CSU Announces New Initiative In Response To Student Blackface Photo

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell announced a new initiative to "attack racism and bias" at CSU after students posted a photo of them wearing blackface earlier this month.

"The Race, Bias and Equity Initiative here at CSU will include students faculty and staff at every step of the way," McConnell said. "It will encompass both short term and long term actions that will be implemented with urgency and courage, and our efforts will be at the individual, institutional and system levels. We start today and we start immediately."

She did not detail the exact plans of the initative, but in prior statements has said the university will call for and fund student, faculty and staff proposal to combat racism, host open discussions about the student code of conduct and host a campus-wide diversity symposium October 14-18.

Earlier this month, four CSU students were seen on social media wearing blackface, with text on the photo reading "Wakanda forevaa," in reference to Marvel's "Black Panther." The photo has since been taken down.

McConnell said after that the students did not violate any university rules or policies and they would not be punished. However, the email alluded to the university's plans to launch new initiatives.

McConnell announced the initiative during the fall address in a speech to students and faculty. She told students they have the right be angry, that she respects their outrage, and she commended students protesting the university and "exercising their First Amendment Rights." McConnell asked that students use their anger to cultivate hope and work with the university to make things better.

The initiative was modeled after a similar program the University of Washington started in 2015, McConnell said.

One of the students in the photos, Leana Kaplan, a CSU freshman released a statement to the Coloradoan and spoke with the CSU student TV station. CPR was unable to reach her for comment for this story.

McConnell ended her speech by talking about the affordability and accessibility of college, making higher education more nimble and improving CSU's research.