FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Officials at Colorado State University are in damage control mode after two Native American brothers had “unwelcoming and concerning experience” on a campus tour. The story has drawn national attention.
The university is offering to reimburse Thomas Gray and his younger brother for the expenses they incurred traveling from their home in New Mexico to Fort Collins for Monday’s tour. They’d also like to bring them back for an all-expenses paid VIP tour.
The teens didn’t get a chance to experience a complete tour of the university because campus police stopped them for questioning during it.
It turns out a parent of a different student on the tour contacted police because she thought something didn’t seem right with the two, who were extremely quiet.
On Friday the university released a new statement about the matter on Twitter, saying they have tried to reach out to the family after the admittedly “unwelcoming and concerning experience.”
The Twitter statement is as follows:
Early this week, University officials reached out directly to the family of the young men & their high school. We’d like the opportunity to speak w/Ms. Gray & her sons but we have not heard back from the family. We ask them to please get in touch with us at their convenience. We will refund any expenses they incurred traveling to CSU. We deeply regret the unwelcoming and concerning experience they had while guests on our campus. The Office of Admissions, Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Native American Cultural Center, and CSU Police Department all are reviewing how such an incident can be avoided or handled differently in the future.
A few minutes later they tweeted:
CSU welcomes the Gray family to our campus for a VIP tour with all expenses covered.
Gray is a freshman at Northern New Mexico College but had considered transferring to CSU. His mother said in an interview that he and his younger brother had planned the campus visit as a bonding experience and that she was disturbed to learn that police had stopped them.
“I got a frantic phone call from Thomas saying ‘somebody called the police on us because we were quiet,’” Lorriane Gray said. “And I couldn’t believe it. I thought he’s just messing with me.”
She said her boys were too shy to speak up during introductions on the tour.
In an email to students and staff on Wednesday, university officials outlined what happened next:
Police responded to the call by contacting the young men, who are Native American and visiting from New Mexico, during the tour. The CSUPD spoke with the students, confirmed they were part of the tour, and allowed them to rejoin the group. Unfortunately, due to the location of the tour when the contact was made, the Admissions tour guide was unaware that police had been called or responded, and the tour group had moved on without the students, who returned to Ammons Hall briefly, then left campus to return home to New Mexico.
Lorriane Gray shared the news of what had happened on social media.
“You keep quiet about things they’re going to continue to happen. And it’s our responsibility to speak out and let other people know what’s happening,” she said.
“And in the process, since this went viral in the last couple of days, even other universities have reached out to us and said ‘You know what, we’re looking at our policies now about campus tours and bias and things like that, so it’s already making a difference.”
Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who is the chair of Colorado’s Commission on Indian Affairs, spoke with CSU President Tony Frank and issued a statement on the matter:
“We share concern over the reported treatment of two Native American teens while on a campus tour of Colorado State University. After speaking with CSU President Tony Frank, we believe the university’s response shows the seriousness of the issue, and we understand new procedures will be introduced to better manage campus tours. We want to reiterate our commitment to ensuring our public universities are open and welcoming to all students and hope that the young men will not be deterred in their pursuit of attending college in Colorado, a traditional homeland to many tribal nations.”