University of Colorado Boulder will immediately enact policy changes to address equality and systemic racism on campus, Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced in a letter to students, faculty and staff members Thursday.
DiStefano pledged to collaborate with the campus community to bring “rapid and sustained progress toward true equity and inclusion that so many of you are demanding from me, our administration and each other.”
The killings of black people by police has sparked protests and calls for change across the country, and CU Boulder students have similarly demanded changes from campus leaders.
“As the leader of one of our nation’s leading public research universities, I first want to acknowledge that we have failed to foster a fully anti-racist, diverse, inclusive and welcoming culture for everyone in our campus community,” DiStefano wrote. “Secondly, I also must acknowledge and commit to better understanding the effects of ongoing violence against Black people in our community and across the United States.”
Beginning this week, the campus will update faculty and staff hiring practices and student recruitment and retention policies.
That includes mandatory implicit bias training for people on search committees and who vote on faculty hires, allocating funding to support hiring diverse employees, evaluating policies to make sure that the campus recruits from schools that support communities of color and developing applications and admissions forms that highlight the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.
All students and employees will be required to complete bystander training, DiStefano wrote, and the campus will develop an anti-racism section of CU 101, an introductory course for first-year students.
Along with the university system, CU Boulder will look at its relationship with Colorado Correctional Facilities, which sells office furniture made by prisoners.
A petition started by current CU Boulder student Ruth Woldemichael and recent graduate Olivia Gardner demands that CU cut ties with the Colorado Department of Corrections and Boulder Police Department. DiStefano did not address the school’s relationship with the police department or the petition’s other demands, though the letter did commit to engaging with the CU Police Department and student groups for mutual understanding, transparency and accountability.
Woldemichael said she was shocked to read DiStefano’s statement, including the language that mirrored her and Gardner’s demands.
“This is a huge step in starting to change campus culture. Just a step,” she said. “I’m definitely guarding my emotion because we have work to do, and still have to see this play out. But this is something… a small win.”
While acknowledging the First Amendment right to free speech, DiStefano wrote that anyone who doesn’t want to respect the rights of others or be accepting of others should “reconsider their ability to be a productive member of our community.”
Some of the changes were already included in the campus’ Inclusion, Diversity and Excellence in Academics Plan, which was approved earlier this year. The plan will be implemented immediately, DiStefano said.
CU Boulder’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement worked on developing the plan and is in charge of ensuring its implementation, said Vice Chancellor Bob Boswell.
“This is critical to us as an institution in the sense that faculty, students and staff all want to see change,” Boswell said.
The changes announced Thursday show CU Boulder’s commitment from a human resources and financial standpoint, Boswell said.
“We need to have a culture where people feel that they’re welcome on the campus and that’s what we need to do if we want to expand our research, teaching and service as a priority and making sure that individuals feel comfortable on campus regardless of where they come from and what their intellectual leanings are,” he said.
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