Correction: The poet laureate Ayla Sullivan was incorrectly gendered as female due to an editor’s error. Their proper pronouns, they/them/their, have been restored and clarified.
CU Boulder hosted “Buffs United” Wednesday evening, an event aiming to support an inclusive campus and CU’s often-discussed Colorado Creed. It was put on by CU students, faculty and staff in the Old Main auditorium.
In part inspired by Texas A&M’s reaction to white supremacist Richard Spencer’s appearance on its campus, Buffs United was held on the same evening at controversial Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’s event across campus, which offered caustic rhetoric toward Muslims, lesbians, Native Americans and other groups.
Speakers like Spencer and Yiannopoulos are known for their inflammatory remarks, often sparking protest over their appearances on college campuses. Buffs United was an alternative event planned in part by some of the graduate students and faculty who wrote and petitioned the chancellor’s office for it last month, according to event organizers. Chancellor Philip DiStefano pledged the university’s support for an alternative event in December.
“We’re talking about, here, the basic messages of higher education, the values as put forth in the Colorado Creed,” said CU professor Sam Flaxman, associate professor of ecology and environmental biology and one of the faculty organizers of the event.
“On a day like today we want to make sure that, okay, some students invited [Yiannopoulos] and they have that event, and that’s fine with me personally,” Flaxman said. “[For] other students who are scared and upset, I see my job as a professor as being support for this campus, and I want to support my students. What can I do to make them feel valued and welcome here? That is part of it.”
Chancellor Philip DiStefano endorsed Buffs United and its intentions in a brief speech in the first half of the event that focused on inclusivity, kindness and “[creating] our own message.” He attended with other members from the school administration, including Vice Chancellor Robert Boswell and Provost Russell Moore.
Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones attended and gave a short speech near the beginning of the night. She reinforced confidence in the recent passage of a sanctuary city ordinance for Boulder and the commitment of CU students to “working up to [their] ideals” with social and political change.
The first performance of the night was a poem reading by Ayla Sullivan — the 2017 Denver Youth Poet Laureate, communications coordinator at CU’s Gender and Sexuality Center and member of CU’s Queer and Trans People of Color — who functioned as master of ceremonies for the evening. Following their reading, which lifted the crowd to a standing ovation, musical acts, dance performances and poetry recitations from undergraduate and graduate students of CU filled the night. Those who had performed had heard about the Buffs United organization effort and were excited to get involved with the event.
Each act contained social critiques and messages — some discussed intersectionality, others discussed feminism and others focused on the topic of immigration. Las Dahlias, a female Mexican musical group played two traditional songs as their set, ending with the well-known tune “La Bamba.” Roberta Maldonado, vocalist and percussionist for the group, emphasized that people should “Be proud of who [they] are. Stand up for yourself and stand up for those who have no voice.”
Throughout the night, performers and speakers emphasized what they saw as the importance of identity, inclusivity and positive action to incite progressive change. The Colorado Creed was mentioned multiple times and has held as a base for the event’s message — it was printed inside the paper programs. The back side of the program listed lyrics to songs of peace to be sung “in the case of an event disruption.”
“There were a lot of us that felt like our campus community deserves to have events that celebrate the community, that place value on all the dimensions of diversity that exist on this campus and … affirm the value of each of the members of our campus,” Flaxman said. “Everybody’s welcome here, and if you’re here, we want you to know that you’re a person of value.”
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Lucy Haggard at email@example.com.