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Global Connections

Respecting diversity of opinions, religion, race, etc.

February 15, 2010

One of Colorado State's most important priorities is to make the campus a more welcoming and inclusive community, to reflect a diversity of opinion, religion, race, etc., and to continue improving access to education and facilities.

A student demonstration on the steps of the Administration Building on Oct. 21, 1968.

A look back at campus history

But diversity efforts have not always been a major focus of the university. The turbulent era of the 1960s was, perhaps, a defining moment in the university’s history to begin to recognize the importance of diversity in all its wealth of meanings.

In his history book, Democracy’s College in the Centennial State, Professor James Hansen noted that the civil rights movement of the 1960s was one of the first to stimulate student activism at Colorado State – and one of the first times the university was asked to recognize and help resolve such issues. 

“It was a period of overwhelming growth at the university and upheaval nationwide,” Hansen said.

Turmoil of the 1960s

Key leaders of the nation had been assassinated, protests were raging against the Vietnam war and civil rights activism was increasing. When minority groups such as Black Student Alliance and Mexican-American Committee for Equality formed to prod Colorado State to do more in opposing racial discrimination, the administration found itself scrambling to answer. In a 1997 interview for the College of Liberal Arts newsletter, Paul Chambers, a Colorado State sociology student in the late 1960s and a founder of Black Student Alliance, remembered the turmoil of the era.

“There was perhaps a total of 100 minority students on campus, and that had to change,” Chambers said. “The impetus for Black Student Alliance was to provide educational and career opportunities for all minorities, whether Hispanic, Asian, Native American Indian, or African-American.

Students led a protest during halftime of the CSU vs. BYU basketball game in January 1970.

Chambers and leaders of other minority groups held extensive meetings with President William Morgan and other officials, but the results were less than satisfying to many of the people involved in the talks. While Morgan was receptive to the demands forwarded by student leaders, he was unable to promise extensive recruitment efforts for minorities because of lack of funding.

Affirmative-action arrives

The General Assembly rejected special budget requests to assist the socially and economically disadvantaged, thus forcing the university to bear the fiscal burden in meeting minority student needs. Toward the end of the 1960s, “Although the civil rights problem had been recognized, it had not yet become a major institutional priority,” Hansen noted. 

But change did come to the university, helped in part by the advent of federal affirmative-action programs and the need for Colorado State to develop plans as mandated by the newly-formed Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Over the next several decades, the university worked toward a greater appreciation of diversity and its many ramifications by incorporating programs and other structures that would benefit not only the university but the community at large.

To be continued. . .

Excerpt from "A brief history of diversity at Colorado State," first published in Comment, Feb. 6, 2003, and written by Paul Miller.

Campus resources