UPDATE: Joyce McConnell out as president, will receive $1.5 million


Collegian | Forrest Czarnecki

Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell announced the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative in the fall of 2019 following a string of bias incidents on campus. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

Serena Bettis, Editor in Chief

Colorado State University System Chancellor Tony Frank announced Thursday morning that CSU President Joyce McConnell and the CSU System Board of Governors “have decided to part ways,” and McConnell’s last day as CSU president will be June 30.

The Board of Governors will pay McConnell $1.57 million for ending her employment contract early, according to the separation agreement signed by McConnell and the Board of Governors.


The agreement also states neither McConnell, the Board or any other representatives of the system may make a statement that reflects negatively on the other or speak publicly about the separation except to express gratitude.”

McConnell is also giving up her position as a tenured full professor in the Warner College of Natural Resources. Based on archived versions of the CSU General Catalogue, McConnell never taught a course at the university.

“President McConnell expresses her sincere appreciation for the opportunity to serve as the 15th and first woman President of CSU and that it has been one of the highest honors of her professional career,” Frank’s announcement said.

McConnell sent an email about 20 minutes after the announcement that said she cares deeply for the CSU community and thanks everyone for their “support, hard work and unrelenting spirit.”

“To serve as the 15th and first woman president of Colorado State University is the highest accomplishment of my career in higher education,” McConnell’s email said.

McConnell said the community has “successfully faced challenges of a global pandemic and accomplished what many thought impossible: emerging from the pandemic in a strong position for the future with remarkable consensus reflected in Courageous Strategic Transformation.”

At the Board of Governors meeting this morning Frank said, “on behalf of the entire board, we want to thank Joyce for her efforts and we wish her well in her future endeavors.”

The Board of Governors will name an interim president in the next few days, Frank said.

Associated Students of CSU President Rob Long said he was extremely shocked by the news and he was looking forward to working with McConnell.


“With that said, I have an equal amount of enthusiasm as to working with the next CSU President and will cooperate with them to the greatest extent,” Long said.

Melinda Smith, a biology professor and the most recent faculty representative for CSU Fort Collins on the Board of Governors, said she was surprised and saddened “by the fact that we will be losing her leadership, enthusiasm and advocacy for CSU.”

“Having a President leave before their term ends is unsettling,” Smith said. “There is now a void that will need to be filled soon and it is unknown who that replacement will be.”

Smith said the community has seen McConnell’s Courageous Strategic Transformation plan come to fruition after more than two years of hard work by many people at the university, and it is now unclear if the Courageous Strategic Transformation vision will be acheived. She said she feels the impact of McConnell’s exit on the university will be significant, especially because there is uncertainty surrounding the new president and what their priorities might be.

Sue Doe, an English professor and the Faculty Council chair, said the Faculty Council has appreciated McConnell’s willingness to engage with them in meetings and less formal settings.

“We especially appreciate that she was highly visible during the pandemic, which has been one of the most difficult periods in the university’s, and indeed the nation’s, history,” Doe said.

“I would hope that the BOG will move quickly to hire a new president,” Smith said. “Having the community in a state of ‘stasis’ while waiting to see who will be the new leader of the university will be difficult. I hope that the BOG will consider choosing an interim president who has the overall vision and needs of CSU high in their priority list.”

At the Board of Governors meeting, Frank said the search for a new president will be nationwide and include students, faculty and staff. The last search took five months, after Frank stepped down as CSU’s 14th president to become chancellor.

McConnell was appointed in March 2019 by a unanimous decision from the Board of Governors. She is the first female president of CSU and the 15th overall. Her three years at CSU have been marked with student protests against instances of bias on campus, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and major public attention surrounding the athletic department.

“While change is never easy, it is a constant,” Doe said. “The faculty will be central to helping the university through this transition, and we are ready to do so.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated multiple times to add information about the developing story. The original content has not been altered.

Reach Serena Bettis at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.