CSU set to appoint chancellor, shrugs off watchdog coalition concerns

CSU Board member Joe Blake, left, and board president Doug Jones congratulate a 2008 graduate. (Photo/Colorado State University)
CSU Board member Joe Blake, left, and board president Doug Jones congratulate a 2008 graduate. (Photo/Colorado State University)
The Colorado State University board of governors is moving to install its own former vice chairman, Joe Blake, as system chancellor this month after making little effort to directly address concerns about the lack of transparency that marred the chancellor search process this spring.

In particular, it has done little to address demands by a coalition of state nonprofit watchdog groups — Colorado Ethics Watch, Colorado Common Cause and New Era Coloradoto cancel and restart the controversial search and to openly invite a wider range of candidates to apply for the position. The coalition also asked the board to invite members of the larger university community, including students and faculty, to participate more actively in the review and selection process.

CSU spokeswoman Michele McKinney told the Rocky Mountain Collegian that the board responded to the coalition’s demands by speaking with members of the public and asking for “feedback on how to increase transparency” and that “no one had suggestions on what could be done.”

Blake is scheduled to tour the CSU Fort Collins’ campus Engines Laboratory on Monday before being officially appointed chancellor later this month.

The CSU chancellor search attracted serious critiques and suggestions on how to increase the level of transparency even as it progressed.

At the end of April, the search prompted state lawmakers to write a bill outlining guidelines to increase transparency — House Bill 1369, the “Higher Ed Transparency Leadership Search” bill. Although H.B. 1369 was killed by its sponsors, the suggestions it made had been considered carefully and supported by the majority of lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled House.

An ongoing lawsuit filed against CSU by three media organizations — the Colorado Independent and the Fort Collins Coloradoan and Pueblo Chieftain newspapers — alleges the board violated open-meeting laws during the search. Tapes released from a pivotal closed-door executive sessions suggest the board made decisions in private that should have been made in public.

In an interview with the Colorado Independent, CSU’s McKinney elaborated on the transparency discussions. She said the board did not reach out to the public for suggestions on transparency but that individual members of the board responded to emails and calls from the public concerned about the legitimacy of the search.

“They were responding to stakeholders reaching out to them. After the [board members] would explain all the steps they took during the search, people were satisfied. They had nothing more to suggest.”

McKinney said the board related their discussions on transparency not formally but “anecdotally” in public at the board meeting held at the end of May.