practice.”

The group’s first unofficial meet­ing took place on the academic quad on Friday, September 24 after the of­fensive online comments were post­ed on a Maroon-News article written by Torian about race relations.

“Friday we had less than two hours to respond to the comments [on the Maroon-News website] and we got a group of people together,” Torian said. “It was a success. We had a group of people that realized the comments were not right. It was a beautiful thing because we had a group of people I don’t know standing in solidarity.”

The group then held a moderated round table discussion on Sunday, Sep­tember 26 to propose their reforms to students and discuss how to promote a more positive environment on campus.

“This is a college for a certain type of kid,” Spitz said. “If we want our campus to be diverse, this [big­otry] can’t happen. Some of the things being said are not okay and not accountable.”

Students went on to discuss the proposal – how it would affect student involvement, how the cur­rent policy worked, how effective it would be. Several students pro­posed an educational element and a campaign to reduce prejudice and promote self-reporting of offensive remarks and harassment.

On Tuesday, September 28, a group of around twenty members of “Stu­dents Demanding Change” congre­gated in front of Memorial Chapel in the early morning hours and marched down to the Office of Admission, ad­dendum in hand, to demand that President Jeffrey Herbst take action in reforming the Policy on Bias-Related conduct. Herbst greeted them at the door and offered them a seat in the ad­jacent room, but the students refused. The exchange became contentious at times, with several students becoming overwhelmed and crying.

“We are done meeting, we are demanding,” Spitz said. “We’re here for change, and we won’t accept any­thing less. The cultural and social environment is toxic.”

Herbst was understanding and promised the administration would re­view the policy, but admitted there was little immediate action he could take.

“I don’t have a magic wand I can wave that will fix problems,” Herbst said. “Dean Brown and I will guar­antee that we will bring this to the Student Affairs Committee…we’ll take it seriously.”

After the meeting, the group broke into an impromptu chorus of the gospel song, “I’ll Say Yes.”

The association was clear in its assessment of the meeting and their goals moving forward.

“Today we heard more politi­cal rhetoric,” Spitz said. “We will trust President Herbst and the rest of the administration when we see action. We’re not asking for polite conversation, we are ‘Students Demanding Change’…we’re con­fident that the more we act, the more people will realize that the struggle for equal opportunity is not a radical one.”

Later in the day, five members of the group attended a meeting of the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate to present their pro­posal. The students fielded questions from SGA members about the specif­ics of their addition to the bias policy at Colgate. Senate members were generally approving; though some senators were apprehensive about ban­ning convicted students from student organizations, several suggested that a committee or task force be established to review and amend the current bias policy on campus.

SGA President Michael Miller ended the moderated caucus on a pos­itive note but reminded the Senate of the work yet to be completed.

“We thank you for coming here, you facilitated a conversation that needed to happen,” Miller said. “As for the policy, that will come in time. We all want something done, something concrete. This is the beginning.”

“Students Demanding Change” leaders were hopeful about the prospects of their group mov­ing forward and assured that they would not stop demanding.

“We will channel the strength of our mothers and fathers,” Spitz said. “We will utilize the strategies and tactics they employed during the Civil Rights Movement. Be­cause our work today is a continu­ation of that struggle. The burden of progress rests on our shoulders.”

Torian saw the group as be­ing an institution on campus that could provide a voice for students that felt disenfranchised.

“The group is definitely going to be a mechanism for change,” Torian said.

Mannan agreed. “Ours is a shared struggle,” she said.

Contact Nate Lynch at [email protected].