We are pleased to present our fourth Q&A, giving you the opportunity to
directly ask questions of politicians and state leaders throughout Colorado. Today we are happy to have with us Regent Michael Carrigan, one of nine regents of the University of Colorado.
(To read past Q&As, click on the links below the Governor Line on the left.)
Michael Carrigan was elected in 2004 as the CU Regent representing CD-1 (Denver). He is a graduate of CU Law School and has long family ties to the University – his father, former CU Professor Jim Carrigan, was elected as a statewide regent in 1974.
Mr. Carrigan has graciously agreed to participate in this Q&A and answer your questions, and all responses are entirely in his own words. Please be respectful in your questions and understand that, for legal reasons, there may be specific questions that he is not allowed to answer. You may disagree with Mr. Carrigan, but please do so in a respectful manner. Any disrespectful comments will be promptly removed.
Any responses here are those of Regent Michael Carrigan, on his own. He is not speaking for the Board of Regents or the University of Colorado.
With that out of the way, let’s get to it…
1. If you had any idea that your first three months on the job would be like this, would you have just run for dogcatcher instead?
When I ran I knew that the Board of Regents was becoming an increasingly high profile position. However, little did I know that my second board meeting, less than a month after taking office, would involve riot police and national media coverage. I am only three months into a six-year term, but I’m hopeful they’ll let me off early for good behavior!
With that said, it is times like this that people run for public office. I hope
that by being a reasoned voice for due process, academic freedom and the
benefits of public higher education I can be of service to CU and its core
2. The departure of President Elizabeth Hoffman was obviously due to a combination of factors, but what were the causes that finally led to her resignation in the end?
Despite President Hoffman’s many successes, her leadership was becoming a distraction for the University. Quite simply, it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to deliver CU’s message with constant criticism from all sides. I have tremendous respect for her decision to put the University’s interests before her own.
3. What specific background would you like to see in the next CU President? Do you give more weight to someone with a particular professional background? Who is on the short list of candidates at this point?
Given that President Hoffman will be leaving on June 30th at the latest, we have to consider whether we can have a thoughtful search in that short amount of time. Personally, I see value in having a senior statesman or woman who can restore public confidence in CU and help state leaders pass necessary TABOR reform. If we can accomplish those goals, I am confident that we will have many talented applicants to lead CU into the next decade. The Board has not considered any specific names.
4. Opinions on Ward Churchill vary, particularly regarding what the state and the university should do with him. What can the Regents legally do and where are your hands tied?
Like any person who is publicly employed, Professor Churchill is entitled to due process of law before any adverse employment action can be taken. That means that, despite the “legal” opinions offered on talk radio, the University is required to respect his freedom of speech, no matter how personally offended we may be by his comments. The First Amendment is not there to protect popular ideas, but unpopular ones.
The Chancellor has referred several very serious allegations of research misconduct over to a specialized committee who will consider the charges. From there, the matter may be sent on for further action through the President and, ultimately, the Board of Regents. This is due process, and the fairness is more important than speed.
5. What role, if any, should the university take in limiting the speech of one of its professors?
With academic freedom comes academic responsibility. Both of these principles are outlined in the governing laws of CU, the Laws of the Regents (see our website at https://www.cu.edu/regents). Great universities like CU should foster debate and controversy, which are foundations of learning. Therefore, I will resist any effort to limit our faculty to teaching only popular and pre-ordained ideas and opinions.
6. What are the next steps with the football team/recruiting/slush fund/athletic director business? Sorry to lump them all together, but can you take us through the latest on these issues?
There are two major outstanding issues: (1) the State
Auditor is undertaking an audit of Coach Barnett’s football camps and the CU
Foundation (which, contrary to popular belief, is not controlled by the
University), and (2) the Title IX case against CU is set for trial in federal
court beginning May 31, 2005. This is the case in which two women claim they
were sexually assaulted by football recruits, and that CU is liable for
damages. Both of these issues will likely receive significant attention from
the press and public.
7. Suppose the football scandals and the Ward Churchill controversy didn’t exist. What would be your top priorities for CU that you would like to concentrate on, and how would you address them?
My long-term top priorities remain the same as when I ran last year: (1) better funding from the state, (2) better access to students from diverse backgrounds and, (3) more accountability and transparency by the University.
8. There is a lot of talk regarding Colorado’s budget and the ability to fund higher education. Can you set the record straight about how funding for CU will be impacted by TABOR and other budget factors? The state doesn’t pay all of the university’s bills, such as research funding, so can you explain roughly where state money is spent? How concerned are the Regents about future funding from the state?
When TABOR was enacted, roughly 25% of the state budget went to funding higher education; it is now under 10%. CU currently receives about 9% of its funding from the state. With the passage of the College Opportunity Fund, these amounts no longer come in the form of block grants but are stipends passed through individual students.
Without TABOR reform there is only one result - the end of state funding for higher ed by the end of the decade. If this happens, CU will be able to keep its doors open through drastic tuition increases. The real loss will be to Colorado’s regional and community colleges, many of which will not survive. Fully 40% of CU’s students begin their studies in community college.
The Regents are quite concerned about the budget disaster on the horizon. On March 24, 2005, we unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the budget compromise reached by Gov. Owens and legislative leaders. Without passage of that proposal Colorado will be the first state to completely divest from higher education - not the example I want to give to the rest of the nation.
The Regents are quite concerned about the budget disaster on the horizon.
On March 24, 2005, we unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the budget
compromise reached by Gov. Owens and legislative leaders. Without passage of
that proposal Colorado will be the first state to completely divest from higher
education - not the example I want to give to the rest of the nation.
9. What specific steps are you taking to restore the public’s faith in CU and the university’s credibility?
Both publicly and privately, I have been advocating for more accountability and transparency from the entire University. Whether it is animal testing at the Health Sciences Center or athletic recruiting on the Boulder campus, we need to open our books, labs and classrooms until the public is confident we have nothing to hide. To assist in that effort, I have spent many hours explaining CU’s processes and policies to members of the press and the public. Over time I am hopeful that these relationships will restore trust in CU.
10. How does CU go about attracting a more diverse student body, particularly among African-Americans, especially given the fact that Colorado has such a small percentage of African-American residents to begin with?
Approximately 3.5% of Colorado’s population is African-American, and the population at UC Boulder is only 1.5%. As the state’s flagship university, we have to do a better job of increasing those numbers. Slowly, we are making progress at retaining more African-American staff and faculty, which will help attract more students.
I should mention, however, that we are proud of the progress on our other campuses. At the Downtown Denver campus, approximately 25% of the graduates are ethnic minorities, the highest of any university in the state. The School of Pharmacy has also had tremendous success; nearly 40% of its students are students of color.
11. It’s Final Four week. When can we realistically expect to see CU in a Men’s Final Four?
Your question comes exactly 50 years after CU’s last appearance in the men’s final four. I wish you had asked about the women’s Final Four, where CU’s Coach Ceal Berry is retiring after an amazing career. I don’t know about the men’s program, but my money is on the women reaching the final four first.
Questions? Comments? Enter them below, and Mr. Carrigan will answer as many of them as he can throughout the day on Thursday.