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It has been a little over a year since the bias-motivated attack on University of Colorado Boulder student Olubiyi Ogundipe and a friend by two Lafayette men.

In that time, the two assailants were prosecuted under hate-crime statutes by Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, and our community set itself on a course of addressing issues of diversity, inclusion, racism and marginalization on campus.

We are committed to supporting the prosecution of hate crimes. Second, we will hold students responsible for their personal conduct on campus, even as we work to improve the climate at CU for students of color, women, international students, veterans, and GLBTQ members of our community through constant engagement.

But just as important as our official efforts are those of individual students. We cannot eliminate racism by decree or administrative policy when it thrives unchallenged in the hearts and minds of people inside and outside our community.

Our personal conduct and courage are required to engage racism, bigotry and prejudice where it lives. I was reminded of this fact this past summer as the nation marked the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides — difficult journeys into the American south taken by American college students of all races, ethnicities and geographic origin to register and empower African American voters.

As a high school student then, I admired the Freedom Riders and the courage of people like Charles Biggers, a 23-year-old African American CU student and Navy veteran who was arrested in 1961 for attempting to desegregate a whites-only lunch counter in Jackson, Miss.

We need that same courage right now, right here in our own community. It can start in the classroom, where an academic commitment to absorb the lessons of history and culture will give you a more complex understanding of yourself, your nation, and our long struggle to make true the promises of our republic.

Armed with that knowledge, you can step outside your comfort zone and engage and welcome students of color, international students, veterans, GLBTQ students, non-traditional students, and those who simply hold different beliefs from you.

Then, you can be a consistent voice against racism, sexism, homophobia, violence and exclusion. When acts of racism strike, don’t turn away. Join others to make our community a welcome place for all.

In doing so, you will sit beside Charles Biggers and all the mothers and fathers of the Civil Rights Movement, and the freedom ride will continue.

Philip P. DiStefano is the chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder.

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