October 7, 2020

Dear CSU Community,

Thank you to the many members of the CSU community who met with investigative attorneys from law firm Husch Blackwell as part of the firm’s independent review of issues related to racial bias and COVID compliance in CSU Athletics. We’ve now received the final reports, I’ve discussed them with the Chancellor, and in the interest of transparency have posted the unredacted reports here.

In my conversations with the Chancellor, we agreed that the findings of the investigation are positive and reassuring overall. They also provide extremely helpful context and recommendations. We are confident that our current CSU Athletics staff will work with us to move forward as our football program resumes.

In the report focused on compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions in CSU Athletics, the investigators found that most student-athletes who participated in the investigation reported feeling safe during team activities and believed that coaching and training staff made their best efforts to implement and enforce the University’s return-to-sport protocols. While numerous witnesses expressed some degree of dissatisfaction or concern about aspects of the protocols, those concerns were predominately related to communication, consistency, or testing policies rather than intentional non-compliance with the protocols.

Our CSU community knows we have been aggressive with our COVID-19 mitigation protocols, which have included robust communication and a student-focused social norming campaign. The pandemic presents ever-changing circumstances that demand rapid response. We have engaged actively to communicate these circumstances and responses as quickly as possible and we will continue to strive to meet the needs of our community for clear, quick, and accurate information. As I have said publicly many times, our CSU staff and faculty have responded to the pandemic with unbelievable energy, creativity, and dedication. I am deeply, deeply grateful.

In the report focused on allegations of “pervasive racial inequities or harassment” in CSU Athletics, the investigators found that most student-athletes who participated in the investigation disputed allegations of pervasive racial inequities or harassment within their athletic team or the Athletic Department more broadly. Few individuals alleged that such incidents were widespread or tolerated by current coaching staff. In contrast, numerous individuals recounted racial insensitivity involving former coaches in years past and expressed concern that their behavior went unaddressed by Athletic Department leadership at that time.

Let me be clear: a climate of racial insensitivity is unacceptable even if it started with staff no longer employed at CSU. We all know that it takes time to change culture and we are committed to creating one that is anti-racist, equitable and just. We currently have many resources in place at CSU for members of our community to access any time they feel devalued on the basis of their identity, including the Bias Reporting System; the Office of Equal Opportunity, which is charged with prohibiting all discrimination and harassment and oversees the Office of Title IX and Gender Equity; and the Office of the Ombuds. Going forward and effective immediately, CSU Athletics will engage even more actively with those resources, make our student-athletes and Athletics staff aware of these resources, and respond quickly and with compassion to any expressed concerns.

In this second report, the investigators further found 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.  While this finding documents a painful experience for members of our Athletics community, it also speaks powerfully to their commitment to the values that CSU upholds and to their sense of urgency around seeing us all live those values.

I share that commitment and sense of urgency. So does the entire CSU leadership team; so do the leaders and partners of the CSU Race, Bias and Equity Initiative; so do the creators of the TOGETHER initiative in CSU Athletics; so do the more than 1,500 members of our community who have already registered to participate in our annual Diversity Symposium later this month. We are committed to a climate and culture across this university, including in CSU Athletics, that is anti-racist and that supports the growth, development, and success of our student-athletes in every sport. We will work quickly to implement the recommendations made in the report and prioritize these issues across the institution as we have committed to do.

Once again, I thank everyone who participated in the independent investigation that Husch Blackwell recently completed. I thank you for your courage, your patience, and your candor. I also thank those of you reading this message for your interest in these findings and in our continuing commitment to the high standards of excellence, integrity, and equity that define our CSU community.


Joyce McConnell