Helping to Heal Our Nation’s Divisiveness
Like so many others, I am horrified and heartbroken by last week’s events at the Capitol, the temple of our nation’s democracy. As I watched the desecration and violence unfold, I was reminded of evacuating my Congressional office in the Capitol with my staff on 9/11 amid reports a hijacked plane was heading toward Washington, D.C. I recall the tremendous awe, grief and gratitude I felt for the passengers aboard United flight 93, who sacrificed their lives to thwart terrorism, and in doing so, protected our Capitol and our democracy.
The appalling and deadly attack on Jan. 6, 2021, is our call to action. We all must do our parts to protect our democracy. Higher education bears a huge responsibility in this work.
Increasingly, identity politics, fake news and feelings of humiliation are harnessed to win elections. Fomenting the rage of one group by scapegoating others has become the norm. Colleges and universities can and must help address such combustible trends, which are dividing our nation.
At CU, we teach our students critical thinking skills that can help address division. Our commitment to instilling our students with the ability to think critically, broadly, creatively and inclusively is one of our guiding principles. Students who are able to think beyond themselves, their experiences and their corners of the world become informed citizens better able to discern fact from fiction, public relations and propaganda. They also tend to have consideration and compassion for and tolerance of others.
Diversity is the keystone for a rich exchange of ideas in pursuit of truth and learning, and our efforts in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion are at the fore of our work at CU. As we usher in the new year, we remain focused on enhancing the diversity of our faculty, students and staff; closing the equity gap in graduation and retention rates; and ensuring that all people feel welcome and supported at CU, among other efforts. “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access” is one of four pillars of our strategic plan, which we are resuming after a brief pause to contend with COVID.
Our commitment to access calls us to bridge another gap – one that reinforces disparity and resentment across the U.S.: The gap between those with access to higher education and the economic opportunities it provides and those without. We recognize the need to extend the reach of a CU education to a broader cross-section of society and reach less-represented populations. This work requires flexibility, technology and other options besides degrees. The pandemic laid bare our need to adapt to the rapid “tech-celeration” and increasing digitization of our world. Fortunately, we began bolstering our online portfolio and our technological infrastructure university-wide long before COVID.
Across CU, we must also follow our own guiding principle of thinking more broadly about how we educate and consider nontraditional options that benefit more people. This might mean providing credentials – in addition to degrees – that foster lifelong learning and/or offer career certification. While the traditional, on-campus college experience will remain intact, we must get better at attracting nontraditional students who represent an increasing and significant share of college students in the U.S. To thrive as an institution – and enable this growing segment of our country to thrive – we must meet nontraditional students where they are by diversifying our educational offerings.
At CU, we’re committed to doing our part to heal the nation’s divisiveness and protect our democracy by working to counteract the corrosive trends that fueled last week’s events in Washington. We’re rising to the call by promoting inclusion and equity for people regardless of race, identity, religion, viewpoint or experience; fostering respectful debate and disagreement – not demonization – with those of differing views and opinions; extending our educational reach and its associated opportunities to more people; and cultivating critical thinking and consideration of all sides of an issue.
This work is ongoing and is not easy, but given that the health of our nation is at stake, it is decidedly worth the effort.
Mark R. Kennedy
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Last week, we welcomed three new members to the CU Board of Regents – Nolbert D. Chavez, Callie Rennison and Ilana Spiegel – who took their oaths of office in an online ceremony. With the addition of these outstanding individuals, we expect great things from the board in the years ahead. In addition, we said farewell to Regents John Carson, Irene Griego and Linda Shoemaker; we are deeply grateful for their service to CU.
Although state lawmakers will convene at the Capitol for the 2021 legislative session Jan. 13, the business of the Legislature – including determining state funding for CU and higher education across the state – won’t get underway until Feb. 16. The delay is a result of the pandemic.
Back to Campus Plans
Our CU community is eager to resume on-campus classes and activities, and we are eager to initiate in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so. While closely following state guidelines and recommendations, these decisions are being made on a campus-by-campus basis. The following is an overview of each campus’ plan as of this newsletter’s publication:
- CU Boulder: In-person instruction and on-campus student activities and experiences are planned beginning Feb. 15 on a modified basis. More information will be distributed Jan. 14.
- CU Colorado Springs: Effective Feb. 22, UCCS will offer a blend of in-person, high flex, hybrid and remote courses. Spring semester begins Jan. 19.
- CU Denver: Similar to the plan in the fall, spring on-campus and hybrid classes will be offered with testing and daily attestations starting Jan. 19.
- CU Anschutz: As a health care facility, CU Anschutz has maintained its operational status.
CU on the Air
Without a doubt, it was a rough year. As we welcome 2021, CU on the Air looks back on 2020 to highlight our Top 5 shows. Not surprisingly, three of the five most popular podcasts were COVID-19 related. The other two were about CU in space, and the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.
News from Our Campuses
CU Boulder to advance resolutions to rename two buildings: Pending regent approval, the campus would rename the Education Building to honor Lucile Berkeley Buchanan, the first African American woman to graduate from CU Boulder; Temporary Building 1 would be named to honor psychology and neuroscience Professor Emeritus Albert Ramírez and his late wife, Vera.
CU Colorado Springs
Allee named Dean of Students: Amanda Allee, director of institutional equity and Title IX coordinator, has been named UCCS’ new dean of students. She will assume the role Feb. 8. Allee has previously held roles as director of student and judicial affairs, assistant dean of students and director of institutional equity and Title IX coordinator.
Weed-chomping animals in lab coats? Weaver’s goats assist in urban farm research: When Amanda Weaver dreamed of moving to the mountains and having goats, little did she know her dream location was a farm in Wheat Ridge. There, the senior instructor created a certificate program in sustainable urban agriculture within the Geography and Environmental Studies Department.
A Time to Reinvest in Our Early Career Scientists: The stress and uncertainty of COVID-19 has weighed heavily on many of those on the front lines. Lilia Cervantes, M.D., was one of the first to work in a COVID-19 unit. The night before her first shift at Denver Health, Cervantes, also a mother of two daughters, went online to make a will.