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The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

CSU listens to public concerns in search for new president

CSU+listens+to+public+concerns+in+search+for+new+president

Collegian | Falyn Sebastian

JJ McKinney

Ivy Secrest, Life and Culture Director

Since former President Joyce McConnell left Colorado State University, the question of who will replace her has been left open. 

On Aug. 26, the committee responsible for searching for the next CSU president hosted the fourth and fifth rounds of public listening sessions to gather input from the community about what they want to see in this next leader. 

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Laurie Wilder, president of Parker Executive Search, asked to hear what stakeholders want to see in a leader, what challenges a new leader should know about and why they should consider CSU for the next step in their career. 

CSU hired Parker Executive Search, a recruiting firm based in Atlanta, to aid in the committee’s search for the next president. Wilder said the listening sessions will help the firm create a job description and vet candidates.

The community seemed most concerned with proper compensation for employees, ensuring a safe and welcoming community space for staff and students holding minority identities and ensuring the next president appreciates and understands what CSU is and strives to be.

“I am seeking — as a mom, as someone who works here, as someone who is committed to Colorado State University — someone who understands the complexity of diversity, equity and inclusion in the Rocky Mountain southwest.” –Shannon Archibeque-Engle, associate vice president for inclusive excellence

“I’m going to get emotional, so bear with me,” CSU employee Alfreda Whaley said while tearing up in front of the committee.

“These past three years have been absolutely emotionally grueling,” Whaley said. “The lack of respect for our staff, the lack of respect for our minority people — … Colorado State is in such a state of disarray, and we need a president who is going to care about our minority people.”

Whaley was not the only speaker concerned about representation for people holding minority identities to address the committee.

Many speakers wanted the next president to recognize efforts to foster a welcoming and diverse community are not solely the responsibility of the diversity offices or cultural centers but a campuswide effort. This call for action was echoed by several speakers. 

“I am seeking — as a mom, as someone who works here, as someone who is committed to Colorado State University — someone who understands the complexity of diversity, equity and inclusion in the Rocky Mountain southwest,” said Shannon Archibeque-Engle, associate vice president for inclusive excellence.

The challenges presented extended beyond fostering a welcoming campus for people holding minority identities and into adequately taking care of staff.

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“When we think of a president of an institution, we think that they are also responsible for the overall holistic health of our staff and faculty,” said Michelle Cadena, El Centro assistant director.

Some professors said they require a second job to live in the Fort Collins area, while others came to speak on behalf of nonacademic employees who can also struggle financially due to university policies. 

Many shared Cadena’s concern and asked that the university consider how they are compensating their employees on all levels. Many said while they loved the university and their work, they could not continue to live in Fort Collins if compensation didn’t change. 

“The realities are that if you don’t have faculty and staff, how are you going to run this institution?” Cadena asked. 

Accessibility to the sessions was also a concern. Some speakers felt the format and timing made it difficult for many community members to come and speak. Spanish translator and former CSU student Ally Eden made suggestions for how to tackle some of the accessibility concerns. 

“If this committee is truly committed to hearing the voices of monolingual or Spanish-dominant speakers, then I have some suggestions as far as practice goes,” Eden said. “Look at your work sectors, where are these folks located; … you might consider taking these presentations to those spaces and make them more accessible to folks whose work accommodations don’t allow them to come out in the middle of the day on a Friday.”

The committee did clarify it has a survey out available in Spanish and English, which requests submissions by Aug. 31. The survey did not change some speakers’ concerns about accessibility.

Beyond the challenges, several speakers said they want to see a president who appreciates what CSU is and can be. 

“Acknowledge the dedication and good work that has existed here for a very long time,” said Beth Etter, director of communications for the College of Liberal Arts. “It’s important that we acknowledge that we are already excellent, and the president can help us take a step forward in that excellence.” 

Near the end of the fifth session, the Board was asked if they had any questions for the speakers. Only Jimena Sagàs, student success and inclusion librarian, had a question. 

“How do you know a president is successful?” Sagàs asked.

Posing a tough question, the general response was a president who gives clear direction and improves morale is successful.

“This one person does not make the whole university,” said Armando Valdez, vice chair of the CSU System Board of Governors and mediator during Friday’s sessions. “But this person also has a definite influence in setting the tone, and we want to ensure that it’s the right tone for setting CSU Fort Collins forward.”

There will be one more listening session Wednesday, Aug. 31. After that, the committee will work with Parker Executive Search to form a job description and use the information gathered to vet the new president.

Reach Ivy Secrest at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @IvySecrest.

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Ivy Secrest, Content Managing Editor

Ivy Secrest is The Collegian's content managing editor. Secrest uses she/her/hers pronouns and has worked for The Collegian previously as a reporter and...

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