As CSU puts controversial chancellor search in the past, questions linger

In an outgoing op-ed last month, Former CSU Board Chairman Doug Jones said he learned a great deal this year from public response to the board’s controversial chancellor search, which ended in selection of Board Vice Chairman Joe Blake. The main thing Jones learned, he said, was that Coloradans care about what’s going on in the power-broker back rooms of the universities they fund. The fact that land-grant university Board Chairman Jones had this to learn would come as a shock if not for all the evidence supporting the admission.

Jones then goes on to supply a boilerplate defense for the selection process, but it’s a defense that raises questions, partly for not seeming completely on the level. And that’s not all. For CSU Pueblo professor Timothy McGettigan, the stealthy chancellor search raised questions about another topic altogether: the establishment of CSU’s Global Campus.

In his outgoing note, Jones explains that the board held a public meeting in which it “explained the basis” of its decision to select Blake. But state open meetings laws say the board has to make the decision in public, not present the decision in public — two very different things. The point of the laws that apply to the CSU board is to bring the public in on the decision-making process so taxpayers can see how a decision unfolds and participate on some level, directly or indirectly.

Jones writes as a preface to his op-ed: “A university’s reputation is ingrained in its history – built idea by idea, brick by brick and graduate by graduate over time.”

Prof. McGettigan believes recent events in CSU history need to unpacked, a process essential to the reputation-building history of CSU. In an op-ed published today by the Colorado Independent, McGettigan explains.

First there’s the ongoing unresolved matter of the man who preceded Blake as CSU chancellor, the man whose resignation paved the way for the CSU board to create the new standalone chancellor position, which it later filled with Blake, who was Board Vice Chair when the position was created and remained so during the whole months-long search– up until a week before he sent in his own application for the job and was then selected without competitor.

[T]he CSU Board of Governors’ dogged secrecy has effectively suppressed the curious circumstances surrounding the departure of former Chancellor Larry Penley — who, hard-working Coloradans might like to know, negotiated a sweet severance package (including payouts of $389,000 per year until 2010) at Colorado tax-payer’s expense.

In addition to the mystery of his departure, Penley left CSU his special project, the CSU Global Campus.


[U]nder Colorado Law, creating new public institutions of higher education requires a decision on the part of the state legislature. The power of conferring legislative authority on public colleges and universities remains the preserve of the legislature largely because, in anointing new colleges and universities, the state must also assume responsibility for funding those institutions. Yet, in spite of this constraint, several years ago the CSU Board of Governors, without bothering to secure legislative authority, created the third campus in its System, CSU-Global.

If you visit the CSU System homepage, you will see three boxes in the center of the page that link to the three campuses in the CSU System: including two that enjoy legislative authority, i.e., CSU-Fort Collins and CSU-Pueblo, and one that does not, CSU-Global. Further, on January 28, 2009, Diane Evans, Treasurer for the Board of Governors, affirmed in an open forum at CSU-Pueblo that, though CSU-Global happens to be a “virtual” university, from the perspective of the CSU Board of Governors, CSU-Global occupies a stature that is equivalent to the other two CSU System campuses. Dick Robinson, who co-chaired the open forum and who happens to be a past Chair of the CSU Governing Board, concurred with Diane Evans.

Robinson stated that, from the perspective of the CSU Board of Governors, there are three campuses in the CSU System and, though each has a different mission, the Board of Governors recognizes each as an independent campus in the CSU System. 

Read McGettigan’s full post here.

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