FROM THE CHANCELLOR
Seize the possibilities at our Diversity Summit
Today there is a new spirit and a new sense of possibility with the election of our nation’s first African American president. For the first time in a presidential campaign, our nation had an open and frank conversation with itself about what it means to be a person of color in America. There was a real, but often difficult dialogue surrounding the candidacy of Barack Obama, but in the end that dialogue made us a better country and a better people.
Last spring we had our own conversations at CU, and like our nation, we have emerged better for it. Insensitive and racially charged satire in CU’s Campus Press offended many at the university and well beyond. We faced a moment where many wanted us to choose between diversity and free speech. We rejected that false choice, embraced both values and indeed, embraced our moment of difficult dialogue.
Working together as a campus community, we took key steps to make our environment more inclusive and welcoming for all. The Campus Press itself embraced key reforms, divorcing itself from the curriculum of our journalism school, adopting a new name (The CU Independent), creating a diversity board that has engaged the Independent’s editorial and reporting staff, and building bridges to the campus community with a new sensitivity and understanding.
The opportunity to renew our commitment to diversity occurs each year with CU-Boulder’s annual Diversity Summit, which this year arrives Feb. 16-17 at the University Memorial Center. I strongly urge you to attend this important series of seminars, discussions, panels and presentations. It is one of the most important things we can do as a community.
In his inaugural address President Obama said something that hit home. He said, “Our patchwork heritage is a strength…. We are shaped by every language and culture drawn from every end of the Earth.” As you walk around campus, have you noticed how many languages are spoken? Have you considered that in the last three years, we have had CU’s two largest, most diverse and most academically qualified freshman classes ever? Our total enrollment of students of color now puts us sixth among our Big 12 peers. Measuring ourselves against our peers is simply one way to gauge progress.
Indeed, respect for diversity is a core value at our university that we realize every day in our plans, such as our Flagship 2030 Strategic Plan, and in our leadership when in 2007 we hired the first Vice-Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement in the university’s history, Dr. Sallye McKee. Dr. McKee serves as part of the senior leadership team to help ensure that diversity permeates everything we do and is a consideration in every decision we make.
Dr. McKee and I organized the Chancellor’s Diversity Advisory Board a year ago. This is an advisory board with members from across the state representing all facets of diverse communities that advises us in addition to our campus-based advisory committees. Dr. McKee is revitalizing the Center for Multicultural Affairs, retooling organizations that facilitate diversity on campus and investing them with new personnel and new purpose. And she is personally building bridges to off-campus communities, a true ambassador for CU.
Today we are making strides in enrollment, retention and graduation of underrepresented students. Eighty percent of our first-time minority freshmen returned for their sophomore year compared to 84 percent sophomore retention for the campus as a whole. Further, 14 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2008 were to underrepresented students. Clearly we are doing something right.
But there is more to our goals than statistical improvement and there is much work yet to be done. We must continue to make our campus more welcoming, more tolerant of diverse people and diverse ideas, and more dedicated to inclusive excellence as a living, working value in all that we do.
With these needs in mind, I urge you to attend the 14th Diversity Summit on Feb. 16-17, where strategies to reach these and other diversity goals will be available to us all. If we can mirror what our nation has achieved this past year, just think about what we can achieve as a university.
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