Nov. 18, 2020

Dear CSU Community—students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends,

Just over a month ago, we received from the independent investigators at Husch-Blackwell two reports, regarding CSU Athletics compliance with COVID-19 health protocols and the overall racial climate in CSU Athletics.  You can read the final reports here and my message sharing them with all of you here.

As clearly articulated by the investigators, there were no significant issues identified around COVID-19 protocol compliance in CSU Athletics; therefore, the investigators made no formal recommendations beyond that the university, and CSU Athletics, continue to adhere to and communicate all recommended public health precautions. As the investigation progressed, we proactively focused on constant quality improvement of our COVID-19 protocols for the university and athletics as well as communication to our multiple audiences about these protocols. Our community has been successful in mitigating the spread of the virus at CSU, but will always seek and implement best practices. I am so proud of our efforts, and proud of the students who have had to work especially hard under challenging circumstances this semester.

When it comes to the racial climate in CSU Athletics, the investigators found that most student-athletes who participated in the investigation disputed allegations of pervasive racial inequities or harassment.  But they noted that many individuals from different races, teams, and employee roles are personally and emotionally struggling with the national reckoning around issues of racial justice and equity. Many of them expect their teammates, coaches, colleagues, administrators, and the University to engage in more meaningful and sustained dialogue around issues of race and do more to effectuate change.

We take seriously any possible racial climate issues, whether in the university as a whole or in any one unit specifically. There is a call to action coming from CSU Athletics, as indeed is coming from our university community more broadly, and it is one we are committed to answering.  I am therefore pleased to share the action plan that I have developed.  I believe that this plan is directly responsive to each of the four recommendations made by the investigators to help us demonstrably and permanently improve the racial climate in CSU Athletics for all student-athletes and staff.

We hold ourselves and one another to incredibly high standards at CSU, and we will do so here.  That means I have set regular benchmarks, will require three reports per year from those implementing the recommendations, and will transparently report our progress on the recommendations. If any of these reports indicate that we’re not making the progress we need to make, then we’ll reassess and make adjustments necessary to do better.

Our goal is for CSU Athletics to be a place where every one of our talented student athletes and staff members feels welcomed and valued from the moment they commit to joining CSU.  That’s the same goal we have for all our students, faculty and staff.  It’s the reason we have so many amazing cross-cutting and embedded initiatives here, from the Multicultural Faculty and Staff Network and the Equity and Inclusion Network to the Commission on Diversity and Inclusion and the numerous working groups hosted in the President’s Office.  It’s why I created the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative last fall, and why co-chairs Blanche Hughes and Mary Ontiveros invited our new provost, Mary Pedersen, to join them in leading the RBEI almost as soon as she stepped into her role.  We want to do better by our people, whoever they are and however they identify.  We want all of you to feel proud to be members of this community, because you feel fully embraced and deeply valued for every aspect of who you are.

So as I share the action plan for CSU Athletics with all of you, know that I am grateful for the work that so many of you are already doing to help us achieve this goal.  I look forward to seeing the positive changes we effect in the coming months and years, in CSU Athletics and across the university.


Joyce McConnell