“Welcome Back” to Spring 2017! February 27, 2017
Happy Almost Spring CSU!
Wow. Well, I guess this is what happens when I get old: I lose track of time. We are fully 6 weeks into the semester and this is my “Welcome Back to Spring Semester” message. Pitchers and catchers have already reported to spring training. The first games have been played. [SPOILER ALERT: For those among you who read these messages only for Cubs references, there is nothing more in this message. Why, you ask? Because I have no idea what to say! This situation has never occurred in our lives! The Cubs – THE CUBS! – are defending World Series Champions. (Re-read that. Enjoy. Repeat as needed.) Who knows if the world is still round?]
Joking aside, our semester is, as usual, off to a good start. In just this first month, we’ve celebrated Black History Month and Holocaust Awareness Week. We applauded Professor Temple Grandin’s induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the late Lt. Col. John Mosley’s selection as our 2017 Founders Day Medallion recipient – for his amazing life achievements as a Tuskegee Airman and CSU alumnus and his extraordinary contributions to the growth and character of this University. This week alone, we will honor the achievements of our first-generation students at their annual awards dinner; Dr. Joel Bacon will deliver the next Presidential Lecture tomorrow night about his work with the Casavant Organ; and we welcome Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee of Liberia for a presentation on March 6. And of importance, I believe, to all of us, was the fact that our international students caught up in the initial international travel ban executive order are now either back on our campus and reunited with their families or making process toward doing so. [For those about to use your time and energy to type a note to me about the politics of that statement, please don’t: My suggestion is that you reread it. I am not making any comment other than to say any CSU student – any Ram – is *ALL* of our concern; and anyone separated from their family by events beyond their control deserves the very best support that we can give them. Every Ram should expect this of us.] We welcome them home.
Since this message is long overdue, I’m afraid it’s going to further cement my reputation for long and winding emails. Don’t torture yourself – if you don’t want to read further, you are welcome to hit “delete” and move on with your life. But I did want to share a few updates for those of you who are interested.
The 2017 legislative session is underway, and we are actively tracking those issues and developments that directly impact Colorado State University and the CSU System. Discussions around the state and university budget are, of course, among our chief concerns. As usual, we rolled out our first version of the budget to the campus early last fall and held our campuswide open budget hearings last month. As we’ve discussed there and in additional conversations with ASCSU, Faculty Council, and others, we continue to model a 5% undergraduate tuition increase for residents, which keeps us pretty solidly in the middle of the pack in comparison to peer institutions in Colorado and around the country, and a 2.5% for non-residents. At this point, we are also looking at a 2.5% salary increase for faculty and staff. We are pleased that it looks like the state will be approving increases for our state classified staff this year – while this doesn’t make up for lost ground in recent years, it is a step in the right direction. Now, we’re in a bit of a “wait and see” position while we wait for further review and discussions at the state level. You can view the latest draft budget online at http://president.colostate.edu/budget-updates/ and as you’ll see, it contains a lot of variables that are still in play. The details will continue to evolve over the next few months as we learn more about what will be happening with state funding and other issues.
State Classified Salaries
Salaries and benefits for state-classified staff were a big topic of conversation at my recent on-campus open forums, and I understand and empathize with the serious frustration of this group of our employees whose benefits are determined not by CSU but by the State of Colorado. Believe me, I share that frustration when I can see a problematic situation that directly impacts our people but over which our university has little to no control. We have worked to mitigate the impacts of no- or limited pay increases in the last few years by investing in Commitment to Campus benefits, instituting a parking assistance program for low-income employees, and creating an emergency loan program for faculty and staff, along with postponing parking increases for classified staff last year. We’ve also added a Community Resources Coordinator position in our Employee Assistance Program to help people navigate support and services available locally, and we are continuing efforts to expand affordable and accessible housing for the campus community. Over the last few months, we’ve been modeling options for what it would take to get all of our employees to a living wage and reviewing those scenarios with the employee councils. But even with all of this, I recognize we continue to have many employees – staff and faculty alike – who are struggling with the cost of living in our community, and this is something that we take quite seriously as it affects the quality and performance of our University overall. It will continue to be a focus for the University in the year ahead.
