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 Tuesday, June 27, 2006 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Adversity, Achievement and Hope: A CU-Boulder Story

When I was handed the keys to the chancellor's office in January 2005, I knew I was facing some historic challenges in the life of the university. Little did I know that later, when I tried to describe everything that's happened during my time as interim chancellor, it would sound like a script from a movie, or sometimes, even a soap opera. And you know, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. But I will admit that I'm looking forward to a really, really good night's sleep.

Going into this, I knew that I needed to tackle some tough issues and help calm the storms. That's storms plural, not "a" storm. Yes, I knew a lot about the difficulties I was undertaking—but not everything, as time would tell.

First of all, there was the athletics situation, which was the major story on local and national media outlets for weeks on end. At that time there were lawsuits and depositions to handle. Then there were several key leadership changes, and now we have an outstanding athletic director in Mike Bohn. He has great character and a great personality, and he really cares about the university. Today when I think about the future of athletics I breathe a sigh of relief—although we still have a couple of bumps along the road to full recovery. We're back on track and the future looks bright.

Just as things were beginning to settle down, the controversy over Professor Ward Churchill's essay erupted. I didn't see that coming. It turned out to be much more than a freedom of speech issue, and well, you know the rest of the story. The department of ethnic studies received a great deal of unwarranted attacks over this issue, and I want to be clear that I support the department and will continue to do so as Provost.

There were student issues to deal with as well. The attacks on our students of color were the toughest ones. We work very hard to bring diverse students to the Boulder campus and keep them here, and the ignorance of a few people, on and off campus, caused problems that will take a long time to fix. I'm hopeful that by continuing to work together we can overcome these obstacles and establish a firm foundation for a welcoming and diverse campus culture.

Certainly, this is a vibrant place. I've been on the campus for nearly 35 years, and I'm proud of the activism of our students. I've found, however, that their actions take on different perspectives depending on where you're sitting. For example, the view is different in the classroom than it is in the conference room, especially when you're dealing with student health and welfare issues while also weighing the pros and cons of linking the institution with certain anti-sweatshop groups. The decisions are not always clearly black and white.

In addition to challenges, there were many good times to celebrate. Faculty, staff, students and student-athletes continued to win notable awards. I had the pleasure of speaking with many people across Colorado and the nation about the excellence of our achievements and programs. I also had the opportunity to work with some of our outstanding faculty and staff on setting the course for the future, and I'm excited about what's coming.

  • I see the development of residential colleges with students who are more fully engaged as active learners from their first year through their entire undergraduate experience, in an environment that fosters community and supports their intellectual and personal growth.

  • I see an expanded Research Park on the East Campus. This transformation to a Research Campus will create new learning opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students as well as cultivate a rich environment for advancing discovery and creating new knowledge.

  • The Renewable and Sustainable Energy Initiative is already underway, and the new biotechnology initiative is also an area of tremendous potential currently under development. As Provost I will continue to work on developing these ventures with the vice chancellors, deans and faculty.

Undoubtedly, we already have many wonderful academic and student life programs, and these initiatives will make us even better. Let's not forget that it's the people, like each of you, that make good things happen. If there's one message I'd like to close with as interim chancellor, it's a message of hope: This is a great university with a great future.

It's been an interesting ride. Overall, it's been a wonderful experience, and I'm pleased that I could be of service to this great campus. Thank you all for your support.

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