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February 05, 2008 04:40 PM UTC

"Ben$on" Has Rough Day at CU

  • by: Colorado Pols

As the Denver Post reports:

Bruce Benson, the sole finalist for the University of Colorado presidency, spent Monday trying to dispel concerns that he is a partisan, nonenvironmental businessman, touting instead his ability to raise money and lead amid dire predictions for higher-education funding…

A prominent Republican and an oil-company chief executive, Benson was tapped last week as the finalist for the top job at CU. His selection sparked concern in the Capitol and among faculty that his political history leaves him too divisive a figure to inspire compromise at the legislature.

Faculty members also questioned Benson’s ability to lead the school without experience in academia. By comparison, all four of the “peer” institutions used by the Colorado Department of Higher Education to compare state-funding levels are run by presidents who worked as faculty members or college administrators before they got the job…

Among some student groups, there was a gathering unease about Benson’s selection as sole finalist.

“Initially, I feel pretty disappointed about his ability to answer questions,” said Hadley Clare Brown, a tri-executive student-government leader.

“He keeps talking about funding in the legislature. I applaud that, but he is very vague about it. What exactly does he mean? He has a lot of enemies on the JBC (Joint Budget Committee).”

But for all those fireworks, the awkwardness prize for the day definitely goes to CU Regent Cindy Carlisle. A key supporter of Benson during the early (secret) selection process and facing a tough State Senate primary, Carlisle is responding to the growing backlash against Benson’s nomination by denying she knew Benson’s sole candidacy would be the outcome of her vote. Since by all accounts Carlisle did far more for Benson than simply vote for him, and had to have known that the selection process would result in a single candidate (as the three previous searches have), many observers are dismayed by her newfound expressions of “regret.” The Post continues:

University of Colorado Regent Cindy Carlisle wants to be perfectly clear about her vote last week to support Republican Party activist and oil-company executive Bruce Benson as the sole finalist for the president’s job.

She said she hates the lack of transparency in the process and that there is only one finalist when she wanted six.

Though she stands by her decision, she added: “This is a vetting process. I have not voted for him as president of the University of Colorado. I support him going forward in this vetting position.”

Carlisle, who is term-limited as a regent and is running for the state Senate, said she has heard from constituents disappointed in her vote for Benson. Carlisle also wrote a letter to the search committee in support of him.

“I think he should be considered in the top tier of applicants,” she said. “We have 2 1/2 years left before Referendum C expires, and I know he can work well for both sides. I did not expect there would be a sole applicant.”


28 thoughts on ““Ben$on” Has Rough Day at CU

  1. According to the Rocky this morning, Colorado law prevents more than one finalist coming out of the search process.  I understood it to mean that there are more than one candidate who get vetted and scrutinized, but that only one candidate may emerge from that process to be voted upon.  Is that not right?

    1. That’s my understanding.  The search committee has the responsibility of vetting the applicants and presenting one candidate to the Regents.  As I’ve posted before (like a broken record), there are issues in preserving confidentiality for the applicants.

        1. I went to the Board of Regents website to see what the policy actually is.  It refers to the Colorado Revised Statutes for the presidential search.  I went to the C.R.S. link at the legislature’s website, but the link to the statues seems to no longer work.  Did the state forget to pay the bill to the company hosting the statutes???

          Anyway, the link to the Regents’ policy is:

          But it doesn’t specify the number of candidates; I think that must be in the statute.  If anyone can find the actual law, it would be interesting to know what it says.

          1. If that fact is indeed law, it shouldn’t be.  It should be regent’s policy, it should be flexible.

            To me the word “finalist” means two.  When it’s at one, he/she/it is a “winner.”

  2. Gotta love Carlisle’s comments.  As a CU alum, this has got to be one of the dumbest decisions she made in office (and she made a lot of dumb ones).  I’m sorry, but her poor decision making (and equally poor justifications) should be a warning to voters in her district.  She doesn’t deserve to be in the State Senate.

    As far as Benson goes, this whole process smacks of political payola.  CU Alums have a voice here.  Speak out with your pocketbooks!  When you get a fundraising call from the University Foundation (and I’m certain you get a lot of ’em), explain to them exactly why CU doesn’t deserve your hard-earned dollars.  As long as Benson is a finalist, they won’t see another dime from me.

    1. And I’ll donate the $5 you were going to keep for yourself.

      Hey, I have an idea, let’s bring back Betsy Hoffman.  She was an open-minded, highly educated female, and certainly not part of the “good old boys” network.  Yeah, I miss those days.

      It’s funny, but I do remember going to class at the Benson building on campus for a couple of classes, and I don’t recall anyone caring about how much $$ Benson gave the school for that building.  

      I guess I could always go to a place like Oklahoma State, where they WELCOMED the huge amount of $$ that T Boone Pikens gave them.  But I suppose he is also a greedy oil man too?

      Boulder, and the faculty are such a joke!!

      Bring back Hoffman, make them happy!

      1. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about Benson.  It’s like putting someone with a GED up for a CEO post.

        I think Benson’s piss poor answers to some of the most basic questions concerned students and faculty had of him yesterday, are testament to the fact the he is in WAY over his head here.  

        Just because you give money to 527 attack committees like the Trailhead Group, it doesn’t mean that you are even remotely qualified to run a state college system.

        Republicans need to quit trying to reward their cronies for funding their failing political efforts.  It’s time for them to realize they are not the ones holding the cards any longer.  It’s only going to come back to bite them in the ass when flaming neocons like Benson go before a democratically controlled state legislature asking for more higher-ed funding.

        1. Even though Benson is totally uneducated (how elite are you?), I’m sure he can still determine that the “C” word is NOT a term of affection.

          I love you higher-ed types, always looking down on the rest of us “know nothings”.

