Western Colorado University Board of Trustees (BOT)
Statement on April 2021 BOT Listening Sessions
April 27, 2021
Western Colorado University Board of Trustees recently concluded a series of listening sessions designed to define the University’s strengths, challenges, opportunities, and threats. The objective of the Listening Sessions was to listen and learn from the various constituents so that Trustees understand perspectives, build relationships, strengthen trust, and can better govern to build a stronger Western where students and employees thrive. We are grateful to all those who offered their perspectives regarding Western’s leadership and its future, we will continue to seek out constructive involvement from others, and we now give thoughtful consideration to all inputs made during this time. Our goal is to see Western flourish as we address complex issues, leverage opportunities, and overcome looming challenges that not only threaten our University, but higher education overall.
In the quest for input from the Western Community, we hear words of encouragement and thanks, as well as areas for growth and a few allegations that merit immediate investigation. Rest-assured that these latter statements were of the utmost concern and have been prioritized for immediate action. While the University is constrained from commenting publicly on these matters based on privacy laws, the Board of Trustees is committed to dealing rapidly and appropriately with any and all misconduct. A lack of further public comment about specific allegations does not equate with a lack of response by the University. The Board and the University must and shall thoroughly investigate allegations within its jurisdiction. We must safeguard those who attend and those who serve Western.
These listening sessions are intended to provide an additional point of reference for the Trustees. Inputs to the Trustees are always welcome at https://western.edu/about/leadership/board-of-trustees/contact-board-of-trustees/ or you can always join us at our public meetings.
The Trustees ask for your patience as we determine the best path forward based on all information we received. We are hopeful that through shared governance, greater communication, and mindful action, Western Colorado University will be the better for its courage to look within, face our challenges, address our weaknesses, build on our strengths, and embrace our opportunities. We thank all those who participated in this introspective effort, and we look forward to partnering with all who wish to see Western thrive.
The Board of Trustees Action Plan includes assuring that all members of the Western Community are aware of communications resources:
- Grievances against employees may be reported to Human Resources Director Kim Gailey at KGailey@western.edu or (970) 943-3142.
- Allegations of sex discrimination and harassment may be reported to the University’s Title IX Office Coordinator Shelby Schuppe at SSchuppe@western.edu; other general student concerns can be directed to the Dean of Students office and Ms. Schuppe.
- Students seeking a personalized accommodation may request the same through the University’s Disability Services Office, Cheyenne Terry, at CTerry@western.edu.
- Inputs to the Board of Trustees are always welcome at https://western.edu/about/leadership/board-of-trustees/contact-board-of-trustees/
- Those seeking access to public records should contact Laurel Becker at LBecker@western.edu.
Statement from the Board of Trustees:
The Board of Trustees of Western Colorado University is the governing body of the university. One of the board’s duties is to hire, fire, and supervise the president, the chief executive officer of the university.
On March 9, 2021, the Board of Trustees received the results of a faculty referendum for new leadership. The board also recognizes many additional comments, both supporting and opposing new leadership, that it has received from students, donors, parents, alumni, and others in the Western community.
Given all the factors involved, we support the president and look forward to fostering unity through transparency and accountability, bringing together the best efforts of the board, the president, faculty, students, and the entire Western community, to lead Western successfully into the future.
Demonstrating our commitment to the concept of shared governance of Western, the Board of Trustees assures the faculty and the Western community that we:
- Acknowledge the referendum and voting results which highlight faculty concerns.
- Stipulate that building trust in the Western community must be prioritized.
- Affirm our commitment to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusivity at Western as set forth in our Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
- Agree that “Western’s success, economic viability, and ability to recruit and retain students is inextricable from our commitment to diversity, as well as our moral values and leadership.”
- Expect the President, through his leadership, to unite the broader Western community, to achieve a commitment to mutual respect, collaboration, and student outcomes.
