The Rehabilitation of the University of Colorado

The University of Colorado made news again April 15. The Colorado Board of Regents appointed former conservative U.S. Sen. Hank Brown (R.-Colo.) the university’s 21st president in the university’s history.

Throughout the state of Colorado there seemed to be collective sighing of relief. From the governor, the legislature, Colorado University Foundation, administration to the faculty, there is enthusiastic support for Brown’s appointment. GOP Gov. Bill Owens said: “Sen. Brown is known throughout the nation — and around the world — for his keen intelligence, his strong leadership skills and his quiet common sense. As a United States senator, a university president and the leader of a major philanthropic foundation, Hank Brown has a record of outstanding achievement in every task he has undertaken in his distinguished career.”

Brown’s appointment is especially significant because a major, national university that was rocked to its core with multiple scandals for almost two years is badly in need of a credibility makeover. If ever there was a time when the University of Colorado needed leadership and common sense it’s now.

Brown brings with him a resume that is as diverse as it is stellar. After serving his country in the Navy as a pilot during the Vietnam War, Brown earned a degree in accounting, then went to law school and subsequently attained a master of law degree and became a certified public accountant.

He served as the president of the University of Northern Colorado from 1998 to 2002. He has held tenured faculty positions at both the University of Denver and the University of Northern Colorado. Before becoming UNC’s president, he served in the Colorado Senate (1972-76); he also was elected as a Republican to five consecutive terms in the U.S House of Representatives (1981-91). He then went on to be elected to the U.S. Senate (1991-98).

While at UNC, Brown became known as an effective, fiscally responsible leader. Under his direction, the school had four record fund-raising years. He also made numerous administrative budget cuts and reallocated money to more instruction related concerns, raised the admission standards and increased enrollment.

The University of Colorado is a campus of more than 55,000 students. It is the state’s largest employer (24,000 employees) with an annual budget just under $2 billion. The school has had Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur Grant recipients. The health science department is involved in cutting-edge research and the Colorado Springs campus is the No. 1 space research university in the country.

CU has long had a reputation for innovation and academic achievement. But because of these scandals, the media attention has burned white hot with condemnation.

Alcohol-related issues have been around for some time. But football-recruiting improprieties accompanied by rape allegations have rocked the schools credibility. Then, when the infamous Ward Churchill “little Eichmanns” speech found a national audience, it exposed CU’s academic underbelly, thus implying that the faculty was infested with out-of-control left wing extremists.

The aftermath has no doubt hurt the school’s reputation and national image. Michele McKinney in the Office of Institutional Relations, told HUMAN EVENTS that, “out-of-state enrollment is down 19% and in-state down 4%.”

The CU Foundation has also experienced a 10% dip in fund-raising this year. Michael Byram, president and CEO of the foundation, told HUMAN EVENTS: “I won’t say that the things that go on there [at the university] don’t impact you because only someone who is totally naive would say that doesn’t have an impact.”

CU’s problems are not unique to itself. And many other universities around the country are coping with a lack of conservative balance in their curriculum and faculties. How CU deals with these issues needs to be carefully watched.

Ironically, the University of Colorado has become a “pilot program” of sorts, in breaking ground on some of these issues. Colorado Regent Steve Bosley told HUMAN EVENTS: “There are probably a lot of Ward Churchill’s around the country. I think there are things that aren’t right in a lot of athletic programs. That’s not our problem and we’ve been told that other schools have looked at the changes we’ve instituted, and are copying those and, in fact, we know that we had some influence on the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) regulations and changes. I’ve got a hundred business cards from universities saying, ‘Keep us posted.'”

There’s no doubt that CU has been proactive in making changes. They’ve reorganized the chain of command between the athletic department and administration for more accountability. They’ve instituted stricter recruiting guidelines that exceed even the NCAA’s. They have just developed an additional tenure-review process, using an outside group chaired by retired four-star Air Force Gen. Howell Estes. Bosley told HUMAN EVENTS: “What we we’re after was someone whose credentials are so impeccable that the public would say, ‘Hey this isn’t the fox in the hen house.’ Few, if any universities apply this standard.”

Colorado is understandably being forced to look critically at itself. The schools’ problems are complicated, and to successfully rectify them it needs strong, objective leadership at the top that insists on responsible management practices and a faculty that makes room for intellectual and ideological balance. For many, the hiring of Brown is a giant step in the right direction.