De-politicize the regents

The Board of Regents employed by CU fails to serve demands far too often. Photo courtesy of CU Denver

The Board of Regents employed by CU fails to serve demands far too often. Photo courtesy of CU Denver

Regents Don’t Equal Politics

The University of Colorado campuses are overseen by a board of regents, and it seems that 67,000+ CU students are the poorer for it. Consisting of nine members, the board is “charged constitutionally with the general supervision of the university and the exclusive control and direction of all funds of and appropriations to the university,” according to the CU regents webpage.  

Still, the specific function of the regents remains unclear to the average student, and the system of election for the regents is intriguing. Each regent is elected for a six-year term, with one regent for each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, plus two others elected at large by the state. 

The problem lies with partisanship. CU’s board of regents is politicized and is elected based on votes from all registered voters in the state of Colorado. The system follows a partisan, constitutionally-regulated model that has remained largely unchanged since the enaction of the board of regents in 1876. In fact, CU is one of the only university systems in the country that has a governing body that is made up of members elected via general, partisan elections. Currently, the board consists of five Republicans and four Democrats; a Republican majority that has remained since 1970.

The partisan split is meant to ensure a better response to constituent demands, though it seems to have the opposite effect, as evidenced by the dubious election of Mark Kennedy. It should come as no surprise that the election of Mark Kennedy, which occurred in May of 2019, was determined strictly along party lines. The 5-4 vote that finalized Kennedy’s position at the helm of the $4.5 billion CU enterprise was met with fierce backlash from students, especially after it was revealed that the former senator had a voting history which included a co-sponsorship to ban marriage equality and multiple bills seeking to end abortion, according to the CU Independent. 

Since Mark Kennedy’s induction by the regents, his role in serving the CU constituency has been active, but not without further controversy. Most recently, Kennedy came under fire from CU students and staff after it was revealed that the CU president would receive a $200,000 bonus to his salary, even as the pandemic decimated university budgets and forced layoffs. It should be noted, however, that Kennedy donated the bonus to a scholarship fund for first-generation students following the backlash. 

The University of Colorado’s regents and the system which enables them have proven to be inadequate time and time again. So, what’s the solution? The elimination of partisanship is a good place to start, and effective examples are employed in other Colorado universities. Colorado State University employs nine voting members via appointment from the governor and secondary approval from the Senate. And while such a change to the CU regent system would require a constitutional amendment, the change would favor qualified professionals rather than partisans and would provide a lasting benefit to current and future students alike.

This is a selection from the Nov. 04 issue. To view the full issue, visit:

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