Last week, I brought my new puppy to campus, and together we had one of our most enjoyable times of the past year when we attended the Buffs Back Together gathering on Farrand Field. It was my first time to be able to meet hundreds of the people who make the campus a wonderful and vibrant place. After so many months of seeing people on Zoom screens, I appreciated the opportunities to thank people for their hard work and to talk to them about how they were feeling. And Harley had a chance to meet Chip!
What struck me most was how much people care about CU, the people with whom we work, and the students we serve. I know that many businesses do important work, but I would respectfully suggest that our work is among the most important in Colorado. Simply stated: CU changes people’s lives for the better.
As an example, thousands of first-year students are moving into residence halls this week and turning the first page on a new chapter in their lives. In the next few years, they will gain knowledge, both in and out of the classroom, that will enable them to form relationships, participate meaningfully in civic life, and embark on their careers.
Or take another example, look at the research that is done across the campus. CU faculty are taking on the toughest challenges of our times––climate change, sustainability, quantum computing, disease transmission––and finding solutions that extend far beyond the campus. We live in a time when we need new solutions and the ability to change the way we think about our problems. And, each day, people on the CU Boulder campus create new knowledge, find those solutions, and share them with the world.
And, as inspiring as our successes have been, our work is incomplete. Too many students come to CU and leave without a degree. Too many members of our community do not feel heard or valued for their efforts. We can and must do better. SRS can help CU become more diverse, more inclusive, more resilient, and more innovative.
For the past year, we’ve all focused on getting through a pandemic, and I’m proud of the work that you did to sustain us through a crisis. As we approached the fall, I was looking forward to putting COVID in our rear view mirrors and returning to “normal.”
What we’ve seen nationally, with the rise of the delta variant and the cases that it brings, tells me that we’re still going to be dealing with COVID for months and possibly longer. We created a vaccination requirement for the campus to try to reach levels of immunity that will enable us to return to mostly in-person instruction and research. We need to be able to provide those opportunities to meet our academic and research missions. Yet, we’ve also provided opportunities for employees to seek exemptions from the vaccine requirement if they feel the need to do so. I strongly urge that we pursue the vaccine consistent with each of our unique medical, religious and personal needs, as it will be an important means of protecting our community.
We’ve also created a masking requirement for indoor public spaces on campus. We hope that this will be a temporary requirement that allows us to minimize the number of cases that we’ll experience on campus and to protect those in our community who can’t be vaccinated. Even in spaces that are not public, some will choose to wear masks, and some of us may ask others to consider wearing a mask when in their presence. That’s OK. By being considerate and understanding of each other’s circumstances, we’ll demonstrate care and find ways of bridging our gaps and supporting each other.
Not everyone will be back on campus full time, while some of us have never left and will continue to serve CU Boulder in public-facing roles. The fall semester will be a time where we find out what works, what doesn’t, and what we need to adjust in order to make it work better.
What we can’t do, however, is use COVID as an ongoing reason to defer the work we have before us. I hope that you will approach the fall semester with passion and a strong sense of purpose as our students return and classes begin.
Thank you for all you do,