Wearing black and gold shirts while chanting the CU fight song, students came in waves to show support for their community while protesting rising tuition costs and a lack of diversity on campus.
Starting at the UMC fountains Thursday afternoon, approximately 100 students showed up to have their voices heard. Some students carried signs and banners to show their frustration with the CU administration’s plans to increase tuition by 15.7 percent and the dismal inclusion of diversity on and around campus.
Alice Matiosian, a 19-year-old sophomore theater tech major, said she came with her friends after hearing about the event on Facebook.
“I think this is an important thing to fight for, and it’s important that the administration hears what students have to say,” Matiosian said.
Unlike the Occupy movement, which has seen relatively small turnouts in the past few months, the Take Back Our Campus protest drew large numbers to their cause.
Corey Wiggins, a 22-year-old senior political science and secondary education major, who is also involved in the Queer Initiative and Center for Multicultural Affairs, helped organize the event through Facebook, which currently has 361 members—a number that continues to grow only two days after the event was created.
“We were inspired by students being fed up with tuition increases and with the new administration getting raises off our tuition,” Wiggins said. “I’m graduating with $60,000 of debt on my back while Chancellor DiStefano is getting a raise.”
But this protest wasn’t just about tuition increases, Wiggins said. Students attending the protest were encouraged to write their concerns down to be given to DiStefano to address.
Kiki Thomas, a 20-year-old junior psychology and French major, said being a student of color makes her feel less accepted in the CU community.
“When I came to CU I felt like I was lied to,” Thomas said. “There’s a pamphlet that they give incoming students and it was all these different faces and colors and so I thought it was really diverse. And then I came here and I was like ‘whoa!’ When people ask how I like CU, I say it’s very aesthetically pleasing, it’s beautiful, but I never got the welcoming that I thought I was going to receive and I felt alienated in a sense. “
According to a Fall 2011 diversity report, 1.7 percent of the student body was comprised of African Americans, with a 5.9 percent representation of Asian Americans and 7.7 percent representation of Hispanic Americans.
Student protesters marched to the chancellor’s office at Regent Hall but were met with locked doors. Outside the building, students took turns speaking through a megaphone to a crowd of cheers.
Logan Shlutz, a 19-year-old sophomore international affairs major, said increasing tuition for students makes the school less inclusive.
“This increase takes away the opportunity of a good education from everyone because of ridiculous increases that are far above our level of competitiveness,” Shlutz said. “What makes CU so great compared to other universities is that we offer so much, but as we start to take that away and raise tuition dollars, that doesn’t seem to follow our regular business model. So here we are to tell them that it’s not ok.”
Thomas and her fellow protestors agreed that while tuition is a major concern, it’s only one of many.
“It’s about inequality and discrimination and tuition is only one facet of that,” Thomas said. “It’s a bigger problem than people think, it’s about the welfare of students here. We want to bring awareness to it because I don’t feel like anyone has been listening to our voice. There’s a need and it’s not being met and that’s a problem.”
Assistant dean of student affairs Gardiner Tucker said he was happy to see students making their voices heard.
“I think it’s great to see our students active and involved in issues that affect all of us at the university and in the state,” Tucker said. “That’s how you make real change.”
Organizers of the protest said they want an answer to their concerns from DiStefano by 5 p.m. Friday. After that, Wiggins said they would meet again at the UMC to plan a course of action.
Wiggins said that he hopes to see an even greater turnout in the days to come. As him and fellow protestors taped signs and banners to the front entrance of Regent Hall voicing their concerns, Wiggins said he looks forward to DiStefano’s response.
“We want to see if we’ll get an adequate answer and we’ll move forward from there to see what our next action will be,” Wiggins said. “We’re going to keep protesting until students feel safe, equitable and included on this campus and they feel like they’re Buffs.”
Corey Wiggins speaks to a group of students outside the UMC (CU Independent / Amanda Moutinho)
Contact CU Independent Editor-in-Chief Sebastian Murdock at Sebastian.email@example.com.