Regents offer differing expectations of vice president for diversity

Consultant findings expected in early March

The CU Board of Regents on Friday discussed what approach a consulting firm should take as it works with the university to define the role of the new system-level vice president for diversity, inclusion and retention. The position was approved by the regents at the board’s September 2016 meeting.

Kathy Nesbitt, vice president for employee and information services, told the board that faculty, staff and student input had been considered, and the consulting services of Sanchez, Tennis and Associates had been contracted to help build out the position to best foster greater diversity and awareness throughout all facets of the university. The consultants’ findings will be delivered March 3, she said.

But regents Kyle Hybl, Sue Sharkey and Heidi Ganahl questioned whether the consultants were fully addressing the mission of diversity, or simply focusing on the role of the new vice president.

Hybl stressed that the board’s goals need to be clear and the new position must have benchmarks for how it is going to attain those goals.

“It does strike me as potentially unfortunate that we have told (the consultants) we are going to have this position no matter what,” said Hybl, R-Colorado Springs. “I think it would be better to say, ‘Here are our goals, generally speaking, for diversity. How best could you get us there? Is this position the most effective way to get us there?’ I myself am troubled by the direction we’re going with the consultant if we’re not allowing them full access.”

Sharkey said she had understood the resolution was to do what is best to enhance the university’s mission for diversity, not to solely focus on the vice president position.

“I feel that they’re working in a box within a framework, rather than expanding it and loading up all the areas and finding how we can best achieve the goal this position was intended for,” said Sharkey, R-Castle Rock. “I am very disappointed to hear – with the consultants – what they were working on. I thought they were looking at all areas and how we can best be successful, but now I see it has been contained in a box of a resolution that was passed very quickly.”

Regent Linda Shoemaker, D-Boulder, reminded the board that it had voted and approved the resolution, and Nesbitt was moving forward following that directive.

“If some board members want to reconsider that position, then that should be done in the proper way,” Shoemaker said. “But I believe that we need this position; that’s what this board voted for and I think there’s a good use for this position in this system.”

Regent Glen Gallegos, R-Grand Junction, said he met with the consultants and he believes they are on the right track and the board should stay the course.

“I would say March 3 – let’s let the consultants finish. I think the consultants are going to give us what we’re talking about. And if not we can certainly expand that at that time,” Gallegos said. “The time that I spent with them, it sounded like they were exploring all those different areas.”

Sharkey made a motion to direct Nesbitt to instruct the consultants to consider whether alternate or increased funding of existing employment structures, positions or programs would most effectively and efficiently achieve the board’s goal of achieving systemwide diversity. The motion was seconded by Ganahl, R-Superior.

The motion failed 5-3, with Sharkey, Ganahl and Hybl voting for in favor. Regent John Carson did not attend the meeting.

Faculty Assembly Chair Ravinder Singh also weighed in on the importance of the new vice president for diversity position.

“I strongly feel that we need to put our best foot forward for diversity and inclusion,” Singh said. “We have to nurture it; only then will something good come of this effort.”

The board will further discuss the position and Sanchez, Tennis and Associates’ findings at the regents’ April 5-6 meeting at CU Denver.