Dear UCCS faculty and staff members,
After 40 years on this campus, the last 15 as chancellor, I knew that my thoughts would turn toward all of you as my time as chancellor grew short. That time is now. As I will leave campus today, the very capable Venkat Reddy will take over as interim chancellor. A search for a new UCCS chancellor is already underway.
I am struck by the many happy memories I have of my time here, and the many strong bonds I have forged with students, fellow faculty members, staff and administrators, alumni, elected officials, and the many supporters we have throughout Colorado. I also remember the challenging times and the loss of dear colleagues.
As I reflect, I am struck by the urgent need for the core values of the university in the world. Much of my recent tenure has been devoted to safeguarding the fundamental aspects of higher education that we hold dear – academic freedom, freedom of speech and the expression of ideas, inclusion, respect for diverse viewpoints, the importance of inquiry and the unremitting need for intelligent and thoughtful discourse. As members of this academic community, it is imperative we take seriously our responsibility to uphold the principles of the university in each of these areas.
“It has been my great privilege to be a part of standing for a principled dialogue in times of turbulence.”
Our ability as a campus community to model and ensure those key values has been proven in the past several months. In all of my years in higher education, I have rarely seen such ill-informed challenges to our core values. I am proud to see so many students, faculty and staff stand as a bulwark against those who aim to tear at those principles. It has been my great privilege to be a part of standing for a principled dialogue in times of turbulence.
The tone of our campus is defined by the quality of interactions among members of our community. Our differences – be they race, gender, religion, gender identity, national origin, or political belief – do not separate us. They enrich us.
Every student, faculty, and staff at UCCS – man, woman, gay, straight, transgender, Muslim, Jew, Christian, immigrant or native-born, Democrat or Republican, young or old – has earned a place on this campus. Each person deserves support and respect.
Late last year, as I prepared for the announcement of the end of my tenure as chancellor, I also prepared for our December commencement. I turned to the words and actions of CU President George Norlin, who led CU from 1917 to 1939 for guidance.
Each commencement, a regent recites the Norlin pledge as one of the last actions of the day. In part, the pledge reads:
“Wherever you are at work, there is the university at work. What the university purposes to be, what it must always strive to be, is represented on its seal, which is stamped on your diplomas – a lamp in the hands of youth. If its light shines not in you and from you, how great is its darkness! But if it shines in you today, and in the thousands before you, who can measure its power?”
President Norlin is known for his courage in the face of those who demanded that he fire Jewish and Catholic faculty. He faced down a reportedly KKK-led Colorado General Assembly. Lawmakers retaliated by reducing funding to the university. Each member of the campus community felt the sting of the General Assembly’s actions. However, because of that stance, the university emerged with a solid ethical and moral base that has sustained it through numerous challenges.
“As always, but from afar, I will continue to cheer you on”
At each commencement, as I hear the words of President Norlin, I commit myself yet again to these principles. As I prepare for a new chapter in life, I am as hopeful that we, collectively, will sustain UCCS now and in the future. As always, but from afar, I will continue to cheer you on.
P.S. I am aware some of you have asked why no “going away” event. The Winter Campus Appreciation event was to have been a time for me to say good-bye but I was across campus “doing my job” at another event. The best sendoff I could have was that we experienced a peaceful event under difficult circumstances. Thanks to all!