Faculty Council gives new President Amy Parsons input, encouragement at Feb. 7 meeting

Amy Parsons
President Amy Parsons

In her first meeting with Faculty Council since she was named president of Colorado State University in December, Amy Parsons received a warm welcome and some advice.

Parsons began her report at the Feb. 7 meeting by asking for feedback, saying that she plans to do a lot of listening­. She gave a brief update on the latest budget proposal for 2023-24, noting that she can give a more complete budget presentation at the April council meeting. Parsons said faculty/staff compensation will be a top priority, as it was for Interim President Rick Miranda.

“My goal is to not be at 85% or 90% in compensation of our peers,” she said. “My goal will always be to be 100% compensation to our peers, and then to edge them out, because we want to be known as a great place to work, a place that values its faculty and staff through compensation.”­

Additional goals

Parsons listed other priorities, including student success, boosting diversity, fundraising and communication. At a time when some are questioning the value of higher education and a four-year degree, telling the stories of faculty and their impact on students needs to be a top goal, she said. Parsons added that one creative idea could be to use social media to tell a series of “day in the life” stories about faculty members.

She listed the various vice president searches that are under way or are about to begin, and she acknowledged that the past few years have not been easy, with the pandemic and leadership changes.

“I really hope that I can step in at this point and bring stability and collaboration and trust, and really strengthen the role of shared governance, which I believe in,” Parsons said. “And find ways to really invest in our people and be stronger together.”

She also asked the faculty for advice on what they’d like her to focus on in her first couple of months.

‘Robust exchange of opinions’

Associate Professor Antonio Pedros-Gascon of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures congratulated Parsons on being named president, wished her the best, and offered some guidance.

“I hope that you will understand that the culture of this institution is that of a robust exchange of opinions and civic engagement,” he said. “We are not really the most welcoming to the idea of, basically, Moses coming down from the mountain and throwing the rules to the rest of us. That is going to be highly challenged if you go that way.”

Pedros-Gascon also asked for transparency and consistency.

“I really appreciate that advice and your words, and I can promise you that I do not have the Moses streak in me,” Parsons said. “I view myself as working for you, and that’s how I approach everything, and I appreciate what a large job I have in front of me. My goal is to be that transparent, open-door leader, and I hope that you all hold me to that.”

She reiterated that she is a strong proponent of shared governance.

“I believe that it’s the bedrock foundation of the American higher education system, and that we honestly cannot govern this university without strong shared governance,” Parsons said.

Protecting the workforce

Associate Professor Anders Fremstad of the Department of Economics noted that even the 5% salary increase being proposed by the administration is not enough to overcome recent inflation rates, and he asked what strategies she has for protecting the CSU workforce — especially the lower-paid employees like student workers and non-tenure-track faculty.

Parsons agreed that it will be important to compare compensation levels to CSU’s peers and increase the amount of affordable housing in the area so that people can live near their workplace. She also said lobbying for additional funding at the federal level and especially the state level will be crucial and will require a multi-year approach.

“I don’t want to always be telling the story of how Colorado’s at the bottom of the barrel [in state funding],” Parsons said. “I want to try to turn the tide on that, because that’s really what’s going to make a difference going forward.”

In response to another question about identifying new revenue streams and new ways to think about higher education, she said it’s time for “a renaissance of the land-grant mission.”

“I think that what we do as a land-grant, Research 1 university is more relevant today than it’s ever been in the history of the country,” Parsons said. “And it’s time that we start telling the story about what that value is, so that parents, students, collaborators, the general public and our politicians really understand what it means, because it’s different and unique.”

A full report of other action at the Faculty Council meeting is available on SOURCE.