Western Colorado University President Resigns, Weeks After Being Allowed To Keep Job

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Western Colorado University in Gunnison on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.

The president of Western Colorado University in Gunnison announced his retirement and resigned from his position Friday, just weeks after the Board of Trustees voted to let him keep his job despite outcries from faculty members.

President Greg Salsbury’s last day will be June 29. He will not participate in this weekend’s graduation ceremony. 

“To ensure that the announcement of his retirement does not overshadow the excitement of the students and their families participating in Commencement this weekend and in support of COVID-19 best practices to limit the number of participants on stage, Dr. Salsbury has delegated his Master of Ceremonies duties for May 8, to Vice President Bill Niemi,” the announcement said.

The termination was mutually agreed upon, according to the statement.

Salsbury came under fire earlier this year for his response to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. While he condemned the riot in an email sent to all university employees, he also equated it to protests that took place over the course of 2020. Faculty members took that to mean racial justice marches and demonstration in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other police killings. 

“Over the last year, rioting, burning, looting, and violence have emerged from protests across our country – resulting in seemingly endless confrontations, destruction of entire cities, properties, serious injuries, the public’s overall sense of security, and deaths,” Salsbury wrote. 

WCU’s Faculty Senate cited his response to the Capitol riots, among other incidents, in a referendum calling for new leadership. In particular, it said Salsbury falsely suggested “entire cities” were destroyed as an example of leadership failure. The resolution passed with 56 percent of the faculty vote and was sent to WCU’s Board of Trustees for a final vote.

Ultimately, the board voted to support Salsbury and allow him to keep his job. 

“Given all the factors involved, we support the president and look forward to fostering unity through transparency and accountability, bringing together the best efforts of the board, the president, faculty, students, and the entire Western community, to lead Western successfully into the future,” a statement from the board said.

The board said it would attempt to rebuild trust in the community by pursuing several goals outlined in its “Action Plan,” which was passed and released after Salsbury’s statements about the insurrection.

The board will name an interim president to fulfill Salsbury’s duties while they search for a permanent replacement.