Coloradans will decide between Alice Madden and Heidi Ganahl on Nov. 8 to fill an at-large seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents.
CU, the flagship institution of the Colorado system of higher education, has four campuses, more than 61,000 students, 30,000 employees and an annual budget of $3.8 billion. While most in-state students attending CU hail from the Front Range, high school graduates from across the state, including nearly 70 from Durango, are matriculated this school year.
The Board of Regents, similar to a board of directors, has nine members, seven elected by Congressional District and two by the state at-large. Colorado is one of only four states – along with Nebraska, Nevada and Michigan – where the governing body of the flagship institution is elected by voters. In the other 46 states, and for the rest of Colorado’s public institutions, including Fort Lewis College, the governor appoints the boards.
Both candidates are CU graduates.
Both are concerned about student debt and tightening the budget – CU’s in-state tuition has doubled in the last decade – safety on campus and creating a diverse campus. But they divide on what that means, and how it should be executed.
“I’m not a fan of safe spaces,” said Ganahl, a Republican and entrepreneur who owns Camp Bow Wow. “I believe in intense discussions, feisty discussions, in cultivating values and opinions. We should have a welcoming culture, not divisive, that welcomes all races, ideologies and religions.”
She did not offer any specific ideas on how to create that culture beyond “working tirelessly.”
Madden, a Democrat, formerly served as the Colorado House District 10 representative from 2000 to 2008, and as the House majority leader for the final three years. If she wins, it will shift the board to a Democratic majority for the first time since 1979.
“We need to help minority students stay in sustainable and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” she said, adding that too many minority students leave after the first semester or freshman year. “We need to build a network and a community around them, including expanding our pre-collegiate courses, a program that works, that we already do on a small scale, so they know people, they know their way around, they’re comfortable on campus.”
Perhaps the single largest difference between the two candidates is their approach to climate change.
“She’s big in the climate change movement,” Ganahl said about Madden. “I have a senior at the University of Oregon, and I’m horrified at what I see happening there. Instead of teaching critical thinking, they’re being told here’s what we believe, here’s why you should believe it and the deal is done. A lot of parents are not OK with that.”
Madden, who is the executive director of CU Law School’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment, has been involved in the issue for more than seven years. After leaving the Legislature, she served as climate-change adviser and deputy chief of staff for former Gov. Bill Ritter and was appointed principal deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental and external affairs in the U.S. Department of Energy.
“There are two board members now who openly don’t believe in climate change, and one of them threatened three professors at the Colorado Springs campus that they should be investigated for indoctrinating students in climate science,” Madden said. “CU gets more research funding from NASA than any other college in the country because we’re a leader in the field. She talks about diversity of speech and includes climate science in that, but there’s no such thing as freedom of facts.”