The day the announcement went out that Colorado State University (CSU) President Larry Penley was unexpectedly stepping down in the middle of the semester, retiring U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard telephoned Doug Jones, the president of the college’s Board of Governors, to express his sorrow. Allard, according to board spokeswoman Michele McKinney, also added that he was interested in the job. The media got wind of it, and the rumor mill’s been ratcheted up ever since.
Though Board of Governors members themselves have remained tight-lipped, McKinney says her bosses still need to do the planning necessary to begin the search for a new leader for the state’s second-largest public university.
“This isn’t going to happen with one phone call,” McKinney says.
Still, the current make-up of the Board of Governors, along with the recent trend in Colorado of appointing former lawmakers to head up major universities and colleges, has made some people plenty nervous about the possibility that Allard could be CSU’s next president.
He may be a proud Ram alum, but Allard, a conservative Republican, has a dismal record of supporting programs that benefit higher education and the environment, which CSU has worked hard to embrace in recent years.
Though partisanship isn’t supposed to be an issue when it comes to making a presidential selection, six of the nine members of CSU’s Board of Governors were appointed by former Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican. They include: Jones, Joe Blake, Bonifacio Casyleon, Phyllis “Diane” Evans, Pat Grant and Ed Haselden.
Two members have been appointed by current Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, including Tom Farley and Patrick McConathy. The ninth member, Marguerite Salazar, was appointed to fill out an open seat by the board.
While members of the Board of Governors remain mum on the prospect, others have already raised vocal opposition to a potential Allard presidency. The liberal group ProgressNow has already begun circulating a petition opposing Allard.
Jim Martin, the former Republican trustee for the University of Colorado, is also critical about a potential Allard presidency.
Allard has received failing grades from education groups for his votes on key pieces of education-related legislation, Martin notes. For example, Allard received an “F” rating from the National Education Association for his votes opposing everything from Pell Grants to Head Start funding. Allard has also favored abolishing the federal Department of Education.
In addition, Martin wonders whether anyone but him realizes the irony of even thinking about appointing someone with Allard’s environmental record to head up a university that has spent millions re-branding itself as a green university.
“Wayne Allard has the worst environmental record in the U.S. Senate,” Martin says. “He still denies and has publicly denied global warming exists.
“He also has a very limited ability to raise money — he’s never really had to raise money, he’s not like [CU President] Bruce Benson.
“He’s a kind and humble man, but as we welcome Wayne Allard back to the state of Colorado, there are many places that his skills now can be utilized for the benefit of the state,” Martin said. “The presidency of one of our major research universities is not one of them.”
Other possible candidates: Buescher? Hank Brown? Condi Rice?
On Nov. 6, Penley, the president and chancellor of the state’s second-largest university system, abruptly resigned his position, ending his five-year reign. Penley will be paid $389,000 for one year of his remaining contract with CSU, which expires in 2010. His resignation, effective Nov. 30, came two months after an investigation by The Colorado Independent highlighted Penley’s efforts to shift state funds away from the university’s academic colleges and library system while injecting cash into the school’s Athletics Department and nearly tripling the budget of his own Office of the President.
In addition to Allard, state Rep. Bernie Buescher, a Democrat who lost his reelection bid earlier this month, has also reportedly expressed interest in the suddenly vacant job. But, McKinney notes with her tongue in cheek, plenty of retiring lawmakers and other community leaders are also in the job market these days — how about former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, who’s already been president of the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado?
Or former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright? “Condi Rice will be out of a job pretty soon,” McKinney pointed out. “Both [Rice and Albright] have ties to Colorado.”
The Board of Governors plans to meet Dec. 2-3, McKinney said, to determine how they will move forward to select Penley’s replacement.
When asked to further clarify his thoughts on the possibility of an Allard appointment this week, Cosyleon told the Colorado Independent, “That’s in the paper — that’s out there, and I’ll leave what I said at that,” and referred further questions about the process by which the board will select CSU’s next leader to president Jones.
“The rumor mill is running rampant, and I’m trying to remain as objective as I can be,” Cosyleon said. “I have to say, it’s just too early to speculate.”
Likewise, board member Salazar referred questions to Jones. Asked whether she would potentially be supportive of either Allard or Beuscher, Salazar declined comment.
“It would be too premature to say anything,” she said. “Our agreement was to direct inquiries to Doug Jones — we haven’t really talked about it; we’ll meet in December.”
Jones did not return a call seeking comment but instead referred the call to the board’s spokesman, McKinney, who reiterated that it’s far too premature for speculation — either for Allard, for Beuscher or anyone else.
“They have not met as a board to discuss the selection process,” she said.
One of the items of business the board plans to tackle in early December is a proposal to potentially restructure the leadership role at CSU.
Currently the president of the university also serves as chancellor to the college’s three separate campuses, which are in Fort Collins, Pueblo and online. On the table is the possibility that the next CEO would serve as the chancellor overseeing the three campuses, but that each campus would have a separate president, McKinney said.