July 20, 2020
The University of Colorado Denver is about student success. It is about opportunity. It is about community. I am delighted to be here among this vibrant community of students, faculty, and staff. We are committed to advancing our academic mission and preparing our students for an ever-changing world. I have much to learn and many people to meet, but in the early days of serving as your chancellor, I have been thoroughly impressed with CU Denver. In my introductory message on July 1, I told you I would spend the first 10 days of my tenure listening to you on the topics of equity and racial justice. This initial priority was inspired by the many who have been moved to action by the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and other Black people.
I met with 172 students, faculty, and staff in 20 listening sessions over 10 days. I also received 25 emails sharing insights. The voices of those who participated shaped my perspective on the path we need to travel together to create a more just and equitable sense of belonging at CU Denver.
In these sessions I heard about the history of the land on which our campus sits and the pain caused to the communities who preceded us here, both the original occupants—the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho—and the Latinx communities that were relocated to create our campus.
I heard many different experiences, concerns, and suggestions. They include personal stories of students who have been reluctant to speak up on issues of equity for fear of retaliation, as well as the burden of the additional workload faculty and staff of color take on without title or pay. You can read a summary of what I heard. In short, you asked that we do more. A lot more.
So today I write with commitments for action.
The equity listening sessions raised a host of issues requiring significant analysis and further work, which should become the basis of a DEI strategic plan. I plan to charge a Chancellor’s Equity Task Force for the 2020–2021 academic year to address equity issues, with particular focus on student success, academic issues and curriculum, and policy review. I will appoint members (students, faculty, and staff) in wide consultation across campus and in partnership with shared governance groups. Staffed with dedicated project managers to minimize the work placed on task force members, the committee will review the summarized feedback received in the equity listening sessions, consider the rich information provided by people within our community, and take on the following tasks:
These changes and the associated investments align with the important CU strategic planning efforts underway relative to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. They are also a starting point for the transformative change needed to create a more equitable culture of belonging and become a leader in higher education in this work. As a public urban research university and the University of Colorado’s most diverse campus, we have a particular responsibility in this area.
While I know that I am ultimately accountable for the results of this work, we cannot make progress on it in silos. Our vice chancellors, deans, and governance leaders have unanimously concurred with the actions set forth in this message. I invite you to join us in this important work, to act and truly make a difference—together.
PS: If you were unable to attend an equity listening session but would still like to provide feedback, please complete our feedback form.