Twenty-five years ago, CU-Boulder was ranked 30th. A succession of mediocre administrators, who expanded the public relations office while paying only lip service to or ignoring the quality of education that the students receive, has brought the university down to its present lamentable position.
When CU graduates have to compete for jobs with graduates of better universities, they will need a "Hail Mary" to overcome the low reputation of their alma mater. The parents of CU students and most citizens of Colorado are wondering why.
There is a proverb that says a fish starts rotting from the head. As a professor emeritus who taught at the university for 43 years and who is a Republican, I have concluded that the Board of Regents is greatly responsible for the decline of the university's academic standards.
For 27 years, the board has been dominated by the Republicans. Some years ago, regents such as Virginia Blue, Dr. Pete Atkins, Joseph Coors, Dr. Roy Shore, Sandy Kraemer, Eric Schmidt, Richard Bernick and, more recently, Cindy Carlisle, were conscious that they were the trustees of the people of Colorado. They were firm guardians of academic standards.
In the last 20-some years, however, the regents, for the most part, have become cheerleaders or fig leaves for successive administrations. They have been wined and dined. They are in love with the football team; each has box seats at Folsom Field, and can travel for free to away games. None of them has made any contribution to the quality of education. On their watch, a series of the greatest scandals in CU's history has rocked the university and the state.
The presidents appointed by the regents, starting with Gordon Gee, have been of C-minus quality. Being non-educators, the regents voted for their own image. Republicans still dominate the Board of Regents. It is imperative to remove politics from the board. There should be three Democrats, three Republicans and three unaffiliated members, appointed by the governor, whoever that may be, and approved by the education committees of the state House of Representatives and Senate. Raising the quality of the members of the Board of Regents is the indispensable prerequisite for raising the quality of education.
The newly appointed president, former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, arrived with fanfare as a great former president of the University of Northern Colorado. The July 31 Denver Post devoted three huge pages to his life. If George Norlin, outstanding scholar and the most illustrious president CU ever had, were alive, he would throw up at such self-serving adulation.
Brown was president of UNC for five years, but had no influence whatsoever on the academic aspect of the university. After I retired from CU in 1999, I was invited to teach at UNC. For four years, I taught two courses a semester in interdisciplinary studies in the business school. I had ample opportunity to learn that it was the provost who ran the university. Brown, as president, was confined to being the chief PR man. That is his specialty.
In the current edition of "America's Best Colleges," UNC is ranked in the lowest tier of all colleges and universities evaluated, meaning its academic standard is very low, except in the colleges of business and music, which were highly regarded before Brown became president of the university.
Now that he is president of CU, let us hope and pray that there will be a miracle and that, at the end of Brown's tenure, the University of Colorado will be listed in the first tier, with the best universities in the country.
Edward Rozek is a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado. Professor Rozek has counted among his students Hank Brown, now president of CU, and Republican Jerry Rutledge, who currently represents the 5th Congressional District, including Colorado Springs, as a CU Regent.