New Leadership for Women’s Initiatives
As many of you will remember, we made a commitment several years ago to make Colorado State University an outstanding environment for women to work and learn, acknowledging the historic inequities that women have experienced in higher education and the working world and recognizing our own ability to do better. Our President’s Commission on Women and Gender Equity and its Standing Committee on the Status of Women Faculty have been digging into some complex issues over that time related to salary equity, campus climate, and accountability, and this has been important to our continued progress. Professor Irene Vernon served as the founding chair of the Standing Committee, and in this role, her leadership, knowledge, and strong commitment to equity have been invaluable. Irene retired at the end of the fall semester, and I want to thank her for her exceptional leadership. (Irene, if you’re reading this … stop it! You’re retired!). I have since asked Dr. Ellen Fisher to take over as standing committee chair, given her depth of experience as faculty member, department chair, and Senior Faculty Advisor for Research. Ellen will be working closely with Dr. Sue James, chair of the CWGE, to continue the important efforts underway. Thanks to Sue and Ellen for their willingness to serve in these key roles.
Support for Students
You@CSU – As the stress of the semester begins to pick up with mid-terms and the push toward spring break, I want to encourage all of us to remember the resources that are available here on campus, including the You@CSU portal. YOU@CSU continues to be a popular and reliable resource for members of our campus community to turn to when feeling stressed or looking for assistance and support with academic and personal success. I want to encourage students to visit the newly redesigned site, which includes some enhanced features that make it easier to customize your content and find the information you’re looking for. You can log in or create a new account using your CSU email address at You@CSU.
Along the lines of student support, I have received a couple of questions this past week around the issue of transgender bathrooms and what this means to members of our own community. The safety and comfort of all members of our campus is and will continue to be a priority, and we welcome people of all identities, faiths, genders, political beliefs, races, and heritages who come here to learn, study, and contribute to our academic community. We also have long recognized that the traditional system of women’s and men’s restrooms creates problems for people in several circumstances, including transgender people as well as parents with small children, older adults who need assistance from a spouse, and people who need greater privacy for religious and health reasons. For that reason, we have been working for some time to create more restroom options that are single-stall or for general, non-gendered use. We have some such spaces available in the Lory Student Center, Library, and Rec Center now and are working on adding others. Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros has been spearheading this effort with the support of many across campus who have recognized this as an area for improvement.
Colorado State University continues to earn recognition nationally for its work on behalf of student-veterans, and this is and will continue to be a high priority for us. Members of our Veterans Success team were in Washington D.C. last week, meeting with colleagues and representatives to continue to advocate at the national level on behalf of those who have served their country and are now continuing their education here at home. We owe these student-veterans and their families our very best, just as they have given us theirs.
Recognition for Our CSUPD Officers
Finally, I just want to offer my own personal shout out to our campus police, who were integrally involved in investigating and breaking up a ring that had been stealing catalytic converters from vehicles all along the Front Range last fall, including several on our campus. We don’t herald the excellent work of our CSUPD often enough, so I want to take this opportunity to celebrate and thank them on a job well done. Of course, this is just one, recent example among countless others I could point to. Our officers are dedicated to the principles of community policing and to the educational and service mission of this institution. Through their daily activities – and ongoing efforts like SafeWalk and regular meetings and trainings with departments and student organizations – our officers champion safety and education in ways that promote the well-being and security of our institution overall. We are grateful and appreciate all you do.
This brings me around to a bit of reflection that I was doing at the start of the year. On New Year’s Eve, a couple of good friends and I made a New Year’s Resolution saying (paraphrased) that we’re going to focus the time we have in the coming year on doing our best, improving ourselves and trying – imperfect as we all are – to improve those whose lives we touch. We said we wanted to judge less and work with each other more. And that’s how I’ll close this rambling, disorganized and very late “Welcome Back” message: It’s my hope for each of you that you’ll improve yourselves and those around you this semester – and each “semester” for the rest of your lives.
It is also my hope that you enjoy the journey along the way. Time is precious. Make the most of your moments. The ski season (that’s the old thing where a snowboard is split in ½ for most of you) is epic. The University Center for the Arts has its usual array of breath-taking performances from our students and colleagues. The CSU men’s basketball team finishes up their pretty special season at home tomorrow night against Wyoming (always a must see) and Friday night our women’s basketball team finishes its home season at Moby – the first CSU basketball team of any gender to “4-peat” a conference championship. Our women and men both won the Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships Saturday – the second consecutive indoor championship for the women – and our swimming and diving team finished its season with 9 school records. We also set a school record for Ram athletes earning Academic All-Mountain West recognition last fall. Lots to celebrate in so many areas.
That’s it for now – I will try not to be quite this late in sending my annual spring break message (just two weeks away!). In the meantime, be well and take care of each other.
Dr. Tony Frank