Affordable Housing, Engagement, Women and Gender Initiative and Other Updates, December 15, 2015
As we head toward commencement and the close of the semester, I want to provide an update on several initiatives of importance to the campus community. Each of these items is significant and could merit its own separate email, but to keep from overloading your inboxes and trying people’s patience at a very busy time of year, I’ve opted for one, longer message instead and hope you’ll bear with me. (I realize that the length of this message will still try the patience of a lot of you … especially those who are already irritated that we didn’t call a snow day today. If you want more information on how those decisions get made, go to source.colostate.edu/university-guidelines-weather-closure/ — it’s never a simple call, especially during finals week.)
Expect to hear more about each of these initiatives in the spring semester, and please also look for regular updates on SOURCE going forward.
- CSU has submitted a letter of intent to seek designation as a 2016 Innovation & Economic Prosperity University from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). CSU has set a high standard in its support for innovation and economic health, and this designation would both recognize the exceptional work that’s already been done and position us well on a national level for further progress. But … there’s a significant amount of work involved, including an intensive self-study process, and most of this work will take place in the early part of spring semester. The Office of Engagement, with the leadership of Associate VP Kathay Rennels and project manager Paula Mills, has agreed to spearhead this process, assisted by a large and representative steering committee of campus and community stakeholders. Over the coming weeks and months, you may be asked to participate in this IEP process through surveys or other activities, and your participation and cooperation would be greatly appreciated. If you have questions or would like to connect with the process in some way, please email Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In my Fall Address in September, I announced plans for a “re-envisioning” exercise — led by our faculty, staff, student, and AP councils — that would invite innovative ideas on what we can do today to lay a solid foundation for our university by its 150th birthday in 2020 and beyond. The councils have been meeting over the course of the fall to pull together plans, which will unfold early next semester. This Re-Envision CSU process will offer everyone connected with the university an opportunity to bring forward ideas — large or small, simple or complex — for consideration by the campus community. In conjunction with this exercise, we also will offer a number of speakers and discussion opportunities to provide some context for the future of our campus, community, and world. Again, more information will be forthcoming in January on how to engage with this process, but expect it to be a major focus over the course of the spring.
- I’m hosting my usual series of campus open forums — I met with state classified staff and administrative professionals this month and have faculty and student forums slated when we’re back for spring semester January 29. I try to do these once or twice every year as an opportunity for me to answer questions and hear from the campus community about issues of general concern. One of the issues that has come up repeatedly is the rising cost of housing in Fort Collins and its impact on our employees, particularly those in the lower- and middle-income ranges. This fall, I charged a Housing Solutions Task Force to take a hard look at the affordability and availability of housing in our community and its impact on our ability to recruit and retain faculty and staff. I’ve asked the Task Force to come forward with recommendations on how CSU — both on its own and in collaboration with other community partners — can continue to ensure that our employees can live, grow, and participate actively as citizens in the community in which they work. Questions to be considered by the Task Force include but are not limited to: Should the University explore using some of its land and/or properties for affordable/entry-level faculty and staff housing? What are innovative solutions and best practices nationally? How can we better connect employees with existing services and affordable housing options? How can CSU engage and participate in the community-wide conversations and efforts around affordable and accessible housing in the short — and long terms? Are there opportunities to partner with other employers and public entities in support of housing options and programs? And what internal programs and resources can CSU employ to support faculty and staff with housing-related concerns? I’ve asked that the group come back to me by the end of this fiscal year with an initial series of recommendations. As with the IEP process noted above, you may be asked to participate in surveys and focus groups related to the work of the Task Force — and your help is both appreciated and necessary to our success in this endeavor.
- As many of you will recall, we set a goal for the campus several years ago to make CSU the best place for women to work and learn. In response to this challenge, and under the leadership of Amy Parsons, then Vice President for University Operations, the Ripple Effect was created as a focal point for spurring conversation and moving some key initiatives forward. In the summer of 2015, as Amy transitioned to her current role as Executive Vice Chancellor of the Colorado State University System, I asked Dr. Cori Wong to take over leadership of this presidential initiative in conjunction with her faculty appointment in the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research. The Ripple Effect laid some important groundwork and helped us fully understand the need to focus on campus culture and climate as a collective endeavor, with a shared sense of commitment from people — women and men — across all divisions and in various levels of relative privilege, power, and authority. It’s now time to integrate this effort with the work of various campus programs, organizations, and committees that have been working on gender-related issues for many years. Integration and coordination of these programs will help us to maximize and support these efforts while identifying additional ways to improve the culture and climate at CSU.
