Guiding principles, presidential search go back to governance groups

Staff, students ask Board of Regents to expand definition of diversity

Diversity was a central theme of last week's University of Colorado Board of Regents meeting as the elected officials discussed how to define the issue within university laws and policies, and students and staff appealed for an expansion that would include gender identity and expression.

In the end, the board agreed to send a set of proposed guiding principles back to CU governance groups for further input on a proposed amendment by Regent Jim Geddes, R-Sedalia, which would put more emphasis on "intellectual diversity" among faculty members. The regents also sent a proposal to update the university's presidential search process back to student, staff and faculty groups for more input.

Both issues are likely to be taken up again at the regents' regular meeting in June, the board's support staff said this week.

"There are two kinds of diversity. We're talking about racial and ethnic diversity. The other is diversity of thought. The two are distinct in my mind. This is to address diversity of thought," Geddes told fellow board members in introducing his amendment to the proposed guiding principles.

But student, staff and faculty governance group leaders asked the board to allow them to discuss the issue with their constituents, saying their members would not accept a principle that singled out faculty for "intellectual diversity."

"Faculty would not support that," said John McDowell, chair of the Faculty Council, a systemwide faculty governance group for all four CU campuses.

During a public comment period earlier in the meeting, a group of students and staff asked the regents to broaden Article 10 of the regents' nondiscrimination law to encompass "gender identity and gender expression." Speakers tried to persuade the regents that the current law, which the regents amended to include nondiscrimination based on "sexual orientation" in 2001, does not go far enough to protect transgendered students, staff and faculty.

"It seems to me the time has come to do what needs to be done. There is a need to protect transgender people in the CU system," said Angela Palermo, a staff member at CU-Boulder's Norlin Library, and one of five people who spoke about gender issues before the board.

According to another group representative, three other universities in the Big 12 have included gender identity and gender expression protection in their nondiscrimination policies.

However, Dan Wilkerson, vice president for university counsel and secretary of the Board of Regents, countered that CU's nondiscrimination law is in line with current state laws prohibiting discrimination, and that "sexual orientation" covers the gay, lesbian and transgendered community.

A proposal to establish a new policy to guide the university's presidential search process will go before CU governance groups again after the regents reviewed initial feedback by students, staff and faculty, and incorporated more proposed changes. At issue is the makeup of the presidential search committee, which would include the participation of regents, students, faculty and staff.

In other action, the Board of Regents:

  • Heard campus-level details on budget-balancing measures for the upcoming fiscal year, then offered questions and comments. Read the Newsletter's coverage, which was posted last week. The regents are expected to vote on the budget at their June meeting.
  • Approved proposed charges and fee increases for students. Mandatory fees at CU-Boulder will increase 0.4 percent in the 2011 fiscal year. UC Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus fee increases are largely limited to specific courses with higher costs. No mandatory student fees will increase at UCCS, though there will be increases to housing, as there will be at Boulder. The vote was 8-1, with Regent Tom Lucero, R-Loveland, against.
  • Approved new degree proposals: master of science in dentistry, Anschutz Medical Campus; bachelor of arts and sciences in public health, master of science in historic preservation, UC Denver.
  • Formed a Student Health Care Task Force to study potential improvement to insurance rates and efficiencies within health care for students.