December message from the BFA Chair: Being Bold and Being Boulder: A Faculty Call to Action

December 16, 2013

Be Boulder. As the University of Colorado embraces this platform, there is no better time to consider what it means for our faculty community to embody the essence of being bold. I believe that our community is comprised of individuals who demonstrate bold thinking and inspire our students to Be Boulder. However, as a faculty we need to actively consider what it means to foster and cultivate this ideal. What does it mean as a faculty and a campus to be bold? The answer to this question may take many forms. In this editorial, I put forward my own perspectives as an avenue to generate discussion. These are critical questions; I encourage you to engage in the conversation with me.

History informs us that a fine line exists between recklessness and boldness. John Adams; Teddy Roosevelt; Nelson Mandela; Susan B. Anthony; Rosa Parks: all profoundly affected the world through bold actions that defied convention. At the same time, history reveals how society can label individuals as “reckless” when bold ideas are seen as unconventional. Were these individuals actually reckless, or did automatic adherence to existing conventions discourage change? In either case, determined individuals, both bold and reckless, can profoundly challenge our perspectives of the world in which we live. In contrast, no one remembers those who timidly attach themselves to the status quo. The individuals who are afraid to inspire or embrace change are the footnotes of history, mere afterthoughts.

With these thoughts in mind, I put forth these foundational ideas that some may think bold and others reckless, but ones that I hope will inspire the kind of discussion and debate that live up to the ideal of Be Boulder.

  • Adaptability – The corporate stability that led to the 25-year gold watch in the mid-20th century is a thing of the past. Flexibility, adaptability, and well-roundedness are the next generation of human resource attributes. This demand for adaptability is a call to include traditional education philosophies in an era of rapidly expanding fields of interdisciplinary study. Rather than viewing this interdisciplinary focus as a threat to discipline depth, we should embrace the change and demonstrate boldness as a university by tearing down the walls of isolation between departments and colleges. Twenty-first century adaptability requires flexibility in curriculum, which requires faculty and students to seamlessly interact in evolving learning communities.
  • Inclusion – The term inclusion is often interpreted through the eyes of an individual group. One group considers itself inclusive while another considers itself isolated. Perspective is the key to understanding. As a faculty, we need to be constantly aware of what inclusiveness means and aggressively move to broaden, not further restrict, our community. Given that the reality of budgets is redefining our community, supporting a two-tier system within our ranks that isolates a significant number of individuals from the decision-making process is not sustainable. Being bold means listening and debating a broad range of ideas from a broad community. As such, building on a BFA resolution passed in May 2013 I call on all departments to act boldly and provide instructors with equal voting rights to build an inclusive rather than exclusive environment.
  • Opportunity – The greatest role of a leader is to provide the opportunity for a successor. A changing community requires a body of individuals who are able to set bold visions that reflect a comprehensive understanding and discussion of emerging issues. In a university community, the first opportunity for leadership is often as a department chair. The success of our community is dependent on many faculty members serving in these positions and obtaining a full understanding of the forces acting upon the University of Colorado. Therefore, to expand this cohort and to enhance our opportunity to set bold visions, I encourage, whenever possible, department chairs to act as bold leaders and serve no more than four years and then pass the reins to the next individual. Concurrently, we need to expand, foster, and promote meaningful campus leadership opportunities for faculty beyond the role of department chair.
  • Excellence – Excellence is a goal that every faculty member strives to achieve. It is the foundation of our culture and our merit system. Excellence is the cornerstone of our reputation and of our future community. However, we must reexamine our definition of excellence so as to avoid creating a future that is simply a mirror of the past.  The pillars of service, teaching, and research support our university. These pillars must be in balance to avoid a dangerous tilt in any one direction. Our success requires this balance to be fostered, proclaimed, and rewarded. The faculty must set a bold example and reexamine both this balance and the concept of excellence in all reviews.

There are many other ideas that could be considered as cornerstones to building a bold community. The ones listed above are a starting point. Some of you may consider them bold, some reckless or tame, but none should consider them an endorsement of the status-quo. It is time to Be Boulder.

The ideas presented here are those of the writer and do not represent official BFA policy or reflect BFA debate and discussion. These and other ideas are currently being considered and debated by the BFA in an effort to develop a more proactive faculty. I urge all of you to join this discussion by giving comments on the new BFA blog at http://cuboulderbfa.wordpress.com or consider attending a BFA general meeting and lending your voice directly to the discussion.

I hope all of you have a great winter break and I look forward to a lively and productive discussion.

Paul Chinowsky, BFA Chair

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