Colorado College Student Group on Institutional Change Attends Board of Trustees Meeting – The Catalyst

November 11, 2022 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden | Photo from the CC Institutional Change Now Instagram

Compared to many places on campus, the Spencer Center doesn’t receive many student visitors. In general, students attend only to submit paperwork, become college staff, or receive financial aid. Last Friday, however, a group of students entered the building with a strong sense of purpose. The Colorado College Student Coalition for Institutional Change was there to adjourn the Board of Trustees meeting and temporarily take over.

The board of trustees meeting is closed to all not on the board, but student representative Vicente Blas-Taijeron ’24 invited the leaders of the student coalition, who are calling for changes related to mental health programs at CC. Blas-Taijeron met the group outside the building and then endorsed and insisted that they be allowed into the boardroom to share their stories and experiences of Colorado College.

After some back and forth, the board allowed the students to share their message. Ella Fritz ’26, a former student at CC, The conversion began with details of her shock when she entered Colorado College after hearing about its values ​​throughout her life. “I came to CC because you’re supposed to stand for progress and now that I’m here it feels so different. What you say and what you do do not match.”

Part of the disruption for Fritz is the message CC released following the deaths of students. As the group gained momentum at CC, the President’s Council issued messages in response. One of those messages started with “We hear you,” but Fritz feels like they’re not doing enough.

Sammy Ries ’23 also spoke at the board meeting. For Ries, the state of the psychosocial care in the CC is of personal relevance. They were scheduled to take physical chemistry this fall but dropped out because they couldn’t balance it after William Perkins’ 25 passed. Perkins was close to Ries and the emotional turmoil made it impossible to continue on such a demanding course.

The day the news broke was stressful for Ries, they said: “What I had to do instead of grieve was find a way to drop out of my classes because I can’t grieve while I’m doing physics.” Take chemistry… My friends who were in this block almost failed the course without anything external happening… that’s not a burden for students to carry.”

At the meeting, the group leaders went on to describe specific demands that have emerged to address the crisis at CC. They stressed the need for more student housing, a more diverse counseling staff with higher capacity for students, and the incorporation of a mental health day in each block.

Part of the Board of Trustees was open to the demands. Several board members thanked the students for coming and speaking with them about these issues. Bob Selig, tearful at the students’ words, said, “This was perhaps the most polished presentation I’ve ever heard… what I mean by that is that there are just students who have the courage to walk in , a kind of power. Go in and do this.”

Jeff Keller, president of the board, later says that the students didn’t have to crowd into the meeting. He said they can schedule time within the board meeting in the future. He did not make any other important comments on the content of the student moderators.

Although President L. Song Richardson was initially skeptical about allowing the students into the board meeting, he was sure he would go with them when they left. “I want to thank you all for coming and speaking. Please come back tomorrow for the open discussion hours…it was really brave to speak here,” Richardson said.

Her opinion was shared by other board members who came to speak with the student leaders as they left. The Board then immediately proceeded to Executive Session, which includes only the Executive Council on the Board. Blas-Taijeron and the Deans are not on the Executive Board and the minutes of meetings for these periods are not made available to the public.

That didn’t satisfy Blas-Taijeron. He thought it would be helpful if the board responded and spoke about what the students were saying. However, this week’s town hall follow-up to the board meeting, which was due to take place this Monday, has been postponed after the block has concluded.

It was also clear to the student leaders that they did not want to be sensationalized or defended; “[calling us heroes] also appears to be valorizing,” said student leader Gracie Carrello ’25, “which may be headed in a less-than-fantastic direction.” Leaders don’t want to save the day, but rather urge real systemic change. “This has to become urgent for them, uncomfortable for them because they have the power to actually do something,” Ries said.

Ultimately, the group hopes to reignite student interest and engagement after the fall break. “There are so many privileged students who initially showed great interest…they need to get involved because it matters,” Carello said.