- For that reason, we’re renewing the institutional priority and commitment to this initiative with the creation of what will be its next iteration, to be called the Women and Gender Collaborative. The Collaborative will replace the Ripple Effect and will launch this coming spring. Under Dr. Wong’s leadership, it will seek to integrate its own efforts with the work coming from the President’s Commission on Women and Gender Equity; the Standing Committee on the Status of Women Faculty; The Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research; the Women and Gender Advocacy Center; and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity. The Collaborative’s Advisory Board will include representation from these units, as well as the Division of Student Affairs, the Division of Enrollment and Access, the Office of the Provost, and The Office of the Vice President for University Operations, including Human Resources and the Office of Equal Opportunity. Among other things, these groups are collectively pursuing the creation and evolution of institutional policies and processes; supporting the recruitment, retention, and promotion of women faculty and staff; increasing academic engagement with and scholarship related to feminist research methods and feminist pedagogy; and providing related student services and programming. The Collaborative will uniquely contribute to and support these efforts by providing more information and education around things like gender, bias, and inequity, and by encouraging deeper dialogue and critical engagement with gender-related issues that affect our campus community. It also will serve as a touch point for people and other related groups that want to learn about and engage with these efforts. By facilitating, supporting, and increasing the recognition of the important work that is being done on campus, and by providing tools to empower others to get involved and be part of the cultural shifts that we have aspired to realize at CSU, the Collaborative can help harness the energy and impact of campus-wide efforts and keep us moving forward. More information on the Collaborative will be available in the coming semester — thanks, as well, to those of you already hard at work on these issues.
- Finally, I want to reflect for just a moment on the recent attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, the murders in Colorado Springs, and the ongoing and highly charged rhetoric surrounding racial, religious, and political divisions worldwide. Many members of our community have been deeply affected and concerned by these human tragedies, struggles, and attacks on communities around the world. It can seem that ideas and peace itself are under attack around our world. Against this backdrop, it seems important to reiterate that our Colorado State community is diverse and inclusive, and we gain our strength from the participation of people with different identities, genders, ethnicities, races, nationalities, and viewpoints. Preservation of this type of culture — a community of scholars that honors free speech, respectful discourse, and diversity that others built for us to care for — requires that we seek always to listen and understand one another, and to offer support and act with compassion to our colleagues, students, and neighbors. This university also takes seriously our responsibility for dealing directly with incidents of bias and violations of our expectations for campus conduct, which can sometimes occur during such stressful times.
We need to be very clear here: this is not a call to universal agreement or an attack on critical thinking and open dialogue. But we can, should and need to expect that we can balance these foundational aspects of an academic community with the principles of inclusive excellence. To fall prey to the false choice of picking between having either free speech or an inclusive environment is beneath CSU.
If you are in need of support for any reason — whether it’s an upsetting personal interaction, the stress of finals, or distress about current events — please reach out. There are resources that our campus community offers to support you through challenging times, and we ask you to support one another and seek out help when you or others need it. CSU Health Network has counseling assistance available for students at all times — during business hours at (970) 491-6053, and after hours at (970) 491-7111 for 24/7 assistance. Students also can contact their Residence Life staff directly — or call Student Case Management at (970) 491-8051. Our identity-based Cultural and Resource Centers are also available to support you. Employees have 24/7 access to our Employee Assistance Program, which can be reached at (970) 491-1527 during business hours and 1-800-497-9133 at all hours. If you don’t know where to go for help, use our Tell Someone system at supportandsafety.colostate.edu/tellsomeone. If you are concerned about someone else’s well-being or mental health, or if you feel you have experienced discrimination, racism, or bias, you can also use the Tell Someone network to seek help. Please don’t stay silent — reach out. The challenges our world faces need the fully engaged talents of each of us.
Heading into the holidays, my hope is that we can all find some time for rest, for peace, and for recharging our batteries. In the meantime, stay strong and healthy this week — take care of one another — and best wishes for success on finals and a great commencement for our graduating students. To this latter group, thank you. Over the last 4(ish) years, you’ve added much to the culture of this university. In many, many ways, you are now part of her and you take a bit of her with you as you move forward on your path. Please take time to check back on her occasionally. Your commitment is important to assure that those who follow in future years will have the same opportunities that were afforded to you. Be well.
Dr. Tony Frank