Published: Oct. 7, 2021

Chancellor Philip DiStefano today assured the Boulder Faculty Assembly that he and Provost Russell Moore would uphold the provisions in current regent law that support academic freedom. 

The chancellor also clarified for the group that the inclusion of the Bruce D. Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization in a presentation on CU campus diversity programs at an Oct. 5 regents’ committee meeting came at the request of the CU system.

The meeting of the regents’ University Affairs Committee featured presentations by academic and administrative leaders of the four CU system campuses. CU Boulder’s presentation, led by Moore, reported on programs such as the LEAD Alliance, the Pre-collegiate Outreach Program, Veterans and Military Affairs programs, Student Affairs programs, a critical needs hiring program led by CU Boulder’s Office of Faculty Affairs and the Benson Center. 

The inclusion of the Benson Center had prompted concern in some faculty circles on campus, but DiStefano told the BFA it was both appropriate and requested by the CU system. 

“We were specifically asked to talk about programs that serve first-generation students—we were also specifically asked to identify programs that serve other communities, such as the Benson Center and Veterans Affairs,” DiStefano said. 

DiStefano acknowledged that “the Benson Center has experienced controversy” around its former Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought & Policy John Eastman, whom Moore removed from performing outreach functions on behalf of the Benson Center following Eastman’s appearance and remarks at a Jan. 6 Washington, D.C., rally prior to the Capitol riots. 

But DiStefano also noted that “the Benson Center continues its work and in my mind it has made valuable contributions to the campus since its inception.” 

DiStefano said the mention of the Benson Center in the Oct. 5 regents’ committee meeting “doesn’t take away from the other programs we have that are for our DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] students and faculty.”

A discussion on recent revisions of the Benson Center’s bylaws then ensued, prompted by Alastair Norcross of philosophy, who asked whether requiring a sponsoring academic department for all Benson Center visiting scholars was desirable, given that “one of the things that was problematic about Eastman was that the department for whom he was teaching courses, the decision to approve it (his appointment) was made unilaterally by the chair of that department.” 

Rob Rupert of philosophy, chair of the Arts and Sciences Council, said that a motion passed by the ASC in April established as Arts and Sciences policy that in the final round of deliberations to select a visiting scholar candidate, meetings of voting (faculty) members should be held in closed-door sessions “to insulate the process from (selection) committee members who aren’t voting.” 

Shilo Brooks of the Herbst Program for Engineering, Ethics & Society, associate faculty director at the Benson Center, confirmed that external members of hiring committees for the Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy have never had a vote, and said the Benson Center had updated its bylaws not as a response to Eastman’s example, but because “we wanted to show we had read the ASC document and to be in keeping with the wishes of the college.” 

BFA member Jeffrey Chadwick of the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program said rules about the selection of the visiting scholar were not as important as “how you are unable to remove someone who encourages domestic terrorism in the United States.” 

CU Boulder Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke then weighed in, speaking from the standpoint of his former role as vice president and chief legal counsel for the CU system and reminding the group that at the time the campus took action to remove Eastman only from his outreach roles with the Center, “there were only the statements he had made in attending the rally on Jan. 6.” 

“Those statements were determined to have been within the bounds of his First Amendment rights,” O’Rourke said. “There are means to address misconduct of a faculty member — they are spelled out in regent law and policy that you have access to as faculty members,” he said. 

DiStefano also told the BFA

  • The campus had a “remarkably smooth opening” for fall, and most students, faculty and staff met the Sept. 15 deadline for reporting their vaccination status, with “more than 95 percent of those who submitted their information [having been] vaccinated.”
  • The fall 2021 enrollment census showed “a 1.8 percent increase in the undergraduate population from fall 2020 and a 6.5 percent increase in the graduate student population––a combined 2.6 percent increase to nearly 36,000 students that had yielded “tuition a bit higher than expected due to higher out-of-state undergraduate and graduate enrollments,” though the campus would continue to prepare “for continued impacts to campus finances from the lower enrollment last year.” 
  • A merit salary pool “is a high priority for me,” and he would continue to discuss it with his fellow campus chancellors and with CU President Todd Saliman. If a merit salary pool is available, raises will go into effect for January 2022.
  • His Buff Undergraduate Success Leadership Implementation Team had been charged with accelerating decisions and recommendations for programs that promote undergraduate student success. The team “will look holistically across campus to determine the effectiveness of our current and planned programs and bring leading programs to our attention for additional visibility and resources.”
  • He joined his fellow campus chancellors in providing the CU system office with CU Boulder’s online proposal––drafted by CU’s Senior Vice Provost of Online Education and Dean of Libraries Robert McDonald. DiStefano said the campus’s online programs would follow the four principles outlined by Moore in the spring. He said that as chancellor, his goal this year would be to “go to the board to make sure that our proposals have been adopted before we go forward. I believe we can move in that direction and do what we do best under our guidelines.”

In other BFA agenda items

Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Assessment Katherine Eggert presented for BFA review and comment three draft policy updates related to non-tenure-track faculty personnel processes, faculty grievance processes at the provost’s level and the Professional Rights and Responsibilities of Faculty Members (“PRR”) update that the assembly approved in April. These updates mesh Academic Affairs policy with the PRR and conform Academic Affairs policy and procedures with revisions to regent and CU system policy.

  • The policy on “Titles, Roles, Appointment, Evaluation and Promotion of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty in Teaching and Librarian Positions” updates the current “Academic Affairs Guidelines for the Appointment, Evaluation, and Promotion of Lecturer and Instructor Rank Faculty.”
  • The policy on the “Provost’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Grievance” updates the current “Provost’s Grievance Procedure.”
  • The policy on “Professional Rights and Responsibilities of Faculty Members and Roles and Professional Responsibilities of Academic Leaders” updates the “Academic Affairs Policy on Professional Rights and Duties of Faculty Members and Roles and Professional Responsibilities of Department Chairs” (2013), for which the PRR itself serves as procedures.
  • Eggert also presented a draft revision of the multi-year instructor contract for the assembly’s information. This revision brings the contract in line with revisions to regent and CU system policy.