Welcome home, CSU! Another semester is underway. I want to start by thanking so many of you for participating in the MLK Day march and celebration at the Lory Student Center last week. This year’s program was particularly powerful, perhaps because of the challenges that we are wrestling with as a society. We know there is so much more work to be done, such a sense of urgency is needed, and we know we need to find ways to focus on the common ground and move forward together. No place is more equipped to pilot these difficult conversations than a university — a community committed to the safe debate and exchange of ideas, always in the scholarly spirit of intellectual application as a force to change our world. In the upcoming semester, I urge you to become involved in these discussions — as promised in my December email, Vice Presidents Blanche Hughes and Mary Ontiveros will soon be sending out information about upcoming opportunities for dialogue around critical issues of diversity and inclusion. There will also be Cesar Chavez Day opportunities, Black History Month events, our 10th Annual Women’s Conference in March, Holocaust Awareness speakers, many more programs and discussion opportunities — and much more work to be done as we progress on our Women’s Initiative, which is already driving some important policy discussions thanks to a survey that many of you participated in this fall.

The spring semester is, of course, the season of budgets. The General Assembly is deeply immersed in discussions concerning higher education funding formulas and tuition — wrestling with questions around the priority of outcomes versus access pipelines, affordability versus quality, and much more. We all hope that someday we’ll come to the recognition that this is a classic false choice set: It’s not one of these things that matter, but all of them. Still, the good news for CSU is that — from access to affordability to outcomes to efficiency to research to economic development to serving Colorado broadly — we have a success story to tell. Our own budgets focus on our own CSU priorities: need-based financial aid, salary increases, progress for our adjunct faculty colleagues, completing progress on our benefits investments, responding to unfunded mandates, and matching key donor support to assure that excellence and its pursuit are always central to our decision making. For those interested in this sort of thing, our annual Planning & Budget Hearings are tomorrow in the Cherokee Park Room of the LSC from 8 a.m.-4:15 p.m. The hearings are open and public — anyone is welcome to attend. Following the hearings, we anticipate having draft budgets available for broad campus comment in February, with penultimate drafts that reflect campus comments available prior to the Board’s vote in May. Between now and then, we’ll be engaging with the Faculty Council Committee on Strategic and Financial Planning, ASCSU, CPC, APC, our student financial oversight groups, and visiting with each College’s Faculty Council representatives and department heads/chairs to make sure we’re listening to our community on budget decisions and priorities.

Thanks, in advance, to all of you who will work closely with us over the coming months to get to a final budget recommendation for the Board.

“Spring” semester is sometimes euphemistic in Colorado. We have the majority of the ski season ahead of us (students can look up “skis” on YouTube — they’re an ancient form of winter outdoor recreation that was “rad” in our day … ). And the packed gym at Moby will give us wonderful respite from study and the cold, as we saw for the men’s basketball win over San Diego State on Saturday, and as we’ll see when the women’s team takes on Boise State Tuesday evening. As you look ahead to the semester, don’t forget to check out the amazing array of performances and exhibitions via the University Center for the Arts, our Art Department, and Lory Student Center. And, since we are an academic community, make a resolution to plug into the list of speakers — national and local — who grace our campus with ideas that stretch our minds, making it (blessedly) difficult for us to return to our old ways of thinking unchanged or unmoved by what we’ve just heard.

Of course mentioning the weather means I need to remind you that as a former large animal veterinarian, “snow days” are alien to my vocabulary. But … we recognize that there may develop real safety issues with Colorado weather, and is your resource for getting campus information in an emergency. I encourage everyone on campus to visit this website and sign up for campus and county emergency text alerts and to have a plan (and a backup plan) for getting to and from campus on snowy days. We do take weather safety seriously, but I’ll admit that I appreciate how snowy days at CSU can bring out your creative instincts. Two years ago, one of your classmates texted me, allegedly from his position languishing in a campus snowbank, asking me to donate his body to science since he clearly wasn’t going to make it to graduation because of my decision not to close school. It was funny and well-written, albeit ineffective. I’ll look forward to your best efforts …

And while we sometimes tease each other about things beyond our control such as weather, safety is, indeed, no joke. Look to a robust series of discussions this spring from a variety of groups on campus safety. Women have taken the lead on this issue at CSU, but here I’ll add a special challenge to the male members of our community: Sexually-related violence is all of our issue. We have the ability to do the right thing, to help change the culture, to never turn a blind eye and to get involved. Please join me in helping to reframe our thinking and behavior around interpersonal violence.

And of course, over the course of this entire semester, there will be learning. There will be the “a-hah” moments (hopefully more often prior to an exam than when viewing the key afterward … .) when we break through a barrier, the inspirational moments when we just want to continue to turn that idea over in our minds, the “work-through-it” moments when (and I am not recommending this) the 24/7 Cube and caffeine push us through a topic that may not have clicked with us the way others have and will, and the powerful moments to support each other that may well be when we learn the most about ourselves and about life — and where we will never really be “evaluated” in a formal analytical sense but where we cannot help but feel we’ve been tested. In this spirit, I’ll renew again my plea to take care of yourselves and each other. None of us is immune from the winds of self-doubt that can buffet us; none of us is immune from dark moments of the soul. Seek help if you need it, provide help if you can.

Everyone in this university has the ability to help change the world — each of you is precious and needed in a very large sense as well as by those closest to you. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help shoulder your load for a bit, and don’t hesitate to offer to help carry the burdens of a friend — or a stranger. These moments may well be what define us — the exams without preparation or warning that we all need to pass.

Such moments — and the sense of community they inspire — are one of the primary reasons I’m pleased to share the following news with our campus now, before it is officially released to the public tomorrow.

Many universities have the benefit of having a President’s House on or near campus that both serves as the home of the university president and as a central gathering place for special events and meetings. We at CSU haven’t had such a facility since the 1970s. But today, CSU supporters and longtime community leaders Paula and Dave Edwards have transferred ownership of their beautiful home on Magnolia Street — just three blocks from the Oval — to CSU, to be used for this purpose. Patti and I will continue to live in our own house, where we’ve raised our family since 1994, but CSU will begin immediately to use the Magnolia house for hosting students, faculty, alumni, and special guests — and it will serve as a home for future presidents to help build strong connections and traditions among all members of our community. Please join me in thanking the Edwards for their extraordinary thoughtfulness and generosity — this will be a truly wonderful addition to our campus landscape.

So this is where we are as we start the semester. Before you know it, spring break will be arriving (and I’ll send out my annual “Don’t be an idiot” message that I used to send my daughters … .wait, I still do that …). And as spring truly returns to the Rockies, baseball will begin, the Cubs will break my heart (again), we’ll be in the push to final exams and soon we’ll be at the candlelight senior celebration and some of you will be walking across the stage at Moby thinking, “Where did those years go?”

Amid this recurring academic cycle and the relentlessness of time’s march, keep in mind that you can (even if briefly) call “time out,” celebrate the amazing faculty who are dedicated to your success, celebrate each other, celebrate yourselves and celebrate this time. Like all great moments in life — it may seem too short, but that is all the more reason to drink it in as you pass through it.

You have my very best wishes for an amazing semester. Be well.

– tony

Dr. Tony Frank