CU Boulder converting residence hall into social justice-centered communities

Posted at 3:20 PM, May 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-19 17:49:47-04

BOULDER, Colo. – This coming fall, students living on campus at CU Boulder will be able to choose from a pair of new living environments, both of which will be focused on diversity and social justice.

The university is adding two new “Living and Learning Communities” to the existing Hallett Hall dormitory building: The Lucille B. Buchanan and Multicultural Perspectives LLCs.

The Lucile B. Buchanan LLC will be geared toward black-identified students and their allies, while the Multicultural Perspectives LLC will be designed for students with a broader interest in diversity and social justice. The new LLCs will join the existing Spectrum LLC, which houses LGBTQIA students.

The new LLCs also will include a new peer mentorship program that will connect current students with incoming students in an attempt to foster dialogue around social justice issues.

Students who have volunteered to be mentors say they’re looking forward to the opportunity to spur change on the CU Boulder campus, which isn’t as welcoming to minority students as it appears.

According to the university’s latest diversity report, minorities made up 24 percent of the undergraduate student body in the fall of 2015, with black students accounting for less than two percent of enrollment. Hispanic/Latino and Asian students made up 10.6 percent and 5.4 percent of students, respectively.

“People who look at CU Boulder from the outside might see a very diverse institution,” said sophomore peer mentor Jaela Zellars, “But as both a woman and a student of color, I know that we have a lot of work to do, and I want to play a part in helping to promote those changes within the residence halls.”

Following the announcement of the new living environments, some news outlets – both local and national – immediately pounced on the news, saying the Lucille B. Buchanan LLC in particular amounts to university-sanctioned segregation.

The Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial saying the plan “violates the spirit of our federal laws that forbids housing promotions designed to attract or discourage members of a specified race” and The Daily Caller, a conservative-leaning news site co-founded by Tucker Carlson, said the LLC will “segregate black people away from the general student population.”

CU Boulder administrators take umbrage at such characterizations, saying there are dozens of other living communities on campus and that claims of segregation have been taken entirely out of context.

“No one is forced into a living situation based on his or her background or any other factor,” CU Boulder spokesman Ryan Huff said in a statement to Denver7. “The Lucile B. Buchanan LLC will be hosted in a portion of a wing of a residence hall for up to 48 students to engage in dialogue on African-American culture, identities and social justice issues. And any student of any background can be a part of that. Contrary to recent media coverage, there is not a specific residence hall only for black students.”

The goal of social justice-centered living environments is not to exclude certain people but rather to build “supportive, educational spaces” for students who are looking for one, administrators said.

“The bottom line is, regardless of one’s race or academic interest, our students select the living arrangement that is best for them,” Huff said.

Students who wish to live in either the Lucille B. Buchanan or Multicultural Perspectives LLC will not have to pay any additional fee.