So Long, Bruce Ben$on

CU President Bruce Ben$on.

We would be remiss if we failed to note yesterday’s announcement that University of Colorado President Bruce Benson, a former Republican candidate for governor and top-tier GOP financier/kingmaker for many years, will retire at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. Denver7 reports:

Benson, 80, has served as president of the university system since March 2008. A CU graduate himself, Benson’s tenure as president was the longest at the university in decades. He is the former chairman of the state Republican party and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1994…

In a statement Wednesday, Benson said he made the announcement this week so the board of regents can have enough time to find his successor.

“It has been my honor and privilege to serve as president of the University of Colorado for the past decade,” Benson said in a statement.

In the statement, he said the university has a “bright future” ahead of it and praised the CU system’s four campuses, students, alumni, employees and his wife, Marcy. He also touted the system’s contributions to the state economy and health care systems, and its work with state lawmakers to pass higher education changes.

Appointed under Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter on a party-line vote of the Board of Regents, Benson earned credit from lawmakers and administration of the state’s flagship university for stabilizing the school’s shaky finances–a considerable feat of both philanthropy and statecraft given Colorado’s notoriously stingy budgeting that frequently left higher education to fend for itself over the past two decades.

In terms of the university’s reputation for academic leadership, however, that has suffered considerably under Benson’s political agenda to impose greater “ideological diversity” on campus. Benson and the conservative members of the CU Board of Regents have made “conservative affirmative action” a central plank in their agenda, and the results haven’t been pretty–from the “visiting scholar in conservative thought” who insulted LGBTQ people and to the PR debacle of a Republican presidential debate in October 2016 before a mostly empty stadium while protests raged outside. And today, the conservative majority on the Board of Regents remains as focused as ever on this highly questionable objective:

During their annual summer retreat in Tabernash, several of the Republican regents gave impassioned speeches about the need to prioritize encouraging diversity of political thought and measuring how each campus does so. Some said increased support for conservative perspective programs was a critical issue that would also help the university raise money.

As much as the shiny new buildings on the University of Colorado’s four campuses, Benson’s political quest to shoehorn more “conservative thought” into the academic programs of the university is a major and controversial part of Benson’s legacy. If you believe, as Benson and the GOP majority on the Board of Regents does, that conservatives need affirmative action to be better represented among university faculty, you’ll love what he’s done. If you believe that scholarship should not be tainted by political trends at all, in either direction, ever, you’re in agreement with the overwhelming majority of actual scholars–as opposed to politician university presidents of elected board members.

The reality is, Benson’s campaign for “ideological diversity” on the CU campuses, backed by the Republican majority on the Board of Regents has become a grave threat to the integrity of the University of Colorado’s scholarship. While it’s maybe not as important as choosing a Supreme Court Justice, Benson’s successor next summer needs to be part of the debate over who will be Colorado’s next governor–not to mention the three Regent seats up for election in 2018.

11 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Voyageur says:

    Governors do not appoint presidents of the University of Colorado.  Benson was appointed on a party line vote of the elected University of Colorado board of Regents.

    • Colorado Pols says:

      That's right, we've edited to note correctly he was appointed under Bill Ritter. With that said, Ritter was a major supporter of Benson's appointment and governors most certainly do play a role in the selection.

  2. JeffcoBlue says:

    This is why people should have cared about the Madden/Ganahl race. And yes, Benson would not be President without Ritter. HUGE betrayal.

    Elections matter! Vote all the things!

  3. Moderatus says:

    What's so bad about free exchange of ideas? Everyone knows college campuses are hotbeds of liberalism. What about the rest of the economy? Benson has done a great job. Colorado Pols is just showing how afraid liberals are of honest debate!

    • unnamed says:

      What's so bad about free exchange of ideas?

      Is that how you feel about Russian Asset Trump and his buddy Vlad?

      That aside, I don't have a problem with the free exchange of ideas.  I'm fine with debates between conservatives and liberals on college campuses.

      As long as those ideas don't involve racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, or….

      ….Okay, maybe I don't want Republican ideas debated on campus since that's your whole platform.

       

      • Moderatus says:

        That's the kind of idiotic statement that proves there is bias against conservatives.

        • unnamed says:

          Oh.  So you're here to play the victim, huh.  You embrace a President (Russian Asset) with a hateful agenda, you embrace a hateful economic agenda where you got yours, screw everybody else, most reasonable conservatives have all but abandoned the Republican party, and you will not even answer questions about objectionable policies or actions, unless you can provide a right-wing link to justify your position, such as it is.

          The leader of your party and Russian Asset will not disavow the elements I have mentioned above, and the rest of the party will occasionally break with him a little over that, but they fall right back in line. 

          You feel marginalized?  Look at yourself instead of projecting.  You're just butthurt that my "idiotic statement" is true. 

          Also, you make a big show about how Republicans will not show weakness, but your beloved President showed weakness in front of our adversary this week. And many congressional Republicans (including Gardner and Coffman) showed weakness by not flat-out repudiating his behavior in Helsinki.

        • spaceman65 says:

          We like open debate, like about the president’s tax returns. 

    • JohnInDenver says:

      I think the campus Schools of Business are strong bastions of capitalism and Republicanism. When will their resources be dedicated to a "free exchange of ideas"?

      And when I was a part of the University of Colorado – Boulder faculty, Engineering programs had a strong tilt towards state-ist programs of the military-industrial complex. Shouldn't there be a "free exchange of ideas" about development of co-op or people-centered designs?

  4. bullshit! says:

    What's the lay of the land on the Regent races this year? I haven't been keeping track.

  5. MADCO says:

    Fiscal stability?

    If you mean de-funding higher ed and raising tuition and fees – ok.

    What was average tuition at any of the campuses when he got there? what is it now?

     

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