LFTE: We deserve more transparency from the university, CSU System


Collegian | Trin Bonner

Serena Bettis, Editor in Chief

Editor’s Note: All letters from the editor reflect the views of the editor only and do not represent a stance taken by The Collegian.

As Colorado State University’s 16th president, Amy Parsons, begins her tenure this month, a sense of unfinished business lingers on the Fort Collins campus.


That unfinished business is CSU’s 15th president, Joyce McConnell, and her million-dollar departure last June.

When The Collegian broke the news of McConnell’s separation from the university, we were shocked — but not all that surprised. McConnell’s three years in the president’s office were tumultuous to say the least, and she was not a popular figure among many in the community.

Yet this was the person chosen to replace the well-known Tony Frank. The person who received the honor of being the first woman to hold the position. The person who led us through the pandemic. McConnell signed up to be our university president for at least five years and was gone before the undergraduate class of 2023 could finish their degrees.

More than that, McConnell’s separation from the university marks the third time since 2019 that CSU has paid one of its most visible employees to leave. Alongside student debt and cost of living increases, the community has seen CSU announce contract buyouts of $1.5 million to McConnell, $1.8 million to former head football coach Mike Bobo and $3 million to former head football coach Steve Addazio.

The way CSU has managed its budgets and made these decisions means the university community isn’t directly paying for all of this, but those are big numbers to see at face value. Without full transparency and explanation from the university, anyone who doesn’t understand financial contracts or know the full history of the university’s budget — which is a lot of us — is left feeling cheated.

My perspective may not be reflective of the entire community, but as the editor of The Collegian, a former employee of the university and a longtime Fort Collins resident, my disappointment in CSU reflects my love for it; I am certain I’m not alone in that.

The campus community deserves answers, and more transparency in general, from the university and the CSU System. The lack of information we have around the circumstances of McConnell’s departure leaves us unsettled and provides too much room for speculation.

I would be remiss to leave out one of the most significant aspects of McConnell’s departure, which is that we can’t say for certain if it was her choice or not. The language provided to us in June, in which the Board of Governors and McConnell said they “decided to part ways” indicates that it was not McConnell’s sole decision, but all we can really do is postulate.

Further, McConnell was not known to be brief, and her campus emails remain the butt of student jokes. However, her June 9, 2022, message to the community was about 150 words. In comparison, Frank’s 2018 announcement that he would step down as university president was more than 1,500 words. Frank left his position to become CSU System chancellor, but the differences in messaging still stand out.


Then when there was maybe some hope that the community could take part in the process of finding a new president, the Board of Governors largely restricted access.

After a few listening sessions conducted at the start of the fall semester and a survey that closed in August, there was very little information willingly released by the board until they announced Parsons as the sole finalist in December. When The Collegian reported on the search process, we were only allowed to speak to one person — who also happens to be on the Board of Governors — on the 31-person search committee.

The university is bound by privacy laws, employment contracts and nondisclosure agreements to not speak on matters like this. But we’re not talking about a professor or a dining employee, we’re talking about the people in charge, whose decisions ultimately impact our entire futures.

Once in an interview, someone said to me that CSU is like its own small city of roughly 30,000 people. In that city, the university president is like the mayor — just one we don’t get to elect. Shouldn’t we, the people, be privy to why the mayor is being replaced?

Without those who make up the university, there would not be a university to benefit the people in power. Are we not owed at least some semblance of respect in the form of transparency?

I would like to think the CSU System, the Board of Governors and the university administration care enough about the students, faculty and staff to consider being open with us. I would like to think we can have a campus where we connect with everyone, where an appearance from the president doesn’t feel like a PR display but a celebration of Colorado State.

No matter anyone’s intentions, we cannot have that true spirit of community without transparency.

The university system and administration make it much harder than it should be to be proud to be a CSU Ram.

Serena Bettis, editor in chief

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