Regents adopt guiding principles following robust debate about diversity

Board also approves revised campus strategic plans, receives budget update
By Staff

University of Colorado regents on Thursday, Feb. 11, adopted an overarching mission statement and a set ofguiding principles that define CU's identity as an institution of higher education.

The vote to adopt the 12 principles came a day after the board engaged in a robust discussion about the definition of "diversity" while trying to refine the principles' language during a meeting on the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus.

Among other ideals, the tenets spell out CU's commitment to "encourage and provide access to all qualified students within the financial capability and student capacity of the university." They also define CU as a public institution that strives to be a conscientious steward of all resources; encourages and supports innovation and entrepreneurship; and strives to meet the state's health care, technology, work force training and civic literacy needs.

On Wednesday, the regents debated how to broaden the university's definition of "diversity" in the fifth guiding principle, which encourages a learning environment that reflects a broad range of geographic, cultural and philosophical differences.

Regent Jim Geddes, M.D., R-Centennial, sought to ensure that CU expanded its definition of diversity to include political differences, especially as they apply to faculty and party affiliation.

CU should strive to be a university "where there is a rich interchange of ideas," he told other board members, and where "our students will be the best educated in the country."

Regent Joe Neguse, D-Boulder, noted that ethnic and socioeconomic diversity is still an important goal given continued low enrollment for students of color and first-generation scholars on many college campuses. At CU-Boulder, for example, black students account for only 2 percent of total enrollment; Latinos only 6 percent, he noted.

In the end, the nine-member board approved a compromise principle, to "promote faculty, student and staff diversity to ensure the rich interchange of ideas in the pursuit of truth and learning, including diversity of political, geographic, cultural, intellectual and philosophical perspectives."

The regents also discussed their effort to refine the university’s presidential search process, and thanked student, staff and faculty leaders for ample input on the issue from governance groups. The board agreed to send the issue back to the regents’ laws and policies committee for further discussion, and expects to vote on a final option at a later date.

On Thursday, the board received a sobering budget update from Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kelly Fox and campus chief financial officers. Fox told the regents that the state continues to reduce general fund support for higher education as it struggles to balance the state budget during the worst economic downturn in decades.

On Jan. 27, the governor announced an additional $5.5 million cuts to higher education, and CU's portion amounts to another $1.5 million in cuts, Fox said.

As with all previous cuts, CU is backfilling the state funding deficiency with federal stimulus money. Once that's gone, however, CU and other higher education institutions in Colorado face what amounts to a financial cliff. Higher education budget experts across the nation do not expect the outlook to rebound for several years. For now, the state is continuing to project that CU's budget for fiscal year 2011-12 will be $159 million, but if planned state funding does not materialize, the outlook could be far worse, Fox warned.

Fox presented the grim budget outlook for higher education even as she shared news of a national report that ranks the state of Colorado No. 1 in the nation — and CU No. 1 in the state — based on the number of degrees and certificates awarded as compared to state funding. The rankings were issued by the Delta Cost Project.

Also on Thursday, the regents approved the designation of UCCS Professor Donald Klingner, Ph.D., as a Distinguished Professor.

Klingner, an internationally recognized public administration expert and author, was visibly moved by introductions by Board of Regents Chair Steve Bosley and UCCS Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak that spurred a standing ovation by all attending the board meeting.

"All of this is simply overwhelming," Klingner said, before thanking all of people who supported his nomination. "Five years ago none of this was expected, and it just doesn't get any better."

In other business, regents also approved:

  • Revised campus strategic plans reflecting the realities of what is expected to be a protracted state and national economic downturn
  • Six new degree programs at CU-Boulder, UC Denver and UCCS
  • The naming of the Gallogly Events Center at UCCS
  • The establishment of two new system scholarship funds
  • The adoption of nine Principles of Ethical Behavior
  • A tenure appointment at UC Denver
  • 17 sabbaticals at CU-Boulder, and another 12 at UCCS

By Deborah Méndez-Wilson