Local Yokels: Affirmative Action, Republican-style

Who says Republicans don’t like Affirmative Action–not the real kind, where you have to consider all qualified applicants, but Republican-style, where they don’t have to have any academic qualifications at all?  They’ve been highly successful at assuming the top jobs in Colorado universities with thinner C.V.’s than even our lowliest adjuncts.  The sole finalist to lead the University of Colorado (known locally as “CU”) is a multi-millionaire oilman and Republican fundraiser, Bruce Benson.  (See this post over at Coloradopols.com for a summary of news coverage and commentary.)  His qualifications for the position are a B.A. in geology from CU, and apparently, his fundraising prowess.  The Denver Post reports this morning that “Benson’s strength as a Republican fundraiser is unrivaled by anyone else in Colorado. In the 2004 election cycle, for example, Benson raised more than $3 million in contributions for state and national party funds and another $2.1 million to re-elect President Bush.”

If Benson gets the job, he will be only the latest politician to lead a major Colorado university: Republican former U.S. Senator Hank Brown was president of the University of Northern Colorado and is now the president of CU.  Northern Colorado is now led by Kay Norton, a Republican who contemplated a run for congress in 2002.  The University of Denver named Republican fundraiser Marc Holtzman as their President in 2003, until he resigned to run (disasterously) for Governor in 2006.  (DU is actually run by a Chancellor–the Presidency at DU was a new position created for Holtzman that focused only on fundraising.)  Holtzman’s name had been bandied about by then-Governor Bill Owens (Republican, natch) to lead Colorado State University.  CSU’s faculty successfully fought back that challenge on the grounds that people who lead research universities ought to have more than an undergraduate degree.  Colorado College has been led for years by former Democratic Ohio Governor Richard Celeste.

Psssst!  Memo to the CU Board of Regents and faculty:  didn’t you notice that the entire General Assembly–the House and the Senate–flipped to the Dems in 2004, and that there’s a Democratic governor now?  I guess if Benson gets the top job at CU, we can look forward to more bons mots like this one, in response to physics Professor Uriel Nauenberg’s question as to whether he would support CU’s international reputation as a center for research on global climate change:  “Anything we can do to eliminate greenhouse gases, I’m for it, but you have to be sensible about it. . . . I’m all for sensible alternatives . . . That doesn’t mean that I’m a . . . tree-hugger.”  (Memo to Benson:  contrary to what you may have heard from all of your Republican friends, there is no Department of Tree Hugging at CU.)

10 thoughts on “Local Yokels: Affirmative Action, Republican-style

  1. Honestly, this, more than anything else, was what drove me away from Colorado. I loved my department and didn’t usually mind DU. But the pipe dream that higher ed could only survive by handing the reins over to Republican hacks made my blood boil. Said blood has since cooled considerably. It now simmers.

    Anyway, I feel your pain. I really, really do.


  2. Ari–were you faculty there? When? I should think DU is somewhat isolated from the political stuff because it’s a wealthy, private institution–no? (I only mentioned it because it’s where Holtzman landed after the CSU faculty shucked him off like a bad…I don’t know what gets shucked.)


  3. I was there from 2000-2005. And it’s not wealthy — at all. It just looks the part with all the copper rooftops. The endowment there was — still is, I think — a bit smaller than my checking account. Which is to say: very small.

    The Holtzman thing was amazingly demoralizing, having a moronic hack crammed down our throats. *Everyone* knew that the newly created position of “president” was little more than a platform from which he’d run for office.


  4. Well, you can take unalloyed pleasure at Holtzman’s fabulous flame-out. (And, at moving on down the road to a better job, no?) My apologies for foisting him on you–I was an active player in the faculty group that helped keep him away from CSU. (That said, it wasn’t our call of course, it was our Board of Governors who dinged him.)


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