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Black Leaders Urge University Of Colorado to go on Offensive Against Racism

Black Leaders Urge University Of Colorado to go on Offensive Against Racism

Black community leaders recently urged the University of Colorado to recruit more minority students and faculty and to protect them from harassment after a string of racially tinged incidents on the Boulder, Colo., campus.

“Racism is a cancer and there can be no peaceful coexistence with cancer,” says the Rev. Paul Burleson, president of the Greater Metropolitan Ministerial Alliance. “Either we get rid of this cancer or it will get rid of us.”

A 20-year-old CU student suffered a broken jaw in June in what police say was a racially motivated attack. Two CU students face charges over a racist e-mail sent to a Hispanic cross-country runner (see Diverse, Jan. 12). Other racially charged incidents on the campus are also under investigation.

Burleson is a member of a commission that newly appointed CU President Hank Brown created in August to study the problems and recommend changes. The panel, made up of about 40 business and civic leaders, met for the first time on Jan. 21.

“In 2006, you’ll see a much more aggressive African-American community,” says former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, also a commission member. “Our expectations for 2006 are very high.”

The commission will study diversity at the university’s other campuses after it makes its recommendations for the Boulder campus, CU spokeswoman Michele McKinney says. After the commission issues its recommendations, CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano will have 60 days to tell Brown how he plans to address them.

Webb, Burleson and others say university officials have been receptive to their concerns, making them optimistic about solving race-related problems, which they say have “plagued” the university for at least 30 years.

“It is a moral issue,” says state Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver. “I call upon CU, President Brown and other leaders of the state … to stand with us in telling our kids this is a state free of hatred, this is a state free of bigotry and this will be a state free of racism.”

The leaders say they would ask the university to agree to an outside audit of its progress.

“Someone has to be able to validate CU statistics to make sure they’re relevant and haven’t been [changed] to put on a good public face,” Webb says.

According to McKinney, Brown is open to that idea but will wait to hear the commission’s recommendations before determining whether an outside monitor might be necessary.

Of the approximately 28,600 students on the Boulder campus this year, 6 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 6 percent Asian, 1.4 percent Black and 0.6 percent American Indian, the university reported.

Overall, 19 percent of Colorado residents are Hispanic or Latino, while Blacks make up 4 percent of the state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2004 American Community Survey.

Last month, the Pioneer Fund of Denver donated $1 million to help CU establish a $7.5 million scholarship endowment to boost diversity through the school’s Pre-Collegiate Development Program, which prepares middle school and high school students from traditionally underrepresented groups for college.

Associated Press

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