Students raise questions about diversity in college
While institutions of higher education often include “diversity” as one of their primary commitments, several stories emerging from students at Colorado State University indicate that the education system is far from perfect. In the last several weeks, three students have publicly released their experiences of racism within their respective on-campus jobs.
On March 29, Jessica Balasuriya shared her story via Facebook. According to Balasuriya, she encountered constant racism beginning in 2017 within the CSU Ram Handlers program, the student group that works with the school mascot during various events. As the only person of color on the Handler’s team last semester, Balasuriya often felt isolated from the group. During several events, she was not chosen to participate despite her qualifications.
When Balasuriya tried to bring attention to the exclusionary behavior of the team, her advisor shot her down. Balasuriya decided to leave the team in January of this year, stating that she “no longer want[ed] to represent CSU as a Ram Handler.”
“It was made very clear that I do not fit their mold that is recognized as superior or desirable,” Balasuriya wrote.
When she raised her concerns with the Student Resolution Center, several mediated meetings were set up with the advisors of the Handlers. “The team members and their attitudes towards me gradually got worse after a few meetings,”
Balasuriya said in an interview with The Sentry. Currently, Balasuriya is working with several CSU campus resources to seek resolution.
Two other CSU students, Dominique Rosendo and Anarely Marquez-Carranco, released their stories via Facebook just days later. Both Rosendo and Marquez-Carranco worked as admissions ambassadors giving tours on campus and answering the questions of prospective students. Similar to Balasuriya, both Rosendo and Marquez-Carranco described condescending meetings with supervisors, accusations of lying, and unfortunate termination.
These stories are not the first complaints of racist behaviors against CSU. In 2018, a woman called campus police on two Native-American brothers touring the school, despite the absence of any suspicious behavior. The students were patted down by campus police, but no formal action was taken. In response to the incident, CSU President Tony Frank stated, “People of all races, gender identities, orientations, cultures, religions, heritages, and appearances belong here,” and emphasized the University’s commitment to diversity and change.
The statement released by CSU following Balasuriya’s post asserts that the University is “taking steps to evaluate all related issues and areas, including making changes to ensure the Ram Handlers program is welcoming to all students of any identity from any major on campus.” Noticeably similar responses were released following the statements of Rosendo and Marquez-Carranco, all asserting that inclusion and respect are integral to the University’s core values.
These incidents are not isolated to CSU. During the 2017–2018 academic year, there were 28 reports of violations of the nondiscrimination policy to the Office of Equity at CU Denver. There are a multitude of resources available at CU Denver for students experiencing discrimination, including the Office of Equity; the Title IX office; and the Campus Assessment, Response, & Evaluation Team. Though each situation requires unique action, on-campus resources provide a variety of pathways for reporting students to choose.