Guest opinion: CU community must engage in discussion of racial justice

Dear CU Family,

The members of the CU Faculty Council Ethnic and Minority Affairs Committee (EMAC) would like to recognize and discuss the important events spurring a meaningful learning opportunity for our society and institution. Due to the national protests and events related to loss of life in citizen interactions with police, we want to honor the experiences and emotions of many within and across our CU community. We also want to encourage our community to engage in important local and national conversations related to racial justice and injustice. We believe this is an important time for dialogue, learning and problem solving around these critical issues. We see these conversations as a powerful way for the university to uphold the Board of Regents’ “absolute commitment to the promotion of diversity in the university community” and a way to reaffirm what the board views as a need to foster a climate of healthy diversity in which people value a rich panoply of diverse ideas, perspectives and backgrounds, individual and group differences, and where people will communicate openly (Board of Regent’s Policy 10P: Diversity).

We encourage everyone to take this opportunity to recognize the biases we all have. As human beings, we interpret and view the world based on the perspectives we have developed due to our personal life experiences. We encourage members of our CU family to take the time to realize that personal life experiences vary and may not have given each member of our CU community the tools to understand the anger and pain that is being expressed around the country due to the no-indictment decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island. We encourage members of our community to resist name-calling and seek understanding instead. We see this as an opportunity to learn about the long history of systemic racism that protesters are acting out against. Those in our society who live at the top of the racial hierarchy have likely never had to live through the various acts of overt oppression as well as the micro-aggressions that people of color face daily across the country and even on our campuses. We see this as an important opportunity to develop understanding around these critical issues through hearing the perspectives motivating protests and seeking opportunities to be part of a solution rather than ignoring the problem or remaining ignorant to it.

We recognize that the important national conversation that needs to occur around racial justice and injustice is a conversation that we need to have within our CU system as well. The problems under protest are not isolated to Ferguson, Staten Island or to citizen interactions with police. As a society, we are structured to inequitably distribute power and privilege based on various axis of identity, race being a significant one. We encourage the entire CU community to take this moment to consider the human dignity of each person and how our “justice” system is systemically unjust to many. We ask our community to consider the value of each human life and how each life taken too early is tragic and worthy of nationwide protests. But mostly, we ask each member of the CU community to listen, learn and act. We suggest that in the spaces where it is difficult to understand various acts of human behavior rests our greatest opportunity to learn and create new understandings.

As the EMAC faculty committee, we recognize that we work in a predominately white institution and have opportunities for improvement within the CU system around issues of institutionalized racism. We sincerely hope that the national conversations that are occurring right now will be a catalyst for us all to listen, learn and act to support human dignity across both the CU system and our nation.

Please take this opportunity to have honest and important conversations in your classes, departments and meetings to listen, learn and act for important social change. As an intellectual and academic community we are uniquely poised to meaningfully participate in this important historical moment with the potential to impact serious change towards racial justice.

If you do not feel equipped to engage in these conversations, please take the time to educate yourself, particularly through the historical contextualization of our modern issues of racism. We have prominent scholars across our campuses who are national experts on various issues of race and inequity. Let’s read their work. Let’s use it in our classes. Let’s create open forums for discussions across our community.

As the EMAC Faculty Council committee we stand prepared to support you in any and all efforts related to racial justice and encourage each member of the CU community to take these issues very seriously. Together if we listen, learn and act, we can take this moment filled with pain and frustration and turn it into a positive catalyst for meaningful and important social change.


The CU system Ethnic and Minority Affairs (EMAC) Committee

Mark Knowles, Chair (CU-Boulder, Anderson Language Tech Center)
Tina Moser (CU Anschutz Medical Campus, Health Sciences Library)
Debbie R. Carter (CU Anschutz, School of Medicine)
Mark Hernandez (CU-Boulder, Engineering)
Darren Chavez (CU system, Academic Affairs)
Omar Swartz (CU Denver, Master of Social Science Program)
Andrew Ketsdever (CU Colorado Springs, Engineering)
Melissa Benton (CU Colorado Springs, Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences)
Fernando Feliu-Moggi (CU Colorado Springs, Languages and Cultures)
Kara Viesca (CU Denver, School of Education and Human Development)
Jennifer Knievel (CU-Boulder, Libraries)