Editorial: It took too long for our student government to talk about bias-motivated incidents

From May 2017 – May 2018, Erin Douglas was the primary editorial writer for The Rocky Mountain Collegian. Editorials represent a stance taken by The Collegian’s Editorial Board. Read more here.  

During Wednesday night’s senate session for the Associated Students of Colorado State University, Sen. Tamera Breidenbach started a conversation about bias-motivated incidents on campus – nearly seven months after the first one occurred.

While The Collegian respects the student government’s decision to start the conversation on bias-motivated incidents, it is long overdue. Why did it take so long?

The Collegian has reported on numerous incidents of this nature on campus throughout the academic year, starting with the fake noose discovered outside a Black resident assistant’s door in August and most recently reporting on white supremacist flyers distributed on campus. We estimate we’ve written over 20 news articles related to white supremacy this academic year. This is not normal.

We covered hate so much on our campus that after the first six incidents, we partnered with ProPublica on a national non-profit project to gather better data on hate crimes and bias incidents in the U.S. for use by journalists and civil-rights organizations.

  • On Aug. 29, we reported that a fake noose was hung outside of a Black RA’s floor.
  • On Aug. 30, we reported that a former CSU student participated in the alt-right Charlottesville rally.
  • On Oct. 4, we reported that a wireless network, accessible on campus, was renamed “Fuck Jews.”
  • On Oct. 4, we reported that the words “Hail Hitler” were written on a Jewish student’s dorm room door.
  • On Oct. 12, we reported a public Snapchat of a student painted with a swastika in a residence hall.
  • On Oct. 29, we reported that a mannequin was found in an on-campus trashcan defaced with Nazi symbols.
  • On Feb. 2, we reported that white nationalists counter-protested outside an event and began to incite violence.
  • On Feb. 26 we reported that white supremacist posters were found in academic buildings.

Wednesday was the first time we heard it mentioned by our student representatives.

ASCSU President Michael Wells announced Wednesday night that the organization and the CSU Administration have plans to hold an event called “CSUnite” to bring attention to and work against bias-motivated incidents on campus. Wells and the ASCSU vice president, Cole Wise, wrote a Letter to the Editor before conservative speaker Charlie Kirk’s speech on campus in anticipation of the presence of white supremacists. It’s not enough.

While ASCSU has plans to bring campus-wide awareness and support to the issue in March, it still took the organization seven months to act.

Despite President Tony Frank’s numerous emails and despite The Collegian’s coverage, the student government failed to take any real action, or even make a statement of support, throughout the course of the fall semester. Now, they’ve merely started a conversation.

We realize that the chambers of the student government are a politically charged space. But, it does not excuse them from having tough conversations.

We play a role in this. The Collegian has not done nearly as much as we could have. We wish we had started taking a strong stance against these types of incidents from the beginning, in addition to reporting them. We wish we had started calling it white supremacy instead of “bias-motivated” sooner. We implore ASCSU to do the same. It is important that this conversation started in the student government Wednesday night, and we commend the leaders in that room for doing so. But let’s – all of us– do better, sooner.

This editorial was originally published March 1, 2018 in The Rocky Mountain Collegian. Read the original here.

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