Since former CU President Mark Kennedy resigned in July over accusations of a history of homophobic remarks and failures to support BIPOC community members, the process for finding his replacement has gone into full swing.
With his departure, CU students, community leaders, and the Board of Regents are all hoping to find a common ground over who should best represent the university’s values.
The Board of Regents is in the process of creating a presidential search committee to find Kennedy’s replacement. The committee will consist of 16 members, including one dean, four faculty members (with one representing each campus), two students, two CU staff members, two alumni, one member of CU’s Foundation of Directors and four community members.
The Board of Regents has committed to “transparency in the search process”, but for student organizations like DiversifyCUnow, actions will speak louder than words.
“The board needs to hold themselves accountable,” said Holly Olivarez, an organizer for DiversifyCUnow. “If everyone wants to commit to diversity, equity and inclusion, then let’s do it. We just need to organize.”
DiversifyCUnow has been at the forefront of the search committee process, publishing a list of recommendations to apply “best practices in inclusive hiring throughout the entire process of hiring the next CU System President.”
The Board has yet to acknowledge the recommendations, according to Olivarez.
The Board of Regents has been in contact with CU’s Student Government, however. CU student governments for each of the four campuses have been tasked with nominating two students for the search committee, one graduate student and one undergraduate student.
Of the eight nominees, only two will go on to represent CU students on the committee. Taylor Weinsz, a Tri-Executive Student Body President, has spoken directly with the board, talking through what qualities students governments would like to see in terms of student representation.
“I want to make sure the students we choose are individuals who are able to speak to the experiences of communities who haven’t been heard by the Board of Regents and by our university,” said Weinsz.
In the wake of Kennedy’s past racist remarks, ensuring that students of color are listened to is a top priority for many.
“We need to prioritize student of color’s voices,” said Suvu Singh, a legislator and Representative Council Speaker for CUSG’s student government.
Having more students, particularly BIPOC students, on the board, “will bring the diverse perspective we need,” she said.
Although having students on the board is a welcome change from the past, the idea of only two students representing all 60,000 University of Colorado students across all four campuses might not be as welcoming.
“It’s unrealistic,” said Olivarez.
Singh agrees that more could be done in terms of representation.
“It only means so much having two students on the committee…that’s not enough,” said Singh. “It’s four different campuses. We need more student representation, clearly, if we’re going to learn our lesson from last time.”
Singh also argues that CUSG could be doing more to speak on behalf of students, stating that if students want more representation, “the legislative council should write a resolution requesting, or demanding, more students on the search committee.”
With the legislative branch of CUSG currently on strike, that might not happen before Thursday night’s deadline for CUSG to nominate students to the board. Regardless, Weinsz still sees opportunity, no matter how many students there are.
“With only two students, it’s hard to capture the wants, needs, and perspectives of all campuses…but it will allow us to provide that perspective that was missing last time,” he said.
President Weinsz and the other Tri-Executives are in the process of finding a date for a listening session at CU Boulder for the Board of Regents to have an open forum where the student government and community leaders alike are able to share their thoughts.
CU Boulder students are also eager for more accountability in the process. Julianna Urbina, a freshman, wants the board to be more thorough and hold itself accountable.
“I hope they do more research,” she said. “We knew Kennedy’s history. If they did more we could’ve prevented all of this.”
Asa Peterson, a junior, hopes that a new president will be, “open-minded and adaptable,” to CU Boulder’s changing landscape.
“We need someone that takes into consideration all student and faculty member perspectives,” she said. “Having a diverse background should be a top priority.”
Students interesting in providing feedback to the Board of Regents on the committee search process or qualities they’d like to see of the next president can submit feedback here.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer William Oster at email@example.com.