CU Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity Leaves Mark
Commission agrees to meet next fall but CU must continue to evaluate progress
DENVER – The Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity issued its final recommendations to help improve diversity across the University of Colorado system. The commission recommended ongoing engagement of its members, including select members to serve as an advisory board. It also requested that the university issue progress reports on diversity efforts and create a plan to resolve student access issues under CCHE’s purview.
University of Colorado President Hank Brown initiated the Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity in August 2005. As one of his first priorities becoming president, Brown invited forty-six business and civic leaders to participate in the commission, along with student representatives from each university in the system. After 13 months of meetings and deliberations, it wrapped up its work by issuing a set of final recommendations, with the key outcome being explicit accountability by the university to make progress with the commission’s recommendations.
Last summer, less than one month after Brown joined CU, he established the commission to look at and offer recommendations on four specific areas:
Improving the campus climate: making the campus more welcoming for all students; increasing safety for students; and creating a stronger sense of community for all university members.
Strengthening pipelines to college for K-12 students: improving and expanding the university’s successful pre-collegiate programs for greater outreach to middle and high school students.
Improving recruitment and retention of under-represented students: bolstering recruitment of students of color through creative, effective outreach activities and enhancing retention rates for students of color.
Strengthening community and corporate partnerships with CU: involving local communities and businesses to a greater extent in supporting diversity efforts at the university through mentorship, internships and other activities.
The commission has had both a direct and indirect impact on helping improve diversity at the university. President Brown says, “the guiding efforts of the commission have helped CU refocus. We know more work needs to be done but there has been progress.”
The university has seen an increase in the number of students of color in this year’s new freshman class, including an 18 percent increase in minority enrollment across the university as a whole.
The commission took on the task of reviewing several comprehensive diversity reports and engaging in dialogues with students, staff and faculty about data and programs at each university - including CU-Boulder, CU-Denver and Health Sciences Center and CU-Colorado Springs.
At the end of September 2006, the commission had a wrap-up meeting and issued the following recommendations:
Recommendation 1: The Blue Ribbon Commission accepts President Brown’s invitation to reconvene in the Fall of 2007 to review and engage in dialogue regarding the progress that has been made with regard to diversity at the University of Colorado. This follow-up meeting will include an opportunity to hear from current students regarding their perceptions of progress.
Recommendation 2: A voluntary subset of the Blue Ribbon Commission, with additional members, will remain as an advisory board, to contribute to the continuing progress in diversity at the university.
Recommendation 3: The universities in the CU system will issue an annual report, including progress report card. This report will include not only the demographics of student and faculty makeup, but also the broader definition of diversity, including the climate for diversity. The report should include challenges and potential solutions.
Recommendation 4: The Blue Ribbon Commission should create a resolution for the CCHE that changes the current admission policy that restricts minority applications to CU or attendance at CU which are counterproductive to the goal of improving CU’s diversity.
From the onset, Brown intended the immediate outcome of the analysis to be a set of recommendations for improving diversity at CU, with a particular focus on student recruitment and the academic climate.
Each university will be held accountable for implementing, measuring and reporting on its progress toward the commission’s recommendations.
University of Colorado is a three-university system: CU-Boulder, CU-Colorado Springs and CU-Denver and Health Sciences Center (with downtown Denver and Aurora locations). For further information, please contact Michele McKinney in the CU Office of University at (303) 860.5627.