‘We can be better than we’ve been’
story by Jeff Dodge
published Sept. 29, 2022
In the first Fall Address held since 2019, Interim President Rick Miranda reflected on what former Colorado State University President Al Yates said during the aftermath of the Spring Creek Flood that inundated campus in 1997.
“The flood offered many lessons, not the least of which is that we can be better than we’ve been,” Yates said during the first Fall Address and University Picnic 25 years ago. “Only if we do this – only if we are better in the end – can we claim that our recovery efforts have been successful.”
The flood recovery effort in 1997 inspired Yates to thank the University community for its resiliency by adding a free picnic to the annual president’s address. Miranda drew parallels between that time and the present, as CSU emerges from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lessons it brought.
“We’re here today, after a pause of two cycles of Fall Addresses, to do three things: remember the costs we have borne; celebrate the successes we’ve had; and to look to the future,” Miranda said. “Everything we’ve learned in this period can be harvested, to make us better than we’ve been.”
The Fall Address and University Picnic, held Sept. 29 on CSU’s historic Oval, featured performances by the CSU Marching Band and Spirit Squads as well as remarks from Interim Provost Janice Nerger and Associated Students of Colorado State University President Rob Long, who introduced Miranda.
In his remarks, Miranda focused on free speech, priorities for the year, recent successes and the value of higher education.
Free speech and academic freedom are bedrock principles of the University, he said, and while CSU can’t protect community members from the speech of others, it can clearly articulate its values, educate community members about responding with their own free speech, and provide support to the most vulnerable individuals in the community.
“Hate speech is virtually always rooted in malicious lies – and our primary mission is to counter lies with the truth,” he said. “Discovering the truth, speaking the truth, supporting the truth – that’s what we ought to do best. We should always strive to be more effective champions for the truth than we’ve been.”
CSU Interim President Rick Miranda, Interim Provost Janice Nerger and ASCSU President Rob Long address the CSU community on the Oval Sept. 29 during the annual Fall Address and University Picnic. Photos by John Eisele and Joe A. Mendoza/CSU Photography
Among goals for the coming year, Miranda listed improving compensation and pay equity for faculty, staff and graduate assistants. In a meeting this week, he said, he told members of the Graduate Student Council that covering fees for graduate staff will be a top budget priority.
“Our faculty, our staff and our graduate assistants deserve to be paid comparably to peers around the country, and they should be able to live and buy homes in the community where they work,” Miranda said. “We’re going to put special attention to our colleagues at the lower end of the pay scale in our next budget cycle.”
Student-related priorities include improving the curriculum, striving for each entering class to reflect the diversity of Colorado, closing equity gaps and improving retention and graduation rates. He said other goals involve serving Colorado better, becoming even more of a research powerhouse after another record-breaking year in sponsored project expenditures, and improving operations and facilities like the Clark Building, a comment that was met with applause.
Among current highlights, Miranda cited CSU’s largest incoming class ever, being rated the best educational employer in the state by Forbes and continued top national rankings for sustainability. He also lauded the development of the Spur Campus at the National Western Center in Denver, where the third and final building, “Hydro,” will open in January. Noting that the campus has something for all ages, Miranda said his 98-year-old father and 2-year-old grandson alike would delight in visiting Spur.
He pointed out that people often refer to the legacy of university leaders as being around buildings, programs or organizations.
“But the real legacy of leadership in higher education is the tens of thousands of students who develop as scholars and critical thinkers, who use the platform of the University to probe deeply and with increasing rigor the fundamental questions facing all of us, and who graduate to positions of substance in our communities.”
— Interim President Rick Miranda
“But the real legacy of leadership in higher education is the tens of thousands of students who develop as scholars and critical thinkers, who use the platform of the University to probe deeply and with increasing rigor the fundamental questions facing all of us, and who graduate to positions of substance in our communities,” Miranda said.
He added: “A promise lives within each one of our students. It is our responsibility to ensure that the students in our charge can fulfill their promise; that they are given the freedom to listen, to speak, to learn, to fail, to fail again, and ultimately, finally to succeed. That requires that we hire and develop faculty and staff who understand this responsibility, who are committed to it, and who have the talent to excel at providing that environment and that education to our students.”
Miranda concluded with an anecdote about a recent trip to take in the scenic beauty of the Colorado mountains.
“We are blessed to live in the best state in the country,” he said. “Just look around. Our goal should be no less: to be the best land-grant university in the country. We can be; and to quote President Yates one more time – we can be better than we’ve been.”
President’s Fall Address to the University
Read the full transcript of Interim President Rick Miranda’s Fall Address at president.colostate.edu/speeches-and-writing/fall-address-2022. Or watch the entire address at https://youtu.be/qVqMLOWdK3I?t=2497.