        2. Benson is a college grad who is a CEO.  Someone mentioned this is a payoff – from whom?  Republicans, other than Hank Brown, didn’t put Benson up to this.  It’s the likes of Bill Ritter, Michael Bennet and Dick Lamm promoting Benson.

          Are they paying Benson off?  As Pols said, this likely hurts the GOP b/c he’ll be substantially out of the fundraising loop.

          So, you have these highly qualified and highly placed Dems (Carslisle not withstanding) pushing hard for Benson.

          Meanwhile, he was not the only candidate in this process, just the most qualified according to the Regents.

          ProgressNow would be against Benson if he cured cancer…

          1. Gee, so am I.  Maybe Jerry Yang should hire me to bail out Yahoo rather than sell to Microsoft.  I’m sorry, but a bachelors degree is not enough for the top post at a major university.

            And where the hell are you getting that Ritter is backing Benson?  Wrong.  Ritter hasn’t said anything of the sort. Actually it’s quite the contrary, given Benson tried to take him down last election cycle through the Trailhead Group’s antics.  

            Also, I wouldn’t hold Michael Bennett’s or Dick Lamm’s opinion in high regard.  Neither are Democrats currently backed by the party faithful.  Bennett attended Wesleyan (a private university) and Lamm works for the University of Denver (Daniel Ritchie was yet another Trailhead contributor).  If it was up to them, they would just as soon privatize higher education in the State of Colorado than allocate it more money.

            1. I understand why the high education bent for the president post( and personally, I agree with it as do nearly all academians). But you go on and seem to imply that only democrat faithfuls can be considered. Dick Lamm has had some interesting suggestions and comments. Such as when reagan gave a free pass to the illegal aliens of the time and he was fighting it. Dick lamm was saying that this would happen over and over all because reagan gave a free ride to illegals. He argued for a long time after that that we needed to address our illegal aliens issue. In addition, 15 some odd years ago, he also brought up the issues about our rising medical bills. Yes, he spoke of the need to die, but he was really speaking about rationing of health care (It will be interesting to see what happens as we head into what many economists believe will be a VERY LONG recession because of W’s and bernaky’s horrible policies). And yet you say that Dick lamm’s opinion does not matter because the Dem faithful say so? I have not always agreed with his choices, but overall they have been well thought out.

              Personally, I pay more attention to those that are OUT of the political scene than those that are in it.  

        3. She had no idea how to run a large organization. Benson does clearly have that skill. And fundraising is the main job of the President now.

          Is he the best choice, I have my doubts. But the reason brought up here against him by and large are not legit. We don’t need a scholar in this role, we need someone with Benson’s qualifications.

          What we need to do is to find out how he will manage the campuses, how he will impact the research being performed, how he will hold employees accountable for performance but not ding them for research where he doesn’t like the results.

          – dvae (C.U. graduate ’81)

      2. that well-known pillar of academia?  And home to how many Nobel prize winners?

        Nice to know that CU is supposed to emulate its lesser competitors.  With such a great example as Benson to lead the University, maybe we’ll get more David Horowitz clones with bachelor’s degrees to become professors.  Who knows, maybe we’ll be able to reclaim our Number One ranking in the Princeton Review’s party school contest!

        1. Who made up half his resume, and insulted 99% of the country with his ranting on 9/11.  Yup, my alma mater is a beacon of intellectual thought.

          I love Boulder, it’s like Cuba, with unrestricted internet access.

          1. Mark my words, if Benson becomes CU’s next president, every republican regent on that board will be committing political suicide.  I can’t think of a better campaign platform for a democratic regent candidate then this political payola scandal. Benson becomes the poster child for poor university decision making.

            1.    Afghanistan in the days of the Taliban.  Give James Dobson and David Schultheis a little more time and they’ll have all of the women wearing burkas.

          2. Yeah, Boulder is just like Cuba.

            Except no political prisoners, freedom of the press, freedom of speech… wait, no, it’s not at all like Cuba.

            Just because there are some lefties on campus that you don’t like doesn’t mean it’s like Cuba.  If it were like Cuba, you would have been jailed or expelled.

          3. Because the CU Administration overruled the faculty recommendation to NOT hire him nor give him tenure.

            Churchill is an example of why Universities should NOT be run with a top-down business model. The faculty reviewed Churchill’s credentials and found them lacking.

            An authoritarian administration decided to hire him with tenure anyway. Look what trouble we ended up with.

            (I won’t insist that a University President must have impeccable academic credentials – this really isn’t necessary. However, the president must understand and appreciate his/her limited role in governing the institution. For example: Focusing on fund-raising and appeasing the legislature = good. Interfering with faculty hiring = bad. Attempting to label science you don’t understand as good or bad = bad. Introducing distinguished speakers at graduation ceremonies = good.)

  3. Colorado Springs is not like taliban-led Afghanistan-nor is Boulder like Cuba with internet access.  They’re both great places to live-and they both have fine universities that are part of the CU system.  Is Benson “qualified” to lead that system?  Was George W. “qualified” to be President?  I’m a little concerned about Benson’s past as an attack dog for the Repubs, and a climate change denier, but he can probably work with pols on both sides of the aisle, and be an effective fundraiser for the university system.  I like the idea of Bruce calling his pals and asking ’em for money for CU, not for attack ads.  Maybe Benson’s new role in life is part of what Obama loves to talk about-transcending ideological divisions, working together for the common good.

  4. It was clear on Monday that Benson is not the average politician. several times he seemed to be ruffled by forum attendees’ comments.

    Although, there were many times when questions and comments seemed especially harsh and offensive in nature. One student’s comments about his (Benson’s) long winded speech leaving no time for questions was rude and unnecessary. Qualifications aside, Benson is human too. If he ends up going all the way, how is the relationship between his office and the student body going to look?

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