Published: April 29, 2022

Editor's note: The following article was updated to reflect the current policies of the university.

Meeting in-person for the first time since 2020, the Boulder Faculty Assembly Thursday afternoon passed a measure with 30 votes in favor; 0 opposed; and 2 abstentions calling on the University of Colorado system administration to work with campus and system faculty governance bodies to form “a socially responsible strategy to divest from fossil fuels” and then use that strategy “to invest in a just energy transition, as quickly as financially prudent but no later than 2027.” 

The resolution, advanced to the assembly by the BFA’s Budget & Planning and Climate Science & Education committees. CU system Treasurer and Chief Investment Officer Tony Vu came to the meeting in person to discuss his role as treasurer in advocating for “sustainable investing” based on “Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors in the investment space.”

Treasurer and Chief Investment Officer Tony Vu addresses the Boulder Faculty Assembly

Treasurer and Chief Investment Officer Tony Vu addresses the Boulder Faculty Assembly

Vu discussed other ways the university could pursue more sustainable investments, such as Principles of Responsible Investing (PRI)–guidelines with a goal of transitioning to a sustainable global financial system. The university’s current policy does not include divestment.   

“I’ve been talking with a lot of people and exploring . . . for a decade to figure out how this (PRI) really works in investing,” Vu said. “It’s important for me to understand and for us to understand how our investing activities could lead to better choices, overall, for the world.” 

Vu said multiple studies have shown that when institutions factor in ESG elements in their investment portfolios and adopt PRI the outcome is “pretty simple: you do better (with investment returns).” 

Vu said the CU regents endorsed adopting PRI, a result he said he took special efforts to ensure “was not made in a vacuum.”  

“It was a really good result and a reflection of talking everyone through what we’re going to do,” Vu said. 

Vu said he would soon hire a deputy chief investment officer whose focus will be “setting up a risk framework we can all agree on for our investment portfolio,” which he said amounted to a little over $3 billion. 

Vu said he would continue to inform the BFA about this issue.

Moore updates BFA; honors 50-year faculty members Rivera, Elliott

Provost Russ Moore opened the BFA meeting with an introduction of two CU Boulder faculty members who had each logged 50 years of service to the campus: Professor George Rivera, Department of Art and Art History, and Professor Emeritus Peter D.T.A. Elliott, Department of Mathematics.

“These two fine men are not only distinguished leaders in their respective fields, they have witnessed the growth of this campus and this community over five decades,” said Moore. 

Professor George Rivera

Professor George Rivera

Professor Emeritus Peter D.T.A. Elliott

Professor Emeritus Peter D.T.A. Elliott

Moore cited Rivera’s achievements as an international artist, curator, teacher and the founder of the Boulder-based art collective Artnauts, which is dedicated to using art to focus activism toward social justice.

“For the last five decades, he has devoted himself to depicting stories of justice and injustice and to answering the deep questions of the soul they pose,” Moore said.

Moore described Elliott as a world-renowned “expert in number theory who, along with Czech-Anglo mathematician Heini Halberstam, developed the Elliott-Halberstam conjecture—a well-known conjecture in number theory concerning the distribution of prime numbers in arithmetic progressions.”

“Like Professor Rivera, Dr. Elliott’s work has been truly international,” said Moore. “He has also been a valued mentor of students at all levels, a collegial and devoted member of the mathematics department, and one of our campus’s great scholarly thinkers and lifetime students of his discipline.”

Both Rivera and Elliott briefly addressed the assembly at Moore’s invitation.

Elliott said he had come to CU “from England as a complete neophyte” and then found himself “immersed with young people from 18 to 25 for the rest of my life.”

“I’ve liked it very much, even when difficult,” he said, closing with “I sympathize with all of you.”

Rivera told the group that as a young CU Boulder student, “I once asked my professor, ‘How can I stay here forever?’ He said, ‘Become a professor.’”

“So, I thank CU for letting me become a professor,” Rivera said.

Moore then thanked the BFA for its hard work this year, noting the challenges of the pandemic, the one-year anniversary of the King Soopers shootings and a “horrible fire,” saying, “Everyone has risen to the challenge, and I thank everyone for their great courage and resilience.”

He then updated the body on several ongoing issues:

Faculty Salary Procedures Working Group

The campus will announce before the end of the semester the composition of the Faculty Salary Procedures Working Group, sponsored jointly by Moore and the BFA, which will “work on a number of issues on faculty salaries and distribution practices.”

“I’m excited to partner with this group and support them in their important work,” Moore said.

Search committees

Within the next two weeks, Moore will seat search committees for the vice chancellor for student affairs and the vice chancellor for research and innovation and dean of the institutes. He stated that the goal of the search committee for a new chief financial officer, chaired by Executive Vice Provost Ann Schmiesing, would be to “identify a new CFO in early fall 2022.”

Budget model redesign

The budget model redesign process is progressing. The budget model “is in its penultimate phase” and will launch on July 1.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

The campus is making progress on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Moore noted he and other campus leaders recently met with the IDEA Council for “frank discussions.”

“They are keeping track of what we as a campus are committing ourselves to and holding us accountable,” Moore said.

He noted the consultants being hired and deployed by Senior Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Sonia DeLuca Fernández to help campus units make workplace transformations based on the results of the recent Campus Culture and Workplace Survey would also help the campus “make good progress.”

“We know this works—we piloted this approach in CIRES, and in less than two years, there were striking results,” Moore said.

Benson Center for Western Civilization

Moore stated he supports a letter from Acting Dean Jim White of the College of Arts and Sciences to the college last week, in which White defended free speech and academic freedom in light of a recent petition to close the college’s Benson Center for Western Civilization due to its association with former Benson Center visiting scholar John Eastman. Eastman has been under fire for his role in reportedly urging Trump to support the Jan. 6 capitol attack.

Moore said White’s letter underscores the need for the campus to continue ongoing discussions—sponsored by the Office of Faculty Affairs—about how to engage in the practice of academic freedom.

The praise of White’s letter prompted a respectful dissent by BFA Chair Tiffany Beechy, who noted a paragraph in the letter that “spoke approvingly of the decision not to fire a football coach—who called homosexuality “an abomination of God.” “It’s a protected class, and we work hard to include all members of our community...I have ambivalent feelings about how expansive Dean White’s definition of inclusion was,” Beechy said.

Other BFA end-of-year business

  • The assembly unanimously approved a resolution to adopt changes to the Privileges, Rights and Responsibilities (PRR) Document—specifically, revisions of job titles and classifications for teaching professor-track and clinical faculty members covered under the policy.
  • Also unanimously approved: a revised committee charge, membership and title of the former BFA’s Libraries Committee, now to be called the Libraries, Academic Materials and Publication Committee. BFA member Alastair Norcross of philosophy noted the “kick-ass” acronym formed by the new name: LAMP.
  • Elected Norcross as vice chair of the BFA and current Vice Chair Vicki Grove of Germanic and Slavic Literature and Languages as secretary beginning July 1 for three-year terms.
  • Honored past Chair Bob Ferry of History for his four consecutive years of service as chair, along with BFA Program Coordinator Lynne Howard for her “astute, fearless and kind” service to the assembly.