President Salsbury and his team have led Western with commendable success in recognizing the competitive challenges facing Western, as a small, rural public university, including notable achievements in major gift solicitation, representing our institution to our peers and state government, increasing enrollment, increasing diversity, creating the partnership with the University of Colorado, and leading the Western community through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The trustees agree that building trust in the Western community must be prioritized. The board has adopted appropriate guidance for the president and faculty. To bring together the best efforts of the board, the president, faculty, students, and the entire Western community, the board has adopted an Action Plan that will: (1) Improve trustee communications and outreach; (2) Discern and proclaim the core values of Western; (3) Improve administrative communications; and (4) Strengthen the commitment of Western to shared governance.
The board encourages the entire Western community to review our Action Plan, and to participate wholeheartedly in its implementation.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Internationalization committee’s statement on anti-Asian discrimination as endorsed by the Board of Trustees on March 25:
“We are deeply saddened by the recent rise of anti-Asian discrimination and violence in the United States, including the thousands of anti-Asian hate crimes since the COVID-19 pandemic began and now with the recent murder of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, in Atlanta, GA on March 17, 2021.
“The DEII Committee promotes justice that decries all forms of racism, discrimination, and violence against minorities, including racism that targets Asians and Asian Americans. We believe everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without fear and regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or citizenship status. E pluribus unum, – out of many, one – is the foundation of diversity in America and is the foundation of our work as a committee. During this time of grief, we condemn these acts of violence against our fellow Americans while extending our condolences and standing in solidarity with our fellow Asian Americans.
“Race and gender identities were the primary attributes that caused the Atlanta terrorist to target his specific victims. We would like to remind everyone in our community that this kind of targeting is supported by casual, often unintentional racism and misogyny in the forms of uncorrected comments and verbalized assumptions. If you are concerned about such behaviors in our own community (either your own behaviors or those of others), please feel free to use your DEII committee for support and education. You can reach us at email@example.com.”
One Western, Many Voices
On January 6, 2021, our Nation weathered an unprecedented attack on one of our most sacrosanct democratic principles – the peaceful transition of power – when the United States Capitol was violently breached by people seeking to interrupt Congress from its constitutionally required counting of electoral votes.
Our Country has not witnessed such an assault in more than 200 years. We all watched the events unfold, as One Nation. The loss of life during and after the breach of the Capitol was tragic. The response by the brave members of law enforcement, including the U.S. Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police of DC, and the National Guard, who acted to quell the violence was commendable. Our democratic institutions held and they endured. Now, as our Nation and the courts seek justice, we must find a way to help our democratic institutions thrive and help all Americans heal. As an institution of higher learning, Western has a role to play in that healing and to do so we must look to our shared values.
In his statement on January 7, 2021, University President Greg Salsbury condemned the violence at the United States Capitol and denounced it as a ‘despicable’ affront to our democracy and an interruption of the peaceful transfer of power. The President also affirmed Western’s support for free expression, including peaceful protest, as codified in our Free Expression Policy.
In another statement, Western’s Executive Cabinet, on January 8, denounced the attempted insurrection and expressed our collective outrage against the erosion of democratic ideals. The Cabinet affirmed Western’s support for diversity, equity, and inclusivity, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, orientation, religious preference, or political affiliation, as codified in our DEII Statement, and through the vital work of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Internationalization Committee.
Western’s esteemed faculty, staff, and students have added their important voices to deplore the horrific events of January 6, 2021. In myriad ways, over the past several weeks – including through correspondence to the Board of Trustees – the faculty, staff, students, and Western community members have further affirmed and called for discourse about Western’s values. Most recently, the Student Government Association called for improved communications with students and increased commitment to Shared Governance.
The Board of Trustees of Western Colorado University now adds its voice to fully and unreservedly denounce the attempted insurrection against our Federal government. The Board of Trustees condemn all violence in the strongest terms. We do not equate peaceful racial justice protests with the attempted insurrection.
Like the Executive Cabinet we are outraged at the disconnect between our democratic republic’s highest ideals and the events of January 6. And like our honorable and engaged faculty, staff, and students we look to our shared principles to lead us through this moment as “One Western, Many Voices.” We thank those who have shared their view with the Board of Trustees. We encourage the Campus to participate in constructive conversations, with open minds, civility, and respect, around discernment of Western’s core values, strengthening of Shared Governance, and other actions to live true to our values including improved communications. We ultimately seek healing, for our Campus, our State, and our Nation.