Planned Student Protest on Friday

Sep 24, 2020

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

A few months ago, we made a commitment to keep faculty updated about happenings on campus that impact our students around social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As we saw last spring, the interconnected challenges of the crises surrounding COVID-19 and racial violence and societal discrimination have a specific impact on the students we teach. Being aware of details on campus that impact our students helps us be more responsive in our classrooms which helps us create a more inclusive teaching environment. In that light, we want to inform you about an upcoming student protest.

This Friday, September 25th, Righteous Anger! Healing Resistance! (RAHR), a student group, will lead a protest march. This event will begin at noon at the corner of South University Blvd. and East Warren Avenue. The Denver Police Department will provide an escort for one lane of traffic, allowing for the protestors to safely employ physical distancing as they walk the perimeter of campus. Afterward, students will hold a speak-out at Observatory Park at the corner of East Iliff Avenue and South Milwaukee Street. Protestors will be spread out around the park to meet physical distancing protocols. DU staff have been working closely to support students with this protest.

Many of you may have already received inquiries about the protest and we wanted to provide you with information in support of our students, colleagues, and your own professional and personal experiences during the two current pandemics.

Why are the students protesting?

RAHR, as a student group has detailed their goals and demands of the university:

  1. Get rid of the “pioneer” moniker and all associations with “pioneer” by February 2021.
  2. Create a Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) department by June 2021.
  3. Reconstitute the Native American Advisory Board.
  4. Increase hiring and retention of faculty of color through equitable and sustainable practices (particularly Black and Indigenous faculty).
  5. Increase engagement with Indigenous communities, such as the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Ute Mountain, Ute, and Southern Ute (e.g., scholarships, mentorship programs, etc.) by June 2021.
  6. Divest from any and all ties with ICE and all other detention/correctional facilities.
  7. Create a seat for students on the Board of Trustees.

As part of the work of the 2020-2021 DEI Action Plan, some of the demands listed above already have forward movement. As an example, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) through its Native American Liaison & Program Manager, Stevie Lee, is working closely with the Special Advisor on Native American Partnerships and Programs, Dr. Billy Stratton and interim Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Tom Romero to convene a fall gathering of the Native American Community Advisory Board (NACAB). This will entail the invitation of tribal representatives of the Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho, and Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho nations back to our community, as well as members from the Ute community, and Denver Indian community. This will also entail continuing our ongoing collaboration about how we can continue to strengthen our partnership and promote healing and understanding. Impacted by COVID constraints, they have been working to identify a time when the NACAB can meet in person. ODEI understands that increased engagement with our Indigenous communities is an imperative goal of NACAB, and ODEI will provide updates on progress over this academic year through a dedicated webpage to launch soon at DU’s DEI web portal.

How might I engage with students with regard to the protest within the classroom and with advisees/mentees?

  • Consider ways in which you might bring the topics of and/or the contexts and histories that ground student demands and protest into your classes. For support, reference the Inclusive Teaching Practices website within the Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL).
  • Know about the variety of DU resources for supporting students as they engage in protest and navigate the reality of systemic racism and discrimination.

Should students, staff, or faculty fear retaliation for engaging in protest?

No. The University of Denver is committed to freedom of expression and political engagement for the entire campus community. Participating in demonstrations is protected and does not prompt any disciplinary actions related to the purpose or act of demonstrating. 

It’s important that the participation in demonstrations is balanced with the expectations for behavior in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the DU community participating in on- or off-campus demonstrations must follow COVID-19 mitigation measures including wearing face coverings and social distancing. Not doing so would be a violation of established protocols and state and local public health orders. Many of these protocols, policies, and procedures can be found here:


If I want to support the students, how can I do so without violating COVID protocols?

This protest is student-led and in light of COVID-19, students have been working hard and in consultation with numerous faculty and DU staff to balance a show of support with concern about density and physical-distancing. We understand that the decision to attend Friday’s events is a personal one and is weighted by a variety of considerations including protocols to wear a mask and maintain 6-feet of separation. The University will be providing on-campus locations to participate in-person at the Warren Circle outside of the Mary Reed building and the Carnegie Green (no more than 50 people at each location).

We also know that these issues will reverberate beyond the day of the protest and there are many ways faculty support students inside and outside the classroom. We ask you to consider being pedagogically engaged for our students by bringing the larger contexts and/or histories that propelled this protest into your classroom as appropriate for your course content. For information on engaging such topics in your classroom, please visit the Inclusive Teaching Practices website in the Office of Teaching and Learning.

Thank you for all you do to support our students and each other during these trying times.

Wishing you well,

Kate Willink signature

Kate Willink
Vice Provost of
Faculty Affairs

Sarah Pessin signature

Sarah Pessin
Faculty Senate President

Tom Romero signature

Tom Romero
Interim Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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