Board votes Benson 22nd CU president
The CU Board of Regents Wednesday voted 6 to 3 in favor of Bruce Benson – sealing his position as the university’s 22nd president.
The Regents met in private session for two hours to vote.
Regents Michael Carrigan, Cindy Carlisle and Steve Ludwig voted against the appointment of Benson as president.
Regents Tom Lucero, Paul Schauer, Kyle Hybl, Tilman “Tillie” Bishop, Pat Hayes and Steve Bosley voted in favor of the appointment.
“This has not been an easy decision,” Regent Paul Schauer said. “Mr. Benson will work strongly with the students and staff.”
The decision followed a forum held today in St. Cajetan’s Church in Denver at 4 p.m. that allowed all voices of the community to be heard. The forum was split up into three different parts in 30-minute sessions. For public comment, the first session allowed
leaders of the faculty and staff to make their comments.
The second portion allowed community members to voice their opinions and the third allowed remaining students and staff to speak.
Amongst a large turnout for the forum, noted speakers including Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and old Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis voiced positive opinions of Benson’s nomination.
Students from CU Boulder who were present at the forum were adamant that the University Regents take into consideration what they had to say.
“You all exist for the students,” said Matt Steninger, a junior history major. “There is an active opposition amongst the students against Bruce Benson.”
After deliberating for more than two hours, the Regents emerged from their session. They were able to voice their thoughts on Benson’s nomination and one motion was suggested. Inside the session Regent Cindy Carlisle moved that given the comments of opposition from faculty and students at the forum, three to five more nominees should be named, including Benson.
The motion failed.
The first Regent to oppose Benson for president was Steve Ludwig.
“I am not voting against Mr. Benson because he is a republican, I am voting because of my conscious,” Ludwig said.
He also highlighted the two concerns he felt with Benson.
Ludwig said he does not have close relations with state lawmakers, and the controversy surrounding Benson is a concern.
“Selecting him is a gamble, and one that I am not prepared to take,” Ludwig said.
Ludwig said if Benson is chosen by the board, he would remain fully committed to Benson and to moving the University forward.
Regent Michael Carrigan also expressed his concern with Benson as CU’s president. Benson does not hold an advanced degree, and “holding that degree goes a long way,” Carrigan said.
Another concern of his was Benson’s long history of partisanship. Carrigan said it has led to a division among university faculty, students and life at school.
“I am unaware of a single formal group from any CU campus that endorsed Mr. Benson,” Carrigan said.
Like Ludwig, Carrigan said he would remain committed if the board chose Benson for presidency.
The Regents who supported Benson and gave their supporting votes said that Benson is in the best interest of the university.
Regent Kyle Hybl said Benson is someone who possesses potential to bring a fresh perspective to governance for higher education.
“He has been successful in multiple industries,” Hybl said.
He reassured that despite many beliefs from faculty and students, Benson has a strong commitment to diversity, and is a strong advocate for increasing tenure.
“It usually tends to be that way,” Ludwig said. “We had a lot of things to discuss and had good, thorough conversations.”
Many Regents were not surprised with the outcome.
Regent Tilman “Tillie” Bishop was pleased with the result.
“I even felt good with each no-vote because of the fact that they will throw support behind Benson,” Bishop said. “The rest of the opponents of Benson can do the same thing. Without funding we’re not going anywhere.”
UCSU tri-executive Charles Gilford III was disappointed with the Regents vote but has maintained that they will remain very engaged in the process with Benson.
Other students did not feel quite as cooperative.
“I feel like I just got stepped on by adults in power,” Matt Steninger, a junior history major, said.
Steninger was among a group of students present at the forum protesting against Benson. The group held up different posters throughout the forum, reading, “Academic freedom means freedom for all,” “I believe in global warming.do you?” and “Your past actions speak louder than your words.”
Some students said the set up of the forum was a disappointment. Steninger said the 4 p.m. scheduling was not convenient to students who are usually in school.
“Why on earth would you have an important decision like this be on a Wednesday afternoon when the vast majority of students are in class? It’s insane to me, and it really boxes out the students,” Steninger said.
The matter of the search process in finding Benson was also brought into question.
“The system isn’t perfect, and I think we could improve it,” Bishop said.
Carlisle also mentioned that she would like to see the Regents re-consider their search process.
Among the Regents who voted in favor of Benson, most voiced that they believe he will move the University forward in a positive manner.
“We’re not hiring Bruce Benson to go into the classrooms and teach,” Regent Tim Lucero said. “We need to join together to do what’s in the best interests of the institution.”
Benson was not present during the forum or during the decision of the Regents. He arrived after the forum for a press conference later in the night.
“He may not be the most polished diamond, and it will take us all working together,” Bishop said. “Concerning the entire university system, we can all hang together or individually.”
“The vote is over. It is time to move on and get behind Benson, and move the university forward,” Carrigan said.