Leadership of CSU Diversity Efforts, January 27, 2010
Colleagues and Students:
As many of you know, I believe the cornerstone principle on which nearly 150 years of land-grant university evolution rests is that anyone and everyone with the ability and motivation to make a difference in our world should have affordable access to a world- class education. When Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law, he did so with the clear intent of democratizing an educational system that had long catered to a privileged elite. Land-grant universities, he believed, were essential to sustain a population prepared for the challenges of self-governing and competing economically. Travelling across our state over the past year and observing the changing demographics of our population have only reinforced my understanding of this cornerstone of our mission — as well as my conviction that we can’t fully deliver on the land-grant promise if we, as a university, are not striving to reflect the society we serve. This, to my mind, underpins our mission and is critical to our thinking relative to diversity.
As most of you are aware, Interim Provost Miranda and I charged a diversity task force last July to evaluate whether our current organizational structure positioned us optimally with respect to diversity. The Task Force came back with a set of recommendations that included creation of the position of Vice President for Diversity, separated organizationally from the Office of Equal Opportunity. Such a structure would bring a focus to our diversity priorities and allow OEO to concentrate on its role of assuring our continued compliance with all statutory personnel policies.
I have decided to accept the Task Force recommendations and will include funding for a half-time Vice President for Diversity in the draft FY11 budget that we’ll present to campus on Jan. 27. It is my intention to fund this position through the higher percentage cuts assessed to other administrative units. The Vice President for Diversity will be the principal diversity officer for the institution, serving on the President’s Cabinet. The position will be charged to coordinate, initiate, and lead the institution’s diversity efforts to achieve a sustainable environment that is inclusive and supportive. The VPD will lead diversity planning efforts, including assessment, evaluation, and accountability; develop strategic partnerships, alliances and collaborations; organize the annual Diversity Conference; help to coordinate activities among on-campus units, commissions, committees, and task forces; and represent the University through networking and collaboration with outside communities, schools, and organizations.
Clearly, there are many arguments that can (and will) be made for why it’s neither a good time nor a good idea to add another senior administrative position at CSU. I understand all those arguments and have felt them keenly as we have continued to reduce our expenses generally and our administration specifically. But I also believe that our land-grant university mission must drive our thinking, and we cannot let the ongoing budget crisis prevent us from making the changes we need to deliver on our mission. Without addressing these issues now, we run the very real risk of squandering the potential of a significant and growing percentage of our citizenry. We know for example, that the gap between whites and Hispanics going on to college is greater in Colorado than in any other state in the country. We also know that, despite overall gains in educational attainment in Colorado over the last 10 years, the educational attainment of Hispanic and African-American males has actually declined. We know, as well, that students from low-income families are far less likely than high-income students to go on to college — and this disparity disproportionately impacts students of color. As a state and an institution, we must do better. We must act now.
We will launch an internal search for a half-time Interim Vice President for Diversity shortly after spring break. This will be a three-year appointment, as we allow our budgets to catch up to our aspirations. As we proceed with the search, and recognizing that it will be several months before the Interim VP will be in place, we have asked Blanche Hughes to take on the acting responsibilities for the short term in addition to her ongoing responsibilities as VP for Student Affairs. Blanche is willing to step into the role for a couple of months to start things off, make sure the internal search is successful, and then hand over the reins to the new VP later this spring. We are grateful that Blanche will lend her considerable talents and passion to the acting role, and her extensive experience as a senior administrator will allow her to immediately begin establishing the VP portfolio while the internal search is proceeding.
A complete job description and list of qualifications will be posted online and available through Today@ColoradoState and http://jobs.colostate.edu/. This will be a critical leadership position for our institution, and I encourage all those on our campus with interest and expertise in this area to consider applying.
In addition, Roselyn Cutler has also informed us of her intention to retire this spring from the Office of Equal Opportunity, where she has done an outstanding job as interim director for the past year and where she has played a vital leadership role for more than 28 years. Roselyn has been a dedicated advocate for equity and diversity at CSU, and we are grateful for her many years of service.
Vice President for University Operations Amy Parsons has launched a national search for a new OEO director, which will also be listed on our CSU Jobs website, and Vice Provost Alan Lamborn has agreed to chair that search.
These are important positions for our institution, and as we search for people to fill them, I want to thank Blanche, Roselyn, and the Task Force on Diversity Structure for all their work, insight, and advice. We are fortunate to have strong commitment to diversity across our campus, and this new structure will position us to channel this expertise more effectively in support of our land-grant mission.
Dr. Tony Frank