The University of Colorado Board of Regents on Friday voted to create the system-level position of vice president for diversity, inclusion and retention, after a spirited discussion about the need for the position and its potential cost.
Board members all affirmed their support for diversity as one of the university’s top priorities, but disagreed on how to get there.
The regents voted 5-4 to approve the position after voting down an amendment by the same margin that would have instead charged the president “to pursue this priority as he deems effective” and report to the board every six months on progress.
Regents Glen Gallegos, Irene Griego, Stephen Ludwig, Linda Shoemaker and Michael Carrigan, who introduced the measure, voted to approve the new position. The same regents voted against the amendment, introduced by Regent John Carson, that would have charged the administration with making progress on diversity.
Carrigan said his resolution aimed to elevate the discussion.
“Restating it as one more priority doesn’t do it – this position will,” Carrigan said. “I do believe this is a moral moment.”
He said the position will have three primary functions; working to increase diversity at system administration and in the board office; working with regents on diversity issues; and working with campus diversity staff to support their efforts.
Carson expressed concern about adding a likely six-figure administrator to do work that already gets extensive attention across CU, citing rising costs to students and families as an issue.
Carrigan said any added salary, staff and operational money for the position would be a “rounding error” in CU’s $3.8 billion annual budget, and suggested the regents trim their expenses and lead by example.
“Money should not be an issue for this position,” he said.
President Bruce Benson said he is open to the idea but suggested a deeper discussion about precisely what the position would do.
“There’s been progress on diversity but it’s not good enough,” he said. “I’m saying let’s get everyone at the table and see what we’re going to do and how it’s going to work with what we’re doing on the campuses.”
Regent Stephen Ludwig said the position should help CU live up to its commitment to diversity.
“I think we want to value diversity but we have a hard time actually doing it,” he said. “When it comes to walking the talk, we don’t do a very good job.”
The board did not discuss a timeline to move the issue forward, but it will likely come up again at the November board meeting.