After 100 students marched through campus on Thursday in protest of the looming tuition increase, CU Chancellor Philip DiStefano and University of Colorado system president Bruce Benson have released responses to the Take Back Our Campus movement.
On Thursday evening, TBOC organizers—who are also protesting a lack of diversity on campus—released a “Declaration of Human Rights” directed at the administration, a list of 17 goals that they would like for the university to take action towards.
In addition to the goals, which include “No tuition increase next year beyond adjustment to inflation” and “Mandatory anti-oppression trainings for all students, staff, faculty and administration (current and oncoming),” the Declaration requested a public response and acknowledgement from the administration.
An email titled “Perception and reality” was sent out to CU students on Friday from President Benson.
Benson’s statement began by addressing the scrutiny that the university has recently received: “In the past month, stories and editorials have covered everything from salaries to proposed tuition increases,” he said. “Suffice it to say that most have been negative.”
The timeliness of “Perception and reality” had protestors concerned that this was the response the administration was going to give.
“That email was a direct attack for what we did,” one student wrote on TBOC’s Facebook page.
“I REALLY hope this is not the response,” another said. “This is NOT what we asked for.”
The purpose of President Benson’s email was to prove that everything that had been scrutinized – primarily the proposed tuition increase and administrative salaries – was inaccurate due to misinterpretations and exaggerations.
“We have streamlined bureaucracy, made strategic cuts and instituted better business practices,” Benson said. “We have cut millions in the past four years but are always looking for more efficiencies.”
Something that was not addressed, however, was TBOC’s requests for measures ensuring a more diverse campus climate and improved outreach programs. The broad nature of what Benson addressed in his statement did not target the protest in particular, but those who marched on Thursday believe his statement has everything to do with it.
“It was strategic,” Corey Wiggins, a 22-year-old senior political science major and one of the organizers behind TBOC, said. “It’s very passive aggressive towards us.”
Soon after “Perception and reality” was sent out, Wiggins and a few of the movement’s main organizers – who said that they have been planning on protesting these issues for years – received a personal message via email from Chancellor Philip DiStefano.
“I want to thank you for your commitment and passion around the issues you articulated yesterday,” DiStefano said. “Please consider this an official response to your demands. The university cannot arrive at any thoughtful or comprehensive solutions to problems as complex as the ones you outline in just 36 hours.”
The chancellor went on to explain that the issues at hand could be improved upon, but only with ample time and communication between the movement and the administration. He proposed that members of TBOC, along with student government representatives, form a group of 10 “to begin to work with us immediately.”
However, TBOC was not impressed. Wiggins said he felt the administration was making the movement seem impulsive and unfounded.
“I thought the tone was very paternal,” Wiggins said.
Despite frustrations, TBOC knows that relations with the university are important, especially regarding topics as influential as tuition and diversity.
“We have to engage with the administration if there’s going to be any change,” Brittni Hernandez, a 21-year-old senior ethnic studies major, said. Hernandez is one of several other students who, along with Wiggins, is coordinating TBOC events.
The 100-strong group of student protesters plans on meeting regularly for the remainder of the school year. Even with skepticism regarding whether or not TBOC and the administration will ever be on the same page, the movement has already been a success in capturing the attention of the entire CU community.
Above all, TBOC wants to make sure that the administration takes the protests seriously and understands the overall theme of promoting a more inclusive campus. Hernandez is clear in what she would like the administration to offer.
“What I want to hear is, ‘We think that’s a great idea that we can all work on.’”
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Annie Melton at Anne.email@example.com.