Open dialogue to address Charlottesville

On Aug. 22, in an effort to increase unity amongst students, approximately 20 to 25 students and staff from MSU Denver gathered in the Student Success Building to discuss the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Carrie Shelton attended a peace rally held in front of the Colorado state capitol on Aug. 20. Photo by Esteban Fernandez. | eferna14@msudenver.edu

There were discussions of personal experiences, which tied into what was seen at the protests and how to create a community where violence is not tolerated.

“We’re setting the stage when it comes to diversity and inclusion,” Associate to the President for Diversity, Myron Anderson, said.

Anderson, said that MSU Denver sets a high bar for its level of inclusiveness.

Eric Silva, assistant director of First Year Success, said, “Because of the diversity of our community, and where students come from in the area, we figured there would be a lot of people who felt personally impacted by what happened in Charlottesville.”

Scott Sherter, from the Office of Admissions, pointed out that there were multiple distinct groups who were targeted by protesters in Charlottesville. After the strides made for LGBTQ rights during the last presidency, Sherter was surprised to hear homophobic insults and Nazi slogans being chanted in the streets.

The event was hastily put into motion for the first week of school in response to the Charlottesville protests. While students and staff packed the room, attendees noted the lack of awareness among students.

The notification about the dialogue was restricted to staff sources, leaving students unaware of the event unless they were told by their professors. While some people who attended the meeting expressed concern that so few students were present, Anderson said the event was effective if just one student was able to get the support they required from the meeting.

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Assistant Director of First Year Success Eric Silva on Aug. 25. Photo by James Bofenkamp| jbofenk@msudenver.edu

To address the low student awareness of the dialogue, Silva said that there was an ongoing discussion on how to reach more students. Rules which apparently prevent the notifications to be sent out in emails will complicate future attempts to notify students.

Due to this restriction, the staff who organized this event are looking into other ways to get the word to students.

“The more people we have there, the more people we can hear different perspectives from,” Silva said, explaining why reaching more students with information regarding these discussions was important.

Anderson said in response to increasingly common outbreaks of violence,

“We need to be the trailblazers.” Anderson said that the school needs to continue working toward making students feel welcome and safe, especially when events across the nation threaten diversity and inclusiveness.

Author: James Bofenkamp

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