Spring Semester Welcome, January 23, 2009
Dear Colleagues and Students:
This week began with two signal events that provide a fitting context for the start of a new year and new semester at Colorado State University.
On Monday, many of us had the privilege of joining with hundreds of students and community members for the annual celebration and march honoring the legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Though I’ve taken part in this event for many years, I was particularly struck by the spirit, hope, and confidence in the future that I sensed in the crowd this year, which was larger than at any time in the event’s history. This was, of course, an opportunity to honor an American hero — a hero who, like Cesar Chavez, lived in recent times and seems perhaps more familiar to us because his voice, on behalf of many unheard voices, was one of peaceful dissent that Americans heard from our televisions in our own homes. But this event was also a chance to celebrate a legacy of purpose and possibility, a legacy that reminds us that, together, we have the strength and foresight to surmount any challenges. It was a legacy embodied here in our own community by Professor Maury Albertson, who passed away just recently but whose own personal vision of a just and better world helped lead to the creation of the Peace Corps and a lifetime of service to people and communities worldwide. He was our neighbor, our distinguished colleague, our friend. And yet, he changed the world for the better.
President Obama also called on us to work together in support of our country and its future in his Tuesday inaugural address, sending a message that has particular relevance for those of us at land-grant universities dedicated to educational access, research, and outreach. In his speech, he referenced higher education and the scientific community as keys to our nation’s economic recovery and continued leadership in the world. While every inauguration is striking as a symbol of the peaceful transition of authority in a democratic society, it’s difficult not to believe that we are at a special moment in history, a time of significant transition during which the choices and decisions we make will have long-lasting implications for the future and in which the role of higher education — and land-grant universities, in particular, as engines of access and opportunity — will take on increasing importance. I was reminded of the importance of education, and how we often take access to it for granted, when reading Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea” over the holiday break. In one passage, a young Pakistani woman named Jahar makes the following comment about her view of education now that she has had the opportunity to experience it: “Education is like water — important for everything in life.” I remain confident in our future as a University exactly because of the relevancy of our mission and the honor we, as members of a University community, have in helping to transform lives and open the door to new opportunities.
I offer this context both as a way of expressing some of my hopes for CSU in the months ahead and as a means of prefacing an announcement we expect from the Governor’s Office within the next few days about further cuts in state funding levels for next year. As we all know, state revenue projections are declining, and this will mean further budget reductions and operational changes here at CSU and at public service agencies and institutions across our state. While not pleasant, this is news we’ve been anticipating, and I have full confidence that the CSU community will navigate this latest challenge with its usual good sense, pragmatism, and confidence in the institution and its mission — without losing any of the focus on excellence that we know characterizes our University. In addition to the ongoing budget preparations and analyses I’ve previously shared with campus, I’ve asked a subcommittee of Cabinet to begin a thoughtful review of the many suggestions that have been brought forward by members of our campus community on ways to reduce costs without diminishing the quality of education and service we offer our students. Interim Provost Rick Miranda and I met with a joint session of the Faculty Council Executive Committee and the Faculty Council Committee on Strategic & Financial Planning (which includes representation from ASCSU, the Classified Personnel Council, and the Administrative Professional Council) to review the current state of the budget discussions, possible approaches, and the process that lies ahead. I also will be attending the February 10 Classified Personnel Council meeting and the March 3 Administrative Professional Council meeting, where I expect these same issues will be part of the discussion.
While we don’t yet have enough information to provide details on what further cuts will mean for CSU at this time, I want to reiterate our commitment to a deliberative, inclusive budget process and encourage campus involvement as we outline our budget plans for the coming year. The process will begin in earnest January 28, when the Strategic Planning Area Review Committees come forward with their reports on our progress toward planning goals and recommendations for next steps. This meeting will take place from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Hilton, across Prospect from the CSU campus. On March 11, in the same location we will be holding our annual budget retreat from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Both meetings are open to the campus community. In addition, we are planning “Budget 101” overview sessions for anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the CSU budget and how it comes together every year. It’s our hope that these sessions will allow more informed and active participation in our planning and budget process. Details about those sessions will be announced soon on Today@ColoradoState.
