Published: Oct. 28, 2021

Pictured are COO Patrick O’Rourke and bus driver Carlos Baca speaking on campus. As many of you know, I am a recovering lawyer.

For almost 25 years, that’s one of the ways I defined myself, along with being a husband, a father and a friend. It was part of my identity and still is in many ways.

Lawyers have their own culture, of course. Our training requires us to analyze problems in certain ways. We learn our own style of professional writing––which is often not very readable––and we have our own vocabulary. Like anyone who enters a new culture, I had to learn new traditions and conventions, and I gradually found my place in the profession.

It’s the same for almost everyone on campus. The folks in our Office of Information Technology have a culture and language that are different, say, from the culture and language embraced by faculty and staff in the chemistry department.

Indeed, each school, academic department, residence hall and athletic team has its own personality. We’re not IBM in the 1970s, when the tech giant attempted to make everyone fit into the same corporate shell to the point where management disapproved when anyone wore something other than a white shirt and tie to the office.

I wouldn’t want to work or study in a place that was trying to make everyone fit the same image, but I do wonder whether we are spending enough time consciously trying to improve our culture both within our units and across the entire campus.

My sense is that we need to do more. I hear from people who don’t feel seen and don’t feel valued. I talk to people who aren’t sure where we stand as an institution and believe that we don’t always live our values. I believe we need to address these cultural issues because they keep us from better serving our students, faculty and staff.

Cultural change happens––but it doesn’t happen in a single moment, and it doesn’t happen without effort. As we decide where to focus our efforts, we can choose to either, one, make our best guesses or, two, try to better understand where we most need to improve.

Staff: You can find a unique invitation to particpate in the Campus Culture Survey in your email inboxes.

I believe the second option is the better one, which is why I’m asking you to take the Campus Culture Survey before it closes on Nov. 21. I took the survey last week, and in doing so added my experience on campus to the data that will give us insight into the campus’s culture and how we can be more inclusive.

In the months ahead, I’ll watch closely for the survey results. We’re going to share them broadly across the campus and use them to guide our actions going forward. Within SRS, I will ask each unit to come together and decide upon the actions to improve its own culture. We’ll also find common challenges that reach across units that we can address together.

Yet, even before the results are available, I have learned a bit more about myself just from answering the questions. The survey asked me to share my experiences at CU and to consider how they related to my identities. So, for example, I answered that I have been in meetings where someone has talked over me or rolled their eyes while I was speaking. I then had to answer whether I thought that those behaviors related to my personal identities and, as a white male in a position of authority and privilege, I didn’t think so.

In asking me to think consciously about those questions, the survey reinforced for me that my colleagues, with whom I interact daily and care about deeply, could experience the same behaviors and feel dismissed because of their ethnicity, race, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation. It’s a reminder to me to try to be more conscious of how I interact with others and to recognize that what might not have an impact on me could have a real impact on those around me.

I’m grateful I was able to take the survey, as the experience will help me to be a better leader and a better colleague. I also care about making CU a better place, and the survey will be an important tool to help us in the near future and in the years ahead. Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey and thank you in advance for engaging in the discussions that will help us improve after the results become available.

Your voice matters.

Thanks for who you are and all you do,