WCU debate over capitol violence statement continues

Trustees release official “One Western. Many Voices” statement

[ By Mark Reaman ]

The Western Colorado University campus continues to grapple with reaction from president Greg Salsbury’s initial statement over the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.

The WCU board of Trustees released a statement on February 5 basically calling for healing after the events of January 6 and committing Western to “constructive conversations, with open minds, civility, and respect, around discernment of Western’s core values, strengthening of Shared Governance, and other actions to live true to our values including improved communications.” Meanwhile the faculty senate this week appointed a committee to work on a draft statement clarifying its position over the matter.

Salsbury released a statement on January 7 calling the violence in Washington D.C. “despicable” and condemning all violence stemming from protests but went on to tie in violence that occurred last summer in Black Lives Matter protests. Some faculty members and students took umbrage at that equivalency. Board of Trustees president Chris Blees, speaking as an individual, defended Salsbury’s right to make his statement in the manner he chose.

Last week the Board of Trustees released an official statement under the headline of “One Western, Many Voices. “Now, as our Nation and the courts seek justice, we must find a way to help our democratic institutions thrive and help all Americans heal,” the statement read in part. “As an institution of higher learning, Western has a role to play in that healing and to do so we must look to our shared values…Western’s esteemed faculty, staff, and students have added their important voices to deplore the horrific events of January 6, 2021. In myriad ways, over the past several weeks – including through correspondence to the Board of Trustees – the faculty, staff, students, and Western community members have further affirmed and called for discourse about Western’s values. Most recently, the Student Government Association called for improved communications with students and increased commitment to Shared Governance.

“The Board of Trustees of Western Colorado University now adds its voice to fully and unreservedly denounce the attempted insurrection against our Federal government,” the official statement continued. “The Board of Trustees condemn all violence in the strongest terms. We do not equate peaceful racial justice protests with the attempted insurrection…We encourage the Campus to participate in constructive conversations, with open minds, civility, and respect, around discernment of Western’s core values, strengthening of Shared Governance… We ultimately seek healing, for our Campus, our State, and our Nation.”

According to a Western press release, the statement issued by the trustees “is the result of a month-long process of listening to all voices following the violence in Washington, considering diverse points of view and identifying common values held by all. On Thursday, February 4, the board received recommendations from a specially formed committee that had been tasked with bringing all parties to one table. Based on those recommendations, the board formulated its statement of unity, which was unanimously approved the same day.”

The faculty senate is expected to review its committee’s recommendations and take an official vote next week on those recommendations.

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