In preparing for those discussions, we can be encouraged by the findings of a report released this week based on the research of CSU state economists Martin Shields and Harvey Cutler. Their thoughtful and detailed analysis of our University’s economic impact sheds a new light on the full scope of the University’s contributions in terms of job creation, productivity, and innovation — contributions we’ve long understood but haven’t fully documented before now. Among the findings:
- CSU and its 87,000-plus Colorado-based alumni account for more than $4.1 billion in household income in our state — earnings that generate more than $130.8 million in state income tax revenue and $50.2 million in sales tax revenue.
- Recent CSU spin-offs have created at least 550 new jobs in Colorado.
- CSU research results in a 0.2 percent increase in overall productivity for firms in Colorado, which equates to $79.7 million annually.
- Annual student spending in Fort Collins alone is estimated at $168 million, supporting 628 non-University jobs in the city. The total CSU effect on local Fort Collins tax revenue is $12.9 million.
- A four-year college degree significantly reduces the likelihood a Coloradan is unemployed.
- And in Colorado, increasing the percentage of workers with a 4-year college degree by only one percentage point (about 5,372 new college workers) increases the average earnings of all college-educated workers by $481 per year. The same 1 percentage point increase in
college-educated workers increases the average earnings for high-school-only graduates by $250 per year. This statistic obviously doesn’t just refer to Colorado State but demonstrates the powerful impact that all of higher education has on income levels and quality of life in Colorado.
I invite you to review the report, which is also available online. I hope that, like me, you find it provides some useful insights into what our state and its citizens get in return for their investment in higher education and Colorado State University.
On another topic: There have been several news stories published over the break and this past week regarding the ongoing personnel investigation of the Chief of the CSU Police, who remains on administrative leave while an investigation continues. We take this situation seriously and realize the media coverage may create some concerns among students, faculty, and staff. However, there is very limited information the University can legally release — even if information is reported in the press doesn’t match our sense of the situation — because this is a personnel investigation and information related to the investigation is private under state law. What I can share is that upon learning of the potential personnel issue, we immediately began working to launch an appropriate investigation and invited the assistance of an outside law enforcement agency to avoid any potential real or perceived conflicts of interest. It is my goal to complete the investigation as quickly as possible, while also ensuring a fair, thorough and accurate process for all involved. I also want to state for the record that we have personnel policies and review processes in place that have served the University well for many years, and these policies are designed to respect and protect the rights of all involved without a rush to judgment or an abdication of our responsibilities to a safe and equitable community. I also want to openly encourage all students and employees to feel comfortable in bringing forward any concerns of wrongdoing, professional misconduct, or other complaints. I commit to you that all such concerns will be taken seriously, and that individuals bringing forth such issues can do so without fear of University retaliation.
Finally, I want to offer some links to a few information sources that are online and may be of interest as our semester progress. These are our internal governance groups, all of which play an important role in charting the direction and sustaining the quality of the University.
- View minutes from meetings of Faculty Council
- View minutes from the Classified Personnel Council
- View minutes from the Administrative Professional Council
- View minutes from the Council of Deans meetings
- View minutes from the most recent ASCSU Senate meetings.
- View minutes from the President’s Cabinet meetings
The people who give their time to these organizations, and all of us as members of a University community, will have some part in addressing whatever challenges the state budget and other issues may pose for Colorado State this spring. Knowing the character of this campus, I am confident we will do so with the same sense of hope, possibility, and confidence that we celebrated locally and nationally this week — and with respect for the impact of our decisions and choices on the future of CSU and the generations of scholars who will continue to choose this University as their academic home. I look forward to working with all of you in the months ahead.
Best wishes for a great semester,
Dr. Anthony A. Frank