Colorado State University President Albert C. Yates today asked that the university "come together as a community, to gather and find solace in the company of friends, and to seek – even in our sadness – to honor our pride and faith in this nation and its people."
Yates also cited the quality and commitment of the faculty and students as driving forces behind the success of the university – including a recent boost in national rankings – and issued a challenge to campus to more deeply embrace the notion of civic responsibility.
Yates, who delivered his 12th address to the campus today, began his remarks by calling for a moment of silence and reflection following the news last week of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
"We gather here now in the stillness of this September morning, not in despair or helplessness, but in celebration of the beauty and goodness that is to be found in this world and in our hearts," Yates said. "We are brothers and sisters, citizens of a small planet and a great nation, who are bound simply by our faith in human goodness and the courage that derives from finding unity in diversity."
Yates spoke of the efforts of faculty and staff who, "in the face of their own deep pain, took the time to meet and talk with students about events as they unfolded.
"I have been heartened by our students, of all nations, who have responded to this tragedy with sensitivity and intelligence, seeking not to lash out in anger but to find ways to help and move forward."
In his address, presented on the steps of the Administration Building on the historic Oval, Yates noted the recent ranking by U.S. News & World Report magazine of Colorado State as one of the top universities in the country – listing the institution in the second tier of universities nationwide.
"And yet, while we’re proud of this achievement, we know, too, there is much the rankings don’t reveal about our campus community," Yates said. While rankings take into account important factors such as class size, graduation rates and alumni involvement, Yates said those criteria don’t have any way to measure the true character of an institution – the values that drive it and the caliber of people who constitute it.
In his remarks, Yates emphasized the importance of building a "true community" and challenged the campus to more deeply commit to this responsibility. His remarks came in the context of the recent World Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies and a recent series of sexual assaults in Fort Collins, but Yates stressed this commitment to civic responsibility must extend beyond times of crises.
"I want to challenge (student government), our student athletes and every one of our student leaders to take this issue seriously and consider what it means to be a leader and role model in the community," Yates said. "And I want to challenge all of us, as faculty, staff and students, to examine our behavior and embed within our own culture the notion that human respect, compassion and mutual responsibility are at the core of this community – and fundamental to our own humanity."
Yates cited the character and work ethic of students, the university’s priority to provide quality service to constituents and the academic and scholarly excellence of the people who form the foundation of the university as factors that have led to Colorado State’s ongoing successes. He listed numerous examples of student, faculty and staff accomplishments over the past year.
In his concluding remarks, Yates highlighted additional challenges and opportunities for the coming year:
* Continuing the emphasis on undergraduate instruction, building on the successes of the past year, including the implementation of the new core curriculum, establishment of University Distinguished Teaching Scholars and the Freshman Seminar program. "This year, we must begin to assess the impact of our efforts, invest in classroom technology, enhance research experiences for undergraduates and make tenure and promotion processes more accountable for teaching excellence."
* Dealing with the pressing financial issues brought about by The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which has created financial stress on Colorado higher education. "It is imperative we join other institutions of higher education in communicating the severity of the consequences and find ways to provide relief, particularly in generating additional flexibility in cash funds and in reducing our regulatory burdens. Governor Owens has provided an important opportunity to address these concerns with his recent appointment of a Blue Ribbon Panel on Higher Education Funding. This move, I believe, signals his recognition of the importance of higher education to the state of Colorado, as well as an awareness of the very serious need to enhance our state’s investment in its colleges and universities."
Yates discussed other challenges for Colorado State, including:
* Faculty turnover of nearly 40 percent over the next five to six years. Yates asked, "What will this mean for the programmatic landscape of the university? How should these positions be redeployed and to what areas of the university?"
* The statewide debate on growth and quality of life that includes many questions about agriculture and environmental sustainability, use and preservation of natural resources and rural development; and how best to understand, communicate and address funding concerns that inhibit efforts to fill important faculty and administrative positions. "What is the university’s role in such matters in research and public policy development?" Yates said. "Shouldn’t we explore the synergism and long-term relationship, for example, between our colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources?"
"Let us demonstrate that ours is a community of courage and compassion, a community with the strength to finish the race as we began it, side by side, shoulder to shoulder – taking responsibility, one for another, and taking the future into our own hands," Yates said in his concluding remarks.