Thank you, Mr. Chair for a few minutes to speak. I’d like to start by thanking my family. Mom and dad, I am so glad you now live two miles down the road rather than 2000 miles away. Jeff, my husband, life partner, soulmate, and parenting teammate… Max, Charlotte, Jack and Ruthie: I am so lucky to build a world from love with you all.
Inspiration for my remarks today come from Colorado and CU icon, Rachel Noel. Mrs. Noel was the first African-American member of the CU Board of Regents in 1976, the first African American woman elected statewide in Colorado, having run against twenty-two opponents to keep the Regent position in 1978. She served as Chair of the Board of Regents, the first woman of any race to hold that office. Prior to her time on the CU Board of Regents, Mrs. Noel bravely integrated Denver Public Schools as a member of its school board despite arson and death threats to her and her family.
Amidst a global pandemic, the ongoing struggle for civil rights, and an insurrection by white supremacists and domestic terrorists just yesterday in our Nation’s Capital, Regent Noel’s work clearly remains relevant to a new era for governing Colorado’s flagship, public institutions of higher education. Regent Noel knew that education was key to success regardless of one’s background, and that even if no specific law or policy made white and non-white students have unequal access, systemic obstacles and barriers existed.
We, too, must meet the challenges of our time and truly commit to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Every single person in the CU system deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of the color of their skin, their sex, or their beliefs. CU needs to uncover the systems of exclusion that are keeping many in our community from fulfilling their true potential.
That’s all the more reason that we, as the University of Colorado Board of Regents, should lead the way in calling on the Governor, the Colorado General Assembly and our federal delegation to make meaningful investments in higher education and help to reform the way our state and nation invests in higher education. Continuing to fund higher education at a level 48th in the nation cannot continue. I understand the burdens placed on the Joint Budget Committee to create and pass a balanced budget, but higher education cannot continue to be the first place to cut when times get tough. As it is, higher education is unaffordable for too many. This must change.
Regent Noel once said, “I have a deep faith that if you’re right, you don’t give up. And that’s what I felt – that I was right, and somebody had to stand up.” Almost 5 decades later, fulfilling the legacy of Regent Noel includes both an obligation and honor to stand up, to listen to your feedback, and to act with transparency before enacting any change. I look forward to working with my board colleagues, shared governance leaders, and the community to create forums for this feedback.
Today, the work to ensure our best days lie ahead begins.