The crowd, partially covered by rainbow shade umbrellas, swayed to Puerto Rican bomba music. Under the mid-day sun, representatives of the three higher-education institutions and a collection of community leaders gathered in front of the Tivoli Student Union building, near a flag held at half-staff in remembrance of the lives lost.
Tragedy often has a way of bringing people together. In the wake of the recent events across the nation, Solidarity@Auraria was born. The inaugural event on July 11 was held to mourn the lives lost in Orlando and for the diverse population of the Auraria Campus to band together in mutual support.
“The nature of the Auraria campus is one built on community,” said Barb Weiske, executive vice president of administration and chief executive of the Auraria Higher Education Center. “It’s built on a model of inclusiveness.”
Obi Oberdier, a senior at CU Denver, spoke alongside a number of students representing each of the colleges on campus, some of whom identified as part of the LGBTQ community. “We all speak from a different intersection of cultural identity, but we all represent students on Auraria Campus,” he said, to the applause of the audience.
Whether it came from students, community leaders or CU Denver Leadership, the message was clear: the Auraria Campus and its collective institutions want to do everything possible to continue to support the diverse community that lives, works and studies here.
“I think our gathering today is timely in terms of honoring and celebrating those victims,” said Brenda Allen, PhD, CU Denver vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, “but also reinforcing our commitment to diversity and inclusion and saying we are a tri-institution that is really dedicated to solidarity.”
Unpredictably, in the time it took to organize Solidarity@Auraria, other lives were lost in national tragedies, including those who worked as peace officers. To foster a conversation between the Auraria Police and the Auraria community at large, a second event took place the next day.
CU Denver Black Student Services sponsored the “It’s Time to Talk!” event on July 12. The event’s location — a room in the Student Commons Building – proved to be an emotional and intimate space. “We value all voices and perspectives,” Allen said to the gathering of about 30 people. Participants from all sections of the campus shared their feelings about the recent tragedies in Dallas and Orlando, and were able to have an honest dialogue amongst themselves and also with campus police.
Michael Phibbs, Auraria Campus police chief, held a brief question-and-answer forum where he explained his philosophy of inclusiveness and how he is able to directly affect the interactions on campus. When someone applies to work in the police department, he interviews the candidate personally. As part of that meeting, Chief Phibbs asks how they feel about serving a diverse campus. Beyond what the candidates say, he watches how they react. He wants the men and women he works with to share the campus’s values and culture of mutual respect.
Members of the CU Denver Black Student Services and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion plan to organize more events like these in the future and welcome any ideas on the ways to best support students on campus.
Also, on Aug. 18, a group of faculty and allies from CU Denver | Anschutz convened at the Lawrence Street Center’s Terrace Room to show solidarity for LGBTQ+ members of our community. This back-to-school event, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, is an annual occasion planned by our LGBTQ+ faculty.
Together, these events are part of a continuing effort on campus to support and encourage diversity.