UNC has heeded a call of “Rowing Not Drifting” for more than a century through social, political and economic challenges. In 2020, the university responded to budget issues, a global pandemic and a racial justice movement as it focused on student success and worked to move forward with resilience and an enduring sense of community.
More than 100 years ago, the class of 1910 dedicated a gift to the university — a stone and brick pair of columns and a wrought iron gate constructed along 10th Avenue on Central Campus. It was called “The Horace Mann Gate” for educational reformer and public education advocate Horace Mann. Inscribed in the gate are the words “Rowing Not Drifting.”
In the 110 years since, there have been wars and pandemics, economic ups and downs and marches for suffrage, peace and racial justice. These have been challenges and calls to action on UNC’s campus, and through it all, generations of Bears have passed those gates with a reminder to persevere.
Here, we share a look at critical moments past and present, along with the university’s vision for the decade to come.
Defining the Coming Decade Through the Lens of Student Success
In his annual State of the University address on Sept. 10, 2020, President Andy Feinstein shared UNC’s responses to current challenges after an unprecedented spring and summer. In that context, he highlighted the ongoing efforts of the Strategic Enrollment and Student Success plan that began with a discovery phase in November of 2018.
By fall 2019, strategic visioning had moved forward through university-wide working sessions, town halls and forums to develop a vision for 2030. That vision focused on five key elements:
- Putting students first in our decisions and actions
- Empowering inclusivity and drawing strength from the diversity of our university and state
- Investing in our people to foster their growth and success
- Personalizing instruction and providing distinctive educational experiences
- Strengthening our bonds with our local community and state in order to grow and thrive together
By the end of 2019 and into the early months of 2020, action teams began to implement foundational efforts for each of those elements. But, by March 2020, the pandemic had placed those elements within a new budgetary and social reality. Faculty and staff moved classes online and sought ways to offer students vital resources virtually.
Student success was suddenly viewed through a much different lens — but it remained core to decisions and actions, and the strategic planning work that continued in fall 2020.
Before the pandemic overshadowed the spring semester, work that began the previous year made progress toward strategic goals to make it easier for students to navigate pathways into UNC, locate resources and receive support, and complete degrees in a timely manner and with as little debt as possible.
Last year, Feinstein worked with Aims Community College President Leah Bornstein, Ph.D., to launch the Aims2UNC program, which helps students transition directly to UNC after earning an associate degree at Aims.
“Aims2UNC has garnered statewide recognition and accolades from the governor and legislative leaders,” Feinstein says.
Through this program, 27 new UNC students arrived on campus this fall, and there are now 127 Aims students working toward a transition to UNC.
UNC’s leadership among Colorado’s public higher education institutions also helped develop and ensure passage of a new funding formula for colleges and universities.
“Instead of rewarding overall enrollment numbers, the new formula incentivizes us to ensure access for students of color, those from low-income families or who are the first in their family to go to college. It also encourages institutions to provide resources for the neediest students to graduate,” Feinstein said.
Meeting 2020’s Challenges
As the university community develops its vision for 2030, it does so with the challenges and opportunities of three defining moments in one unprecedented year.
In January and February 2020, budgetary issues were a topic of intense discussion for faculty, staff, students and the administration. Many in the university community vocally and publicly expressed concern over cuts to faculty and staff and their implications for student success.
UNC continued working with the state legislature to address higher education funding, while at the same time reorganizing to focus on greater efficiency and student success efforts. The university was beginning to see positive results. But, as the pandemic began to unfold over the spring, projections were revised, with a $24 million shortfall forecast for the fiscal year due to a decrease in state support, enrollment declines and a lower demand for housing and dining.
The university addressed this shortfall with general fund and cash reductions.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were also on track to realize a generous increase in state funding — likely 7%. At the end of the session, the state made a 58% cut to the higher education budget to address declining revenues — that’s a half billion dollars. They backfilled much of that reduction with one-time federal coronavirus relief aid. We still took an effective 5% cut to our state appropriations,” Feinstein said. “This year’s cut could have been much deeper. By working with other higher education leaders, we were able to persuade the state to limit the severity of the cuts.”
A Global Pandemic
As cases of COVID-19 emerged in Colorado, Feinstein announced on March 11 that classes would move to remote delivery.
Provost Mark Anderson, Ph.D., and Vice President for Student Affairs Katrina Rodriguez, Ph.D., led efforts throughout the summer to fine-tune plans for fall classes and prepare for a range of contingencies for fall semester. They worked closely with state officials, faculty and staff, and members of the community to develop plans that would address safety concerns about COVID-19 and identify and address potential impacts on students and their families.
