A debate was held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Glenn Miller Ballroom to shed light on the race for one of nine positions, Regent At-Large, on the CU Board of Regents. The incumbent, Stephen Ludwig (Democrat), and Brian Davidson (Republican), as well as two other candidates, discussed their separate plans for the CU system of higher education. About 40 students and residents attended the debate, and it was co-hosted by the CU Student Government and the Boulder Daily Camera.
The Board of Regents has sole responsibility of the university system’s budgeting, as well as general supervision of the Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs and Anschutz campuses.
Seven of the nine members represent districts, similar to the seven U.S. House of Representative districts in Colorado. Two additional board members represent the entire state, like U.S. senators; these are the at-large regents. All regents serve 6-year terms.
CUSG’s Director of State Legislative Affairs Marco Dorado Arredondo introduced the candidates Wednesday after about a month of planning the debate.
“This election affects so many of us on so many different levels because the Board of Regents are the people who set policy for the university, they’re the people who set our tuition,” Arredondo said. “We have no place as students to say that, ‘tuition is too high,’ or, ‘this is wrong,’ if we’re not voting people in who have our interests in mind.”
Concealed carry permits and gun laws on campus
The topic of concealed carry permits (CCPs) and the presence of guns on campuses sparked a notable disagreement among the candidates Wednesday evening.
Colorado Supreme Court decided in March that the university cannot ban permit holders from bringing concealed weapons to campus, subsisting state and federal laws allowing concealed carry permits.
Daniel Ong, a Libertarian candidate for the at-large seat, believes that CU’s policy of banning CCP holders from keeping concealed weapons in undergraduate dorms interferes with the holders’ legal rights.
“University policy currently prohibits guns, or they will, as part of their housing contract,” Ong said. “I think that’s overly restrictive.”
He pointed out at the concealed weapons debate, however, an aspect of the university’s newest policies that he does agree with.
“I notice that in a recent dormitory remodel they’ve put safes in for student use – that seems perfect for storing guns when they are not on the owner,” Ong said.
Davidson, the Republican candidate and current physician at CU’s Anschutz Medical Campus, has sided with the state court on the March decision but also agrees with the university’s adjusted policies.
“I believe CU’s revised policy on this issue is both consistent with Colorado law – although it could be much less restrictive – and it’s also safe for the university’s community,” Davidson said.
“My favorite part of the university’s policies talks about how the campus is ‘not a sanctuary from state and local laws,’ and this is true,” he said. “CU is not above the law.”
Ludwig said that he opposed any guns or weapons on campus despite permit rights.
“I have been unequivocal about not liking guns on campus since I ran in 2006; that position hasn’t changed,” Ludwig said. “I think it’s bad for students to have guns on campus. I just don’t think it’s proper for the university setting.”
When asked about his stance on the safety-enhancing properties of allowing concealed weapons on campus or in other public places, Ludwig continued to dispel any chance that CCPs would benefit CU.
“The law enforcement folks I’ve talked to have said if they come into an active shooter situation with someone with a concealed carry permit shooting back, they don’t know who the bad guy is, so it adds confusion to the situation,” Ludwig said in an interview after the debate.
“The idea that a citizen in the right place at the right time in a shooting situation like that could make a difference, I think is a dubious claim,” he said. “I think there’s more risk that innocent people would be hurt than helped.”
Ludwig cited a recent scenario in New York City, where, in the process of gunning down a man pointing a gun at them, two policemen inadvertently shot nine bystanders.
While recognizing the chance for such a disaster, Davidson believes that CU is obliged to uphold constitutional rights by supporting concealed carry.
“We must support a safe environment on the campus and also support the law,” Davidson said.
On the subject of keeping tuition cost low for all CU students, regardless of state residency, Davidson and Ludwig again offered vastly different plans.
The average tuition rate at a four-year public university grew 15 percent nationwide from 2008-2010; at CU, it grew 18.9 percent.
For the 2011-2012 school year, CU’s in-state tuition cost rose 9.3 percent, about $650 per student.
Ludwig, currently a corporate marketing and communications manager for a construct company in Denver, suggested that financial support from the state government, and therefore from Colorado voters, is the foundation for deterring more steep tuition increases.
“All of the other things that I’m about to share with you will not make up for the loss of state support,” Ludwig said.
“Other things” include increasing online course enrollment (aiming at a 25 percent increment); creating a “true summer semester” that would allow students to pursue more course credit for the time; cutting low-enrollment programs on campus; and increasing cooperation between college campuses in Colorado.
“We compete a lot with CSU, School of Mines, others, there has to be ways where we can cooperate and share resources,” Ludwig said. “Look, we live in a small state, and we have big ambitions, which is fine, but we don’t have all the money to fund them, so we have to find ways to cooperate.”
Davidson, on the other hand, points to P3s and unrestricted fundraising to keep CU from more sharp tuition increases.
Public-private partnerships, also known as PPPs or P3s, link government-funded enterprises, like an institute of higher education, to a private businesses, like a nanotechnology research facility. Coupling with the private sector can expand equitable access and generate profit for the public sector, like CU, and link graduates to jobs.
“More specifically,” Davidson said, “technology transfer – taking the innovations that we create on this campus, on the Anschutz campus, Denver campus and Colorado Springs – into the private marketplace, and then using those margins and those profits to fund the institution.”
Davidson’s plan for increasing revenue also includes changing fundraising barriers.
“We do a very good job of fundraising in the University of Colorado system, but unfortunately, 97 to 98 percent is restricted to a specific project,” Davidson said. “It is not necessarily applied to operational costs and to defer the cost of education of the average undergraduate student or graduate student.”
The CU Regent At-Large race will appear on every Colorado voter’s ballot. Early voting in the state of Colorado begins on Oct. 22 and ends on Nov. 2; Election Day is Nov. 6. The Regent At-Large position that the candidates are vying for is the only statewide election this year other than the presidential race.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Alison Noon at Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org.