Welcome to the 16th Annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit. I'm very happy to be here with so many faculty, staff and students who are committed to our goals of diversity and inclusion at CU-Boulder. This two-day summit is one of the most important campus events of the year.

I would like to thank the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement, Interim Vice Chancellor Robert Boswell, and Assistant Vice Chancellor Alphonse Keasley, for coordinating and hosting this important two-day event, along with the Chancellor's five standing advisory committees.

  • The Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs
  • The Chancellor's Committee on Women
  • The Program Accessibility Committee
  • The Standing Committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues
  • And the Chancellor's Diversity Advisory Board

Thank you for all you do for CU. And thank you for hosting this event.

It was 53 years ago, that the "Little Rock Nine" bravely and forcefully integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., gaining access to equal education. They and their parents are national heroes. One of the "Little Rock Nine," Carlotta Walls Lanier, today lives in Denver and her daughter, Brooke, chose CU for her college education. Brooke graduated from CU-Boulder and went on to graduate school at Columbia University. When Brooke was a freshman at CU in 1993 we enrolled 2,800 students of color. As recently as 2007, we enrolled 4,150 students of color. This year: 4,650—a 7 percent gain over last year, and 15 1/2 percent of the study body.

The number of first-generation college students also reflects diversity. This year we have 850 first-generation freshman or nearly 16 1/2 percent of the class.

These numbers are important to track because they quantify who we are, and where we are going. But they only give us a tiny two-dimensional numerical glimpse. So who are we really?

We are a community—a community of 30,000 students and 6,700 faculty and staff. As a community we have a diversity of students, faculty and staff in all forms.

We have diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, religious preferences, socio-economic status and age, as well as intellectual and geographic diversity on campus. As a university community we should celebrate our diversity.

Indeed, diversity is an enriching hallmark of life and education at CU-Boulder. We ask all our students, faculty and staff to embrace such an incredible opportunity to get to know fellow students and colleagues from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences. It's truly one of the best parts of attending and working in a university community.

A climate of healthy diversity is one in which people value individual and group differences, respect the perspectives of others, and communicate openly.

I can assure you this administration will act quickly and communicate promptly when our values of diversity and inclusion are challenged. Earlier this semester two young men of Nigerian descent—including one of our students—were verbally assaulted with racial slurs and physically attacked by visitors to our community, just yards from campus. Two suspects were arrested.

As an administration, and as a campus community, our reaction was swift and direct. As a college town and a public university, our community frequently attracts visitors … and they do not always share our values and the values of the vast majority of Americans. We must always stand up for our values and not let others erode our campus culture of inclusion and welcoming. We cannot let others create a climate of intimidation. This is our community and it is incumbent on all of us to protect our values.

Three years ago, the affront came from within the campus community. It was in the form of the written word in a student journalistic publication. A racially charged column disguised as satire. It offended us all. Again we acted quickly and together, as an administration and as a community, to conduct forums and establish reforms.

No campus can truly be a center of ideas and a place of equal exchange if some on our campus feel the sting of racism or other forms of inequity.

Last year at this summit, in my sixth month as the new Chancellor, I was compelled to talk a little bit about my own background. I believe in diversity as a value because it was all I ever knew growing up in the steel town of Steubenville, Ohio. My parents were first-generation Italian-Americans. My grandparents were Italian immigrants. I grew up among diverse people, languages and cultures: Italians, Scots, Irish and Welsh, African Americans and people of Eastern European descent. There were Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, and a host of faiths practiced in my town. My parents were small-town merchants and I was the first in my family to attend college. I know first hand that diversity and inclusion have made a difference in my life and who I am today.

I mention this because sharing and combining our life experiences and cultural backgrounds makes us a better university. By working together we can continue to elevate CU to new heights of shared humanity.

Diversity is a core value of our university. It can be found in many places in our Flagship 2030 strategic plan. One of the core initiatives is "learning in a diverse world," which calls for improving diversity and fostering a supportive and inclusive climate for all.

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. Our work in this area will make us better people, and better prepare our graduates to work and lead in an increasingly global society.

Thank you for being here today. Thank you for all you do for CU.