Editor’s note: Colorado Sate University President Tony Frank sent the following message to the entire campus community on Aug. 24, 2018.
Colleagues: Welcome to the start of another semester at Colorado State! As I walked out of my office yesterday, the sounds of the Marching Band (I’m biased, but I think it’s The. Best. Marching. Band.) were mixing with the early evening light and the feeling of another Fall Semester being underway and kicking off the annual cycle of academic life was in the air. I think we sometimes get so involved in the business of our days – classes, research projects, meetings, deadlines – that we fail to reflect on the privilege it is to teach, serve and learn at an institution dedicated to helping generation upon generation make the most of their talent and motivation to change not only the course of lives, but often the future of our communities and, indeed, our world. Once again I’m reminded of the honor it is to work alongside all of you at Colorado State.
Just last week, we welcomed a record 8,100 students into our residence halls and campus apartments. This week, as classes got underway, more than 200 volunteers also walked the neighborhoods surrounding campus where high concentrations of students live. They visited more than 2,000 homes to share information, encourage people to introduce themselves to their neighbors, and promote a sense of community and responsibility early in the fall semester. I want to thank all of the staff and volunteers whose hard work and welcoming spirit once again made Move-In, Ram Welcome, and the Community Welcome such a success.
Now, the semester is in full swing, with our first football game of the season at Canvas Stadium this Saturday and our Rams volleyball team (ranked No. 25 in preseason polls) getting ready to face off against No. 12-ranked Illinois (my alma mater) tonight at 7 p.m. at Moby. If you haven’t been to a CSU volleyball game, you’ve missed the chance to celebrate an amazing group of student-athletes led by the winningest coach in Colorado State University history … let’s show them strong support at this key match tonight.
We have much to look forward to as we head into the fall, and I think it’s fair to also expect that this year will naturally bring some of the typical challenges that come with being part of a large, diverse, international campus community. We will be continuing our First Amendment Conversation Series, which we launched last year for faculty and staff and this year will be expanding for students. This series recognizes that the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution are central to our mission and obligations as an academic community. We uphold and honor our rights to free speech and expression not just because it’s the law, but because these values are the foundation of an academic community and a democracy. Without the First Amendment, women would never have won the right to vote, the fight for civil rights would have been lost before it began, and students wouldn’t enjoy many of the freedoms on campus that past generations fought hard to win. But the First Amendment isn’t easy. It requires us to co-exist with people whose ideas and beliefs may deeply contradict our own. It allows people unaffiliated with CSU to come on to our campus and say sometimes repugnant things. But it also allows us to call these out as antithetical to our values. And it demands that we all accept responsibility for ensuring that the loudest voices don’t just drown out the softer ones – that all, particularly the marginalized and disenfranchised, have an opportunity to be heard and that we never fail to balance the right to free expression thoughtfully with our commitment to an inclusive, safe, and welcoming community for all people. As I said, none of this is easy, but it is important work we will continue together over the course of this year.
In this same spirit last year, at the request of our students, we adopted an approach that one colleague described as “radical transparency” – notifying the campus community when racist or hate-based incidents are reported on campus. Now, let me be clear, CSU doesn’t experience any more such incidents than any other large public university – ours is a relatively peaceful and supportive environment. But the tragic reality is that such incidents occur more often than many of us realize, and minoritized populations have too long borne the weight of this alone. So instead at CSU, our approach has been to shine a bright light on such incidents and behavior and expose them to the campus community so that we can hold ourselves accountable. This is uncomfortable, painful, and at times it feels overwhelming. Even for the students who encouraged us to adopt this approach, it sometimes feels like way too much information – and there is frustration when we report incidents that have occurred but can’t always share information about how those incidents were addressed or resolved. Still, we are proud that Colorado State University is grounded in the principles of inclusion, integrity, respect, service, and social justice. These principles reflect and support our mission and our expectations of one another, and they also require us to be open and take responsibility for our campus community and one another. It is one way we can take action and step up in solidarity, as we committed to do at last spring’s CSUnite march. For guidance on how to intervene if you witness a bias incident personally, and other ways to step up, we’ve provided some resources at the First Amendment website.
That’s brings me to the final thought I want to leave with all of you: Rams take care of Rams. It’s who we are, and as we begin this new year, it’s the challenge I throw out to all of you. At last week’s Ram Welcome Convocation, I described CSU as a place that offers an elite education in a non-elitist environment. That’s what Abraham Lincoln envisioned when he authorized the formation of state universities like CSU in 1862. And that ideal remains embedded in our DNA – ours is a community that rolls up its sleeves and gets to work, that strives for excellence in all we do, and that welcomes and embraces anyone who is here to advance their education, their dreams, and our world. We are a community of people who uplift and celebrate one another and our collective power to learn and transform our world. That’s why we’re all here, and we have a wonderful year ahead.
Speaking of the year ahead, exams soon will begin and getting off to a good academic start is important. The Cubs and the Rockies are both in pennant races and Provost Miranda’s Red Sox seem to have forgotten how to lose. Before you know it, the World Series will be over, the ski season will be coming up, and some of you will be writing me about snow days (I’m philosophically opposed), and the next thing you know the holidays and a break will be upon us. So savor the moments, find the balance to enjoy this time while you’re working hard, and have a great semester.
Take of each other. Be well – tony
Dr. Tony Frank