AURORA, Colo. — As the search for the new University of Colorado president winds down, several Latino groups are speaking out against the search process, saying it has lacked transparency and inclusion.
The Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy and Research Organization (CLLARO), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the Latino Advocacy Council have all expressed concerns over the process including the alleged exclusion of prominent Latinos from the finalists list.
CLLARO President Mario Carrera said former Colorado Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia was excluded from the list of presidential finalists.
However, Carrera said the search team selected interim President Todd Saliman as a finalist, despite his promise not to seek the position.
“There's conflicts of interest there, and abuse of government resources, it's disappointing....Todd Saliman, who did not necessarily at one time look for and was contractually obligated not to apply for this position, is now in that running,” Carrera said. “This is concerning because you have regents that are employees of the University that are voting for the finalist."
During a CU Board of Regents meeting on Thursday morning, Carrera and other CLLARO members, including Polly Baca, expressed their frustration with the process to the board.
“I'm very disappointed with the search process because it hasn't been transparent. And certainly one thing we've learned in our democracy is the importance of just being honest and transparent about any process,” Baca said.
Baca said she's concerned about inclusion on campuses after her granddaughter and other CU students expressed feeling unwelcome.
“She started having anxiety attacks because the campus itself is not very welcoming to students of color. It's still very hostile. I was hopeful that over the years it would improve, but it hasn’t,” Baca said. “The top person, the CEO, the president of a major university system has an influence as to whether or not students feel welcome. CU has got a lot of work to do to develop a more welcoming atmosphere for students of color on campus.”
Baca said that work can’t happen if the presidential search itself lacks inclusion.
CU’s Board of Regents issued this statement on the search saying in part:
"Many voices have helped shape this search and get us to this point. In the fall, we held more than 40 listening sessions with stakeholder groups to gather input. Our search firm has put together a very strong and diverse pool of candidates. The search committee spent many hours reviewing applicants, evaluating credentials, interviewing candidates, having meaningful conversations among committee members, and ultimately narrowing the pool to a list of candidates to forward to the board."
During Thursday’s meeting Board of Regents Chair John Kroll addressed CLLARO members.
“In the coming days, this board will announce our finalist or finalists for the position of CU President. At that time, I would invite CLLARO and others from the Latino community for a dialogue with the candidate or candidates on how we can constructively move forward,” Kroll said.
Baca and Carrera said by then it will be too late for transparency and the search team should start over.
However, some members of the Latino community feel the presidential selection process has been fair.
Sochi Gaytan, president of the Denver School Board, said speaking as the mother of a former CU student, she has witnessed the effort put into diversifying the search team.
"I appreciate that the search committee followed through on their outreach, their listening engagements, and they sought out the Latino groups during that process. And so I really do thank the CU Regents and the committee search (for making) that happen," Gaytan said. "It bears repeating that the Latino community, like any other community, is not a monolith. So, there's not going to be one person or organization that will own the issues that my Latino community faces."
The board of regents plans to announce the finalists on or before April 29.
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