CU president elected amid student protest
February 27, 2008
The University of Colorado’s Board of Regents elected multi-millionaire oil and gas executive Bruce Benson as the institution’s 22nd president. The university’s nine regents held a vote Feb. 20th that determined the election amid many protests by students and teachers at the university.
p. The Board of Regents voted along party lines, with the three Democratic members against Benson’s candidacy, and the six other members, all Republican, voting in favor of Benson, who is aa prominent Republican donor.
p. Benson’s election comes after current CU president, Hank Brown, announced his plans to step down one year ago. Brown states that he expects to remain in office between two days and six weeks while the transition between presidents is made. As president, Benson will head all three CU campuses at Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs.
p. CU Regent Stephen Ludwig, a Democrat, explains some of the apprehension surrounding Benson’s candidacy, stating that there is concern over Benson’s partisan past and his ability to repair relationships with the state legislature. Benson is the former chairman of the state Republican party and ran for governor in 1994.
p. Ludwig also mentions that CU is attempting to regain public trust after several recent scandals. President Brown has introduced several reforms in order to implement greater transparency in university affairs, reforms that Ludwig fears could be undone by Benson’s presence as president.
p. “Another controversial figure sucks all of the oxygen out of the room,” Ludwig said.
Many individuals have criticized CU’s presidential search process, saying that it failed to be transparent. After four search processes, only Benson has been presented.
p. Since being named the sole finalist nearly a month ago, Benson has participated in approximately 40 meetings and forums with administrators, students, faculty members, employees and others affiliated with CU.
p. However, the only manner in which students were allowed to participate in the process was a forum. Both students and faculty voiced opposition to Benson, while several high-profile leaders appeared at the forum to support his candidacy.
p. CU student Veronica Lingo told regents that the selection process should have been slowed in order to allow greater student involvement.
p. “The process has been shrouded by mystery,” she said.
Among the many arguments against Benson’s appointment are that of his ties to the oil industry and his political past. Critics have also pointed out that Benson only possesses a bachelor’s degree, and have made references to past arrests and divorces.
p. Regent Tom Lucero said that he’s disappointed with the campus resistance facing Benson.
p. “[Benson] has been subjected to a process that has not been fair to him,” Lucero said, “Never before have we subjected a candidate as we have Bruce Benson.”