October 30, 2013
Dear Members of the University of Colorado Community:
Thank you for you service to the University of Colorado. The Board of Regents greatly appreciates your contributions to the university’s success -- in classrooms, in laboratories, and in our communities.
We write today to convey recent actions by the Board of Regents and hope to dispel some misconceptions that have recently come to our attention.
At recent meetings, the Board of Regents unanimously approved two measures. One is a change to the Laws of the Regents to protect members of the university community from discrimination. The second approved conducting a climate survey to gauge how well the University of Colorado has implemented our principles of diversity. We believe that both of these are important milestones in the university’s journey toward a community that welcomes all students, staff and faculty. While media reports only focused on one part of what were unifying, bipartisan votes by our board, the actions approved were much broader.
First, the Board of Regents adopted a resolution to modify Article 10 of the Laws of the Regents to prohibit discrimination based upon political affiliation, political philosophy, gender identity, and gender expression. We are very pleased that the Board of Regents acted to explicitly provide protection for gender identity and gender expression, which made the Laws of the Regents consistent with Colorado law and existing campuses policies. We have already heard from several members of the university community thanking us for taking this step.
Some confusion has arisen about the protections for political affiliation and political philosophy. In particular, some people have characterized this amendment to the Laws of the Regents as providing special protections for “conservative” viewpoints. This is inaccurate. As the Board of Regents considered this amendment, it was guided by established law holding that political belief and political association constitute the core activities within the First Amendment protections. Notably, this change was supported by all the regents.
As the governing board for a public institution of higher education, the Board of Regents is committed to the principles of the First Amendment and to ensuring that faculty members of all political beliefs and political affiliations are welcome to teach at the University of Colorado. We were also guided by the existing principles of academic freedom, which have long been embodied in the Laws of the Regents, which require that the appointment, reappointment, promotion and tenure of faculty members be based on that scholar’s teaching, research, creative work, and service to the university, and not be based upon extrinsic considerations such as a scholar’s personal political and social views.
Second, the Board of Regents will commission a climate survey to determine how CU has implemented its commitment to the principles of diversity. Again, some have characterized this climate survey as related only to political diversity, but the Board of Regents authorized the climate survey to evaluate how CU and each of its campuses have implemented the requirement that CU respect diversity in all its forms, including race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, political affiliation, and political philosophy. While our commitment to these principles is expressed through our formal policies, the Board of Regents believes that it is important to obtain data to measure how well our communities have implemented the principles of non-discrimination. We believe the climate survey will allow us to evaluate whether our students, faculty, and staff are interacting with each other in an environment that is welcoming and respectful, as well as to provide a benchmark for measuring our progress in the coming years. The climate survey is not targeted at particular campuses or departments. Instead, it represents the first system-wide effort to gauge the University of Colorado’s progress in eliminating discrimination in whatever form it may take. We are committed to ensuring that the climate survey is done by a qualified and objective third-party. The climate survey received unanimous support from the Board of Regents.
We welcome your input as we move forward with these important initiatives. Together, through the combined efforts of the Board of Regents, the administration, and the faculty, the University of Colorado will be a stronger, more inclusive community. Please feel free to contact us individually.
Michael Carrigan, Chair, Board of Regents
Sue Sharkey, Vice Chair, Board of Regents