Candidate’s credentials, speed of selection process questioned
The wave of outrage over the choice of Bruce Benson to replace Hank Brown as president of CU grew Thursday night, with students and UCSU members expressing strong feelings over Benson’s credentials and how he was selected.
During the Legislative Council’s open forum, several students spoke at length about Benson and why they did not support him for the position of president.
“My research . suggests he is a fairly extreme candidate that only has experience raising money for the university,” said Jacob Taylor, a junior economics major.
Taylor brought signatures from 101 other students who did not support Benson with him to the meeting.
Dan Omasta, a junior political science major and chair of the CU chapter of CoPIRG, said he was concerned about the effect of having someone currently involved in the oil business as the head of a environmentally-friendly university. Benson is currently head of Benson Mineral Group, a Denver-based oil and mining company.
“To bring in an oil man..is a slap in the face to the professor, to the students and to the opportunity for CU to make an impact,” Omasta said. “Benson is not the way to go.”
Josh Maynard, a fifth-year senior chemistry major and outreach director for CU Biodiesel, said he was also concerned about Benson’s connections to the oil industry.
Check out our 11-part Benson series
“I have a little bit of an issue with this president,” Maynard said. “I like CU because we’re a progressive college . and I don’t think oil drilling is the future.”
After the students were finished speaking, the Legislative Council went on to debate three resolutions concerning Benson.
The first resolution, authored by UCSU Tri-executive Hadley Brown and Legislative Council President Boyce Postma, called for greater transparency in the process of selecting future university presidents. The resolution, which was passed by special order and will go directly to the Regents without a second reading, called for four students to be on any future search committees and for the candidate to spend more time interacting with all of the campuses in the CU system.
Brown said that having only one student on the presidential search committee did not give students adequate representation.
“We were very alarmed that student capacity to participate in this process was limited,” Brown said.
Jesse Jensen, a senior political science major who serves as co-director of Legislative Affairs for UCSU, said that one of his major concerns with how Benson was selected was how little information had been disseminated by the administration about him at this point.
“We don’t know a lot about this guy,” Jensen said. “More information needs to be provided by the search committee, and by the Board of Regents.”
Jensen added that he believed the only reason Benson is coming back to CU for future visits is due to student outcry over his selection. Benson has scheduled a second visit to CU on Tuesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Glenn Miller Ballroom.
“We got a big victory with this second meeting, but down the road, this is going to happen again and again,” he said.
Ryan Biehle, a senior political science major who serves as UCSU chief of staff and Intercampus Student Forum chair, said that he had spoken with representatives from all the other schools in the CU system, and none of them were pleased with being left out of the decision making process.
“Every other campus is not pleased with the process, I can say that with absolute certainly,” Biehle said.
The second resolution up for debate called Benson’s credentials as a candidate into question. The resolution, again authored by Brown and Postma, contains a litany of reasons why the authors believe Benson should not become president of CU.
“The sponsors (of the resolution) and I feel that the sole candidate who emerged . is not qualified to be president of the university system,” Brown said.
Among other things, Brown said that Benson was a divisive political figure and that his position would bring him into conflict with prominent members of the Colorado legislature.
Benson chaired the Colorado Republican Party from 1987-1991.
Brown pointed out that Colorado House Majority Leader Alice Madden had recently “blasted” Benson in a story in the Rocky Mountain News.
“My reaction when I heard it was Benson was, ‘That’s a really bad joke,'” Madden said in the story, dated Feb. 1.
Brown and other supporters of the resolution, such as Tri-executive Charles Gilford and Representative-at-large Daniel Ramos, also argued that Benson was uneducated about the issues facing CU in the future.
“The only question he got right at the forum was his name,” Ramos said.
Representative-at-large Blaine Pellicore, a junior philosophy major, said that Benson admitted to being unqualified for the job of president at the forum on Feb. 4.
“In one of his questions, he admitted he did not fulfill the academic requirements,” Pellicore said.
Benson has a bachelor’s degree in geology from CU. Brown said Benson would be the first president not to qualify for tenure if he became president.
The resolution eventually passed on to a second reading with a vote of 11 to 3, with three abstentions.
However, Benson did catch one break. The third resolution passed on Thursday was a strict and clear condemnation of the vandalism of Benson’s portrait in the Benson Earth Sciences building on campus over the weekend. CU recently replaced the portrait.
The resolution summary states that, “regardless of the sentiments some students may have towards the candidate or the selection process, these criminal acts have done nothing but hurt the reputation of the university.”
Postma, who authored the resolution, explained his reasoning.
“All it’s saying is regardless of how UCSU feels, the actual act of vandalism in no way represents UCSU or students in general,” Postma said.
The resolution was passed by a unanimous vote of acclamation.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Rob Ryan at email@example.com