President Salsbury to students: Our Continuing Mission

Aerial view of Western Colorado University campus

President Salsbury to students: Our Continuing Mission

F4D Studio
Photo by Jun 17, 2020
 

On Tuesday, June 16, President Greg Salsbury sent the following message to students:

Dear Western Students,

I hope you all have settled into enjoyable summer activities and routines. I entirely understand if “settled” is not how you feel right now.

When the spring semester began in January, no one could have predicted the angst and turmoil to unfold for our country and campus in the months to follow. It began with the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by huge and escalating economic blows of health care expenses, lost jobs and businesses, and cuts to state higher education appropriations. And May 25 brought the killing of George Floyd over eight minutes and 46 seconds that are excruciating to view. This grotesque event tore open societal wounds—and suggested that some of those wounds in regard to justice and racism may never have really healed. It has highlighted need for change that is being debated now in the streets and in the chambers of government.

A common thread that knits the above events together: All have had a disproportionate negative impact on racial and ethnic minorities.

Throughout, I have heard from many Westerners about responses to COVID-19, how we can better help students, and their concern for equity and anti-racism at Western. I made a June 3 statement on these events to Western faculty and staff and have since had much productive follow-up with colleagues. I write today to update and assure you that this conversation is continuing and will continue at Western.

I have heard passionate and deeply held perspectives from many of you on this topic these last few weeks. I first want to let you know that I am listening, and that your voices will remain important as we work together to make Western as equitable and inclusive as it must be. 

I want to leave no doubt on where I stand on this topic. I abhor prejudice in all forms, and believe Western must be a place of equity and opportunity for every student. In this light, I worked closely in 2017 with trustees, faculty, staff and students to charge Western’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusiveness and Internationalization (DEII), enshrine the DEII statement of purpose (now linked atop western.edu) in our DNA and ensure it is a stated priority in Western’s Strategic Plan. We align with influential guidance on ensuring student equity in these trying times (including disbursing $600,000+ in emergency student aid this past month), and this week I co-sign a letter with some Colorado presidential peers asserting (as I have publicly for years) support for DACA and Dreamers.

While some may look to an institution’s president for definitiveness on this topic, I make no claim to being the last or only word. By definition, no one person exemplifies diversity and inclusion. It is about all of Western’s community members: be it the powerful student and faculty leaders portrayed in our Yo Soy Western video, countless activities and advocacy under auspices of Western’s Multicultural Center, or Western’s leadership co-founding of a Resilience Studies Consortium that is urgently and emphatically challenging colleagues to demand an end to systemic racism and police brutality.

Western’s Board of Trustees at their June 10 meeting carved out significant time to discuss and respond to these social justice concerns. Expect our Trustees to align toward a joint statement—with input from student leadership, the DEII committee, and myself—that will soon be public, reflecting Western’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, in words and in action.

I look forward to our work ahead together with you as we return to campus to begin classes August 17. I hope your view of your surroundings, wherever they may be, is as beautiful as it is from here.

Warmly,

President Salsbury