From the COO - Commitment to changing campus culture and removing barriers
June 5, 2020
On Wednesday, Chancellor DiStefano delivered an important message to our community about George Floyd’s brutal murder, the ongoing violence against the Black community, the systemic racial injustice that plagues our country and how it has affected us—in particular our Black community.
I’ve struggled over the past few days about what to say to you. I feared that expressing my feelings would trivialize what members of our Black community and other communities of color are experiencing. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was trying to equate my feelings with theirs. They can’t compare.
Many times, these conversations on campus focus on students and faculty, but we all are crucial members of the university who advance its mission. Right now, I need to tell all of you—our Black staff members in particular—that CU values you and I value you.
People expect leaders to know the answers; yet I haven’t had the life experience or presume that I know enough to have them. So sometimes it’s more important to listen and follow. Fortunately, CU has talented, dedicated and caring people, many of them experts who have already been working to make our campus more inclusive and equitable. They can guide our conversations and help us learn, support each other and determine how we can best work together to make CU and our communities better.
They’ve already shared with me that we need to shift our discussion and behaviors toward anti-racism, which Ijeoma Oluo describes as the “commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself.” I need to better understand what racism is, its history, how it appears in our communities and how we can fight against it. I will commit to my own education of anti-racism and consult with the wealth of resources on campus that have been curated by experts and those personally impacted. I will share this work with my peers and use it to guide my decisions in my personal and professional life.
My team and I will work with Staff Council to create better opportunities for us to come together, hear your concerns and create a stronger bond, both as the university’s staff and as a vitally important part of the campus community.
But we must not be satisfied with conversation. I will join you in fighting against systemic and structural racism that has caused countless harm and limited opportunities for our Black communities and communities of color. My team and I will join Chancellor DiStefano, Provost Moore, our academic community and our student body to change our culture and remove barriers. I will expect that you and Chancellor DiStefano hold me accountable, and I will hold my team accountable for generating meaningful and measurable progress this academic term and beyond.
Many of us are separated from each other, but I hope that you don’t feel alone. If you need help, please reach out to the Faculty & Staff Assistance Program and its professional counselors. Use the resources and deep expertise that our campus provides. If you want to share your experience, please reach out to colleagues you trust. These are conversations that we must have in our community even if it makes some of us uncomfortable. We will learn and grow together as a CU community that stands against racism. I welcome your thoughts and will invite you to participate. Please also share them with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the chancellor said, we must do more. We will do more.
We are all Buffs Together.
Patrick O'Rourke, Interim Chief Operating Officer
University of Colorado Boulder