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 Tuesday, January 23, 2007 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Making Diversity Routine
Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson

The recent developments in Michigan have placed the issue of diversity and the building of diverse university communities at the forefront of the individual and collective minds of American higher education. This discussion has now reached the University of Colorado at Boulder, as recent headlines have shown.

When I am asked to describe my vision for diversity, people are often surprised when I respond that it is “to make diversity an unremarkable condition on our campus—as expected a state of things as orientation, finals and graduation.” The discussion of diversity too often devolves into an unnecessary debate about “political correctness” when advanced from the right, or a strident defense of identity politics when advanced from the left. The result of such polarization is that the true promise and value of diversity are left unexamined and unfulfilled.

In its purest sense, diversity is at the very root of the concept of a “university.” The first universities, such as Nalanda University in India, established in the 5th Century B.C., and Nanjing University in China, founded in 258 A.D., were conceptualized and anchored on the concept of diversity. These institutions were gatherings of groups of teachers, inventors and philosophers, all with diverse backgrounds, ideas and perceptions, who came together to discuss and learn from one another.

The promise of American higher education articulated in the past two centuries was that people of all social classes, and later, all ethnicities and cultures, could transform themselves, American society, and the world, through the intellectual opportunities offered at our colleges and universities. The concept of diversity is clearly a foundation upon which both ancient and modern universities have been built.

Our efforts to foster diversity here at the University of Colorado at Boulder include ethnic, gender, intellectual and geographic diversity. We must seek a powerful blending of each of these aspects through vibrant and well-qualified students, and within a talented, thoughtful and highly motivated faculty, staff and administration, who together can create an environment that not only welcomes, but embraces diversity.

Achieving this vision of diversity at CU-Boulder will mean that a rich plurality of life experiences, ways of thinking and solutions to our most pressing intellectual challenges, can always be within our grasp. But more importantly, our vision of diversity will make us a better university: a more dynamic institution that draws from the power of unlimited human resources and ever expanding ideas, hopes and dreams.

An important step toward this reality requires that we give diversity a place in the leadership and management of our university. With this goal in mind, I have requested that Provost Phil DiStefano initiate a search for a new position: a Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement. This new vice chancellor will serve as a member of the senior leadership team alongside the other vice chancellors and the provost. He or she will coordinate our overall diversity efforts targeted at faculty, staff and students; manage our total outreach to under-represented communities throughout Colorado; and work to ensure that diversity permeates everything we do.

The goal in creating this position is to ensure that we clearly articulate a vision and provide leadership in the development of university-wide programs that support and foster a more diverse community—one that embraces and welcomes diversity in all its forms. It is appropriate that we take this important step, in order to make diversity a seamless part our basic endeavors, so that with time, it can become not an aspiration, but a reality. In creating that reality, we are not partaking of the politics of the left or the right, we are simply being true to the university’s ancient past and its brightest future.

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