As plans unfolded, regular recorded briefings, email digests and web updates focused on transparency and sharing information. Classroom furniture was arranged for social distancing, signage was installed to remind people to wear masks on campus, and Lawrenson, Turner and Hanson-Willis Halls were prepared to house isolated/quarantined students. On August 24, students returned to class — with approximately 17% of courses offered fully face-to-face, 35% hybrid (mixture of face-to-face with some online components) and the remainder (48%) fully online.
A Call for Equity and Inclusion
Equity and inclusion — already a strategic planning priority — took center stage as global anti-racism protests called for justice and reform. Earlier in the year, Chief Diversity Officer Tobias Guzmán, Ph.D., had begun working with colleagues to identify policy changes and steps that would more fully align with university values of equity and inclusion. (See “Sharing Uncomfortable Conversations.”)
In June and July, Guzmán and other campus leaders met with students, faculty, staff and alumni, gathering ideas and recommendations for action. Efforts included a panel discussion co-hosted with the City of Greeley, required implicit bias education for faculty and staff, expanded training for officers in the UNC Police Department and dialogue between UNC officers and students, affirmation of UNC’s commitment to cultural and resource centers, and university-wide recognition of cultural heritage months and other events to honor the histories of UNC’s diverse community.
Defining Moments of the Past
Over the years, students, faculty and staff have faced social and global change and challenges. UNC’s archivists gathered images and information about some of the moments in UNC history that have shaped the university we know today.
World War I
During World War I, the Colorado State Teachers College (CSTC, now UNC) offered its facilities to the U.S. War Department, and a Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.) was established on campus. S.A.T.C. trainees lived in four barracks constructed on campus, took courses such as conversational French and German and participated in campus activities and athletics.
A Global Pandemic
When the influenza pandemic struck Colorado in the fall of 1918, the State Board of Health allowed CSTC to remain open under a strict quarantine. Visitors weren’t allowed to come to campus, and students were not allowed to go downtown. During the quarantine (Oct. 9 to Dec. 18, 1918), classes continued, but classroom windows had to remain open. All social and extracurricular gatherings were canceled, and student lodgings were inspected daily by sanitary police.
A Great Depression and a Little Theatre
In 1933, UNC President George W. Frasier determined that the summer recreational program was lacking in the field of dramatics. He asked temporary instructor Helen Langworthy to develop a summer theatre program to provide educational opportunities for students and bring culture to the college and community during the tough times of the Great Depression. Langworthy continued as Little Theatre of the Rockies’ director until she retired in 1965. Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever,” was one of eight plays produced during the first LTR season in 1934.
World War II
As the U.S. entered a global conflict, President Frasier worked with the U.S. War Department to provide space on campus to host the Army Air Forces Western Technical Training Command. Over 400 men came to Greeley to train and served around the world during and after World War II. In this photo, Earl Godwin wears his gas mask in Snyder Hall.
Black and Brown Coalition
In spring of 1969, a coalition of the Afro-American Student Union (AASU) and Los Latinos presented a list of 27 demands to student leadership and administration, asking for better representation of minorities in staffing and minority group studies in academic programs, as well as better assistance and more equitable treatment to minority applicants. On April 11, the coalition held a rally to present and explain their demands to a crowd of 700 students, faculty and staff. Five days later, a rally with approximately 2,000 campus community members was held at the Garden Theatre, where UNC President Darrell Holmes (at the podium) outlined plans for increasing the hiring of faculty members from minority groups as well as initiating a fundraising drive to create additional scholarships for minority students from low-income families.
Representing the coalition: (from left to right) Jesse Venegas, leader of Los Latinos; Adrian Capehart, leader of the Afro-American Student Union; and Steve Rhodes, Associated Student Council president, who represented the Council’s endorsement of the coalition.
Kent State and Vietnam Protests
The Colorado State College (CSC, now UNC) community participated in a nationwide demonstration against the war. Known as the Vietnam Moratorium, it began on Oct. 14, 1969, with a midnight peace vigil as 650 members of campus marched from the College Center (now the University Center) to the Garden Theatre to honor the fallen, followed by a day of speeches and singing. In this photo taken May 7, 1970, approximately 1,000 UNC students joined 4 million of their peers across the U.S. in responding to the tragedy at Kent State and the bombing of Cambodia in what became the first nationwide student strike.
First LGBTQ+ Support Services
In 1984, the Greeley Gay and Lesbian Alliance was founded, and with support from the Student Representative Council, they requested that “sexual preference or orientation” be added to UNC’s Equal Opportunity disclaimer. The Board of Trustees unanimously voted against the request three times in four months. In 1993, after years of opposition, the Trustees passed a resolution committing to “equal protection of all groups on campus, including gay and lesbian individuals.”
UNC opened the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Office in 1998, which eventually became today’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC). In 2016, the Board of Trustees added the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the Equal Opportunity statement, and in 2017, the GSRC moved from the University Center to its own house on 10th Avenue. UNC
By Debbie Pitner Moors
Photos courtesy of UNC Archives