Regent Michael Carrigan is proud of the progress the University of Colorado has made to diversify its student body.
But Carrigan, a Denver Democrat, says the university still has work to do when it comes to recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce.
That’s why he wants CU to create a new system-level position: vice president for diversity, inclusion and retention. He’s planning to bring forward a resolution to create that position at the Board of Regents’ monthly meeting in Colorado Springs, which runs Thursday and Friday.
According to Carrigan’s resolution, the new vice president would report to President Bruce Benson and would be responsible for implementing systemwide policies and initiatives related to diversity. That person would also collaborate with campus diversity officers and develop an institutional strategic diversity plan.
The new vice president would provide regular updates to the board and would serve as the key liaison between CU and the communities it serves.
CU’s four campuses each have a diversity officer or director. No such position exists in CU’s system administration. The board has been getting regular updates on systemwide diversity initiatives and progress from Kathy Nesbitt, vice president for employee and information services.
Though various high-level positions have come open during his time on the board, Carrigan said those jobs have mostly been filled by white candidates.
If you go
What: University of Colorado Board of Regents meeting
When: Thursday and Friday
Where: Colorado Springs campus, Berger Hall
Cost: Free and open to the public
To view the full agenda:bit.ly/2c5rG17
“You only have to look at the system leadership and the very top leaders of the various campuses,” he said. “President Benson has 14 or 15 direct reports, and two of them come from diverse backgrounds. That’s the same number he inherited from President (Hank) Brown.”
He’s also frustrated at the lack of diversity on the university’s hospital authority board.
Carrigan said the new vice president would also focus on other types of diversity, including intellectual and philosophy diversity. The board has been focused in recent years on improving the diversity of political thought, particularly on the Boulder campus, where just 6 percent of faculty members identify as Republicans.
Carrigan, who ran unsuccessfully to be Denver’s next district attorney, represents Colorado’s 1st Congressional District. Many of his constituents are African American or Latino, and diversity is an issue Carrigan has championed during his time on the board.
“Students, faculty and staff of diverse backgrounds respond better when there’s someone they can identify with,” he said. “It would be great if our next president was someone diverse, but if they’re not, at least if they see other leaders at the top of the university, that is a strong demonstration of our commitment to welcoming students and staff from diverse backgrounds.”
Ken McConnellogue, a spokesman for the CU system office, said Benson is interested in hearing the discussion the board has this week about the proposed resolution.
He declined to say how Benson felt about the idea of adding a new vice president to his cabinet.
“Diversity is one of our top priorities and we’ve made some good progress, but we still have a ways to go on it,” McConnellogue said.
Regent Linda Shoemaker, a Boulder Democrat, said she liked Carrigan’s idea.
She said the only downside to creating a new cabinet-level position is that it also creates new expenses. But she said she thought the cost of that person’s salary and benefits would be manageable.
“We tried with the existing structure to advance diversity and we have not been as successful as we would like,” Shoemaker said. “We have some great diversity officers on each campus, but really having more of a focus on that at the system is a good idea.”
Regents Steve Bosley, R-Longmont, and Glen Gallegos, R-Grand Junction, said they wanted to discuss the resolution with the board before weighing in on it.
Gallegos said he believes the university has made progress on its diversity-related initiatives, but he added that there’s more work to be done.
“We have great people in our system and we’re moving forward,” he said. “I really like the effort, but I don’t want to be in the same place in 20 years, either.”
Though she hadn’t yet reviewed the resolution, Regent Sue Sharkey, R-Castle Rock, said she wouldn’t support the addition of a new vice president position at the system level.
She said the university should look first at its existing structure before adding a new position.
“By adding another layer of administration, that may add more red tape, more bureaucracy and certainly expense because a six-figure (salary) along with benefits and all of that … that translates into millions and millions of dollars,” she said.