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Faculty Senate discusses Safer Spaces Resolution

The measure was jointly developed with students in the wake of last summer’s movement for racial justice.

By Cory Phare

February 2, 2021

The first Metropolitan State University of Denver Students walking on campus on a snowy day.Faculty Senate meeting of 2021 saw an in-depth discussion around a component of the school’s commitment to become an anti-racist institution as expressed by the Board of Trustees last June 16.

Kat Martinez, Ph.D., director/chair, Gender Institute for Teaching and Advocacy; Douglas Mpondi, Ph.D., chair, Department of Africana Studies; Adriana Nieto, Ph.D., chair, Department of Chicana/o Studies and X Johnson, GITA student staff and Student Government Association representative, provided a first read of the Safer Spaces Resolution. The measure was jointly developed with students in the wake of last summer’s movement for racial justice after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Faculty Senate President Katia Campbell, Ph.D. (communication studies), noted that the resolution’s passage would not make immediate absolute changes but would open up further discussion and engagement.

“Our departments have a long legacy of engaging in responding to injustice,” Nieto said. “It’s not easy; there’s not a quick solution, but we have to honor the experiences and stories our students tell us at a place where we say we want to be an anti-racist institution.”

One of the elements proposed includes disallowing police presence in MSU Denver spaces and operationalizing alternative mechanisms of community support as an effort “allowing all students, especially students of color who experience increased police harassment and state violence, the space to learn, create community and assemble on campus,” as outlined by the text’s authors.

Andrea Borrego, Ph.D. (criminal justice and criminology), addressed the lack of access to comprehensive data on police violence and historical ties of police to slave patrols as structural challenges that impact students to this day.

“When we talk about this resolution, it’s because police are not a symbol of safety for everyone,” she said. “We need safer spaces for students, especially BIPOC students, to not relive trauma they may have experienced and be able to focus on learning.”

Johnson echoed this sentiment with a personal connection.

“When I come into the classroom, so does my salient identity as a Black man with my lived experience,” he said. “And when we create a safer institution for our most marginalized communities, it benefits us all.”

Other items in the resolution include revamping purchasing practices as a state institution and divestment from specific corporate partners.

“If we’re approaching our colleagues, dialogue and civility are key, instead of personal attacks,” she added.

Nieto asked for any questions to be directed simultaneously to her, Martinez and Mpondi. To ensure for access and procedural adherence, the Feb. 3 second read will be postponed; the Senate will then proceed accordingly, after further discussions with the authors of the resolution and the Executive Committee.

Topics: Faculty Senate

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