Welcome — and welcome back — to a new year at Colorado State University!

With the start of classes and the shift to slightly cooler weather, it’s already feeling a little bit like fall. We just celebrated convocation with the arrival of the largest class in our history, including the most student-veterans we’ve welcomed in a single year since the tragedy of 9/11. Over the summer, we announced another record-breaking year of fundraising including great support for scholarships — and we’re entering the last major phase of this cycle of campus construction for a while as we finish up the new Health and Medical Center, the new Chemistry and Biology buildings, and the on- campus stadium this year. There’s always infrastructure work to be done on a campus, and additions to Animal Science and the Natural Resources Building are in the works thanks to great donor support, but it’ll be nice to complete the current projects and take the pressure off the south edge of campus. All in all, the campus feels like it’s awakening after the quieter summer months, and it’s a wonderful time to be a Ram.

For our students: As you settle in, there are a couple of resources to keep in mind:

  • You@CSU is a tool designed to help you manage stress, set goals, promote happiness and well-being, and connect to campus resources to “thrive, succeed, and matter.” Colorado State is the first campus anywhere to offer this resource to support students in managing all aspects of student life — and we strongly encourage you to make full use of it. We need every one of you to graduate and bring your talents to bear on the challenges that face our world — taking care of yourselves is a critical step in that pathway.
  • As a University, we have put high priority on re-framing the conversation around sexual and interpersonal violence in ways that teach consent and equip all of us with the skills and knowledge to navigate difficult and uncertain situations. Our campus REFRAME initiative is grounded in our values and expectations as a campus community that is committed to making the changes necessary to end rape, sexual assault, and interpersonal violence. We’ve put up with this too long. To the men of CSU: Men are responsible for the vast, vast majority of sexual violence. We need to do better. We have to better. We are better than this. We can end sexual violence — and we need to do it now. Visit reframe.colostate.edu to learn more. It matters.
  • Tonight, hundreds of volunteers will be going door to door in neighborhoods around campus as part of our 2016 Community Welcome. In every college town, there’s an interesting dynamic between the students who come here to learn and live for their college years and the residents who make this their full-time, permanent home. In a strange way, you as students are both members of this community, making it your home for the coming year, and, in another sense, guests to the permanent residents. As with most issues, any tension around this tends to dissolve with common sense and mutual respect. I think most of you will find that this is a friendly, inclusive community that welcomes and enjoys the vitality students bring to Fort Collins — but there is also a mutual understanding that all of us who live off campus will behave responsibly and decently toward our neighbors. This means more than just not parking your car on your neighbor’s lawn. It means understanding the city ordinances related to trash, pets, parking, parties, snow removal, and more, and contributing in positive ways to the health, safety, and character of the city we all share. It means behaving in ways that won’t come back to embarrass you and this University. And it means taking care of yourselves and one another. You can find the Community Welcome brochure at col.st/VhpLb — and our volunteers look forward to meeting you in person when they make the rounds this evening.
  • On Fridays at CSU, we celebrate “Get Your Green On.” I don’t think this requires a whole lot more explanation, but just in case, here you go: Wear green on Fridays — it’s a tradition.

Some of you have made it to this point in the email and are already feeling the sad sting of disappointment that my first message of the year isn’t about the budget. I’m truly, deeply sorry. Really. But while higher education funding and costs continue to dominate much of our attention at CSU and nationwide, there will be plenty of opportunities for the three or four of you with a compelling interest in the topic to dig into those issues later in the semester. Today, I want to focus instead on something that has been troubling many of us deeply over the past year.

Across our society, we seem to having a hard time finding a middle ground on which to discuss important topics about which we disagree. We see this played out in our national politics as we head toward the November elections, and it’s certainly playing out on America’s college and university campuses. One of the most important questions we will grapple with this year is, “How do we strike a balance that preserves the primacy of free speech while also preserving a campus climate in which all members of our community feel included and respected?”

Clearly, there are many wrong responses to this question:

  1. Any failure to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech is a failure of everything we stand for as a University.
  2. Any failure to create an environment in which minds — young and old — feel invited and safe to question, push, and demand more would be a comparable failure of our mission and character as a University.
  3. Any failure to avoid an environment where the loudest voice drowns out the thoughtful, quiet voices, where we debate the person delivering the ideas or their style more than the idea, where people avoid discussion because it doesn’t feel like they can comfortably participate, is failure of similar stature.

The notion that any idea should be off limits for discussion and debate in an academic community is anathema to the very nature of higher education. But how we express ourselves in debating and challenging ideas does matter, and few institutions in society place higher priority on respectful human interaction and discourse than the University. Through our Principles of Community, we have outlined the foundational expectations of what it means to be a part of the Colorado State community. But these principles are only the foundation. How we build on them and fully engage the complex and challenging topics of our time — as educated people in a contentious and too often disrespectful age — requires our ongoing commitment and work. We can get this balance right; we need to do so.

I look forward to doing this work with you in the months ahead, as we each pursue our own personal academic goals and as we continue to forge the next chapter in the history and life of this great American land-grant university.

Thank you for being here, have a great semester, take care of yourselves and each other, and Go Rams!


Dr. Tony Frank

P.S. I know the semester will heat up quickly and you’ll have a lot to keep track of, so for those of you who want a quick way to find out how the Cubs are doing, I’ve done you the favor of hanging a “W” flag in the window of my office on the southeast side of the Administration Building. For those not familiar with the Chicago tradition, a “Cubs Win” flag is flown over Wrigley Field after every home win (Why not an “L” flag? Too much wear and tear on that flag over the last century or so …). Mine will be flying any time they win, anywhere. And if you don’t see the flag in my window after a game, well … remember that patience is a virtue, and there’s always next year.