Editor’s note: A sentence in this message has been reordered to more clearly state that the chancellor directed the campus to advance his eight actions for change in June, and not that the students shared their demands in June or that the killing of George Floyd occurred in June.
Aug. 26, 2020
Dear CU Boulder faculty, staff and students,
Earlier today, I received a memo from one of our student leaders and one of our regents, declaring that I had failed on the first two tests of racial justice reforms on our campus. The same memo is being shared publicly. Ordinarily, I would have responded directly to the memo’s authors, but I need to respond to the campus because the memo publicly questions my commitment to antiracism. I am writing to you today to acknowledge the student leader and regent’s message, to reflect on our campus’s efforts since June and to deepen my commitment to accelerate our progress from the past two months by taking meaningful steps to better engage our Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) in the change we need on our campus.
In particular, the memo I received is critical of the process–beginning in June–through which I have directed our campus to advance on our eight actions for change in response to demands shared by our students in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. The memo questions how we formed and announced our Council for Community and Inclusion to implement our Inclusion, Diversity and Excellence in Academics (IDEA) plan. The memo also questions the process and timing of my recent announcement of the Community Safety Task Force to evaluate our community policing policies, practices, training and recommend steps to ensure that public safety works for the entire campus community.
Responding to the urgency of our need for change, I directed our campus in June to make rapid progress on all of the above actions, and we have accomplished much in two months. Even so, the central issue of the memo is that, in our efforts to make this rapid progress, my team and I have not engaged in a meaningful enough way with the members of our BIPOC community to address the anger, marginalization and fear members of our CU Boulder community feel each day.
The memo calls for my leadership team and me to shift our approach to better engage with the BIPOC community at CU Boulder if we really expect our antiracism, diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to succeed. It calls for greater BIPOC representation within each of the actions and groups above and for stronger transparency, accountability and communication across our overall efforts to become a more antiracist campus.
I am committed to addressing antiracism, diversity, equity and inclusion. I will listen to how my team and I can make our work together better, to reflect upon the input we receive and to better engage all of you in the difficult work to come. I want us to get this right, and that requires us all to lean in and stay in the difficult conversations we need to have in order for our work to be successful. In doing this, however, we cannot disregard the important role the Council for Community and Inclusion will play in advancing the IDEA plan. Our faculty, students and staff of color believed strongly that the council was integral to the campus’s ability to implement the IDEA plan, which itself is responsive to the needs of our community. If we divert our attention from these efforts, we may address issues as they arise, but we will lose the ability to sustain the commitments we have made to our campus.
This will not be a perfect process, and our work will continue. I want to deepen how all of our communities on campus, and our BIPOC communities in particular, feel shared ownership and accountability over our progress to make CU Boulder a more antiracist community. I also want to engage more productively with our shared governance, student leaders and allied groups as we move forward.
I encourage you to learn more about our efforts to date and to share your own ideas, suggestions and criticisms of how I am leading and how we are progressing. I am listening and, together with you as a campus community, we can ensure our efforts succeed.
Philip P. DiStefano,