University of Colorado officially confirms Todd Saliman as system’s new president

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Todd Saliman gives thanks and speaks to the University of Colorado Board of Regents shortly after they voted unanimously to make him President of the University of Colorado, during a meeting at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, April 27, 2022.

University of Colorado’s Board of Regents voted unanimously Wednesday to officially confirm Todd Saliman as the system’s 24th president. 

Saliman, who has served as interim president since last year, was named the sole finalist for the presidency in early April. His confirmation comes after a two-week period during which Saliman toured campuses and the Regents solicited feedback. 

“I truly am humbled and will do right by you and look forward to working with you all in moving the university forward,” Saliman told Regents after being confirmed. 

Under the proposed contract, Saliman would earn a base yearly salary of $850,000 – the same figure his predecessor, Mark Kennedy, was earning shortly before stepping down from his office. Kennedy started his tenure in 2019, with a base salary of $650,000. Regents did not specify how long Saliman’s contract would run. 

Before becoming interim president, Saliman oversaw the CU system’s $4.1 billion budget. For that reason, and also because of his background as a budget man for the administration of two Democratic Colorado governors, Saliman told Colorado Matters he is uniquely qualified for the position. He argued whoever is at the helm of the CU system must manage one of the tightest higher education budgets in the country. 

The new president already faces some critics, who say he must prove he can help take the four CU campuses forward in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. A lack of leadership on that front ultimately drove Kennedy from the position

Saliman has also acknowledged calls that he address the rising cost of living for faculty, staff and students. 

“Since the cost of living is going up quite a bit, the CU Boulder campus actually just finished off a new long-term planning project where they included plans for future housing for graduate students and undergraduate students,” Saliman told Colorado Matters. “It's going to continue to be a challenge on all of our campuses, just like it is for all employers.”

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy, & Research Organization CEO Mario Carrera asks the CU Board of Regents to delay voting for Todd Saliman as the university system’s president.

Regents proceeded with the vote despite continued calls from Latino advocacy groups, including 13 Latino state legislators, to delay the decision until there is an inquiry into the qualifications and diversity of the other candidates. Saliman, a white male, was the sole finalist chosen from a pool of 39 candidates identified by Storbeck Search, a recruiting firm the system hired. Of those candidates, 13 were people of color. 

“The public should know the ethnic and racial identity of candidates to determine whether the search process was indeed inclusive,” said Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization CEO Mario Carrera, “We contend that the Storbeck Search company has this data and can easily provide it as it has already identified BIPOC candidates.”

Carrera also argued that Saliman’s status as the only presidential candidate to publicly state his interest in the role was inappropriate and led to an unfair search process. 

“We believe that other state resources  were used to further Mr. Saliman’s candidacy,” he said. “So we request that these alleged improper use of taxpayer dollars be independently investigated to determine potential violations of state law.

Others in attendance said they trust Saliman to champion underrepresented communities during his tenure. Representative Leslie Herod said she’s confident Saliman would champion disadvantaged students. 

“There are too many times when presidents are appointed to CU where folks have been left out,” Herod said. “I am confident that once folks are included in this process, that Todd will continue to rise to the top because I know his character and I know who he is.” 

Saliman’s tenure begins immediately.