The Denver Post proclaims, “‘Tis a Privilege to Live in Colorado” on its weather page most mornings. But, since Historiann moved her entire household here in 2001, Colorado has been the state that keeps on giving in terms of embarassing news in general (Ted Haggard! Crazy killers! Tom Tancredo! Focus on the Family!), and embarassing news about higher education in particular. Back in 2001-03, Colorado should have changed its nickname from “The Centennial State” to “The Rape State” (thanks, CU Football rape team, Kobe Bryant, and Air Force Academy cadets, all of whom chose college women as their victims). 2003 was the year too that David Horowitz came to Colorado and met with the (then) Republican Governor and the President of the Colorado Senate to introduce his so-called “Academic Bill of Rights,” and the Governor (unsuccessfully) tried to get a political hack crony appointed President of Colorado State University.
Ready for more? (Take a deep breath!) 2004 was the year that the President of the University of Colorado, in a lawsuit stemming from the rape team’s hijinx, claimed in a deposition that the C-word (yes, that C-word!) wasn’t necessarily a misogynist insult, because in the middle ages it was a term of endearment. (Nice try, but I don’t think there were too many Middle English scholars on the rape team, do you?) 2004 was also the year that two college students, one at CU and another at CSU famously drank themselves to death. 2005 was the year that Ward Churchill became the gift that kept on giving to Bill O’Reilly and other right-wing bottom-feeders. Never mind that it’s only losing football coaches who make the big bucks around here–those of us who actually teach don’t have time to indoctrinate our students politically because we’re working so hard to make sure they finally understand the Investiture Controversy, or Dred Scott v. Sanford, or the correct use of apostrophes. Despite the right-wing screams that conservatives can’t get a job around here, the actual history of faculty abuse in Colorado is that whisper campaigns calling people “Communists” is the only way to get someone dismissed without evidence and without cause.
Now comes the news, courtesy of Inside Higher Ed, that Colorado now supports its prisons at nearly equal rates as it supports its colleges and universities. State funding for prisons stands now at 78 cents for every dollar sent to higher education–compared to a rate of 18 cents on the dollar twenty years ago. You don’t have to be a Marxist feminist to wonder if all of the political attacks on higher education, the absence of penalties for (and thus the perpetuation of) college men’s violent, drunken behavior, and the embarrassing incompetence in higher ed leadership in this state might be part of a conspiracy to undermine people’s willingness to support our institutions of higher learning at anything more than Wal-Mart rates. Meanwhile, this state imports people with college degrees from everywhere else in the country because we can’t make enough of our own. (This may not be a bad trend in the short run–perhaps sensible, well-educated people from California, Ohio, Illinois, and New Jersey can knock some sense into the local yokels that run this state.)
Many of you dear readers work in public higher ed in other states. Tell me you’re all better off where you live. Tell me how can we turn this thing around, and spend more money helping people here get college degrees instead of felony rap sheets. (And, once they enroll, please tell me how to ensure that they don’t start their life of crime in college, as so many Colorado men seem to!)