Race, Bias, and Equity Initiative

Photo: John Eisele / Colorado State University

Responding to calls for an improved climate for people from diverse backgrounds, Colorado State President Joyce McConnell last fall launched the CSU Race, Bias, and Equity Initiative to enact new programs envisioned by members of the campus community. The initiative aims to permanently improve the workplace and educational environment for all.

“I want us to create a campus climate that allows our students, faculty, and staff to truly thrive,” McConnell said during her November inaugural, after formally announcing the initiative during the President’s Fall Address in September. “Every single member of our community deserves to know they are welcomed and valued for every aspect of their identity.”

In announcing the initiative, McConnell underscored the mission of CSU and other land-grant universities to provide access to excellent education for all students with the talent and motivation to earn college degrees, regardless of background. That means not only opening University doors, but valuing the perspective of every student who walks through and taking active steps to ensure the campus experience is defined by equity in and out of the classroom.

By the end of fall semester, the initiative’s core team had received some 50 proposals, ideas, suggestions, and offers of assistance from members of the campus community. Work teams are evaluating the concepts, potential costs, and ways some of the most promising ideas might be quickly enacted.

McConnell launched the initiative after a spate of incidents at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. These included a viral social media post depicting four white students in blackface and swastika graffiti found at a campus apartment complex. The blackface incident, in particular, elicited an outpouring of pain and anger from students of color about race relations at CSU and prompted leaders to seek new ways to proactively instill respect for diversity on campus, said Blanche Hughes, vice president for student affairs and lead administrator of the Race, Bias, and Equity Initiative.

The CSU initiative is kicking off as FBI data and multiple independent reports confirm an increase in bias incidents and hate crimes on college and university campuses across the country, reflecting a broader trend in mounting hate crimes in the United States. Nationwide, campus cases spiked by 40 percent from 2015 to 2017 alone, FBI data show. Incidents targeting African American, Jewish, and LGBTQ students were among the most frequent.

Colorado State has worked for decades to promote inclusion, respect for diversity, and academic success among minority students, understanding the crucial importance of these advances to generating new ideas, innovations, and success in an increasingly diverse society. These long-standing efforts have contributed to a 2019-2020 student population of more than 34,000 that is 25 percent diverse and to the steady narrowing of student achievement gaps based on race, income, and family education, among other factors.

“The schools that are doing the best job with these issues are sending students out into a more diverse world to succeed and thrive,” Hughes said.

To learn more, visit the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative website.