CU Regents Aloof, Isolated from
Constituents, University Community

The regents appear to act more in the manner of a board of directors
of a private corporation than in the manner of publicly-elected
stewards of a public institution of higher ed

The regents of the University of Colorado are publicly-elected officials, responsible for ensuring the integrity of the University of Colorado as a public institution of higher education.

Although elected to represent their constituents' interests, the regents' public communications and interactions with Colorado residents and the university community are extremely limited.

The regents hold no public town hall meetings, allow minimal public input at their meetings, make little use of technology to communicate back and forth with constituents and the university community, and treat important decisions like presidential selection and evaluation as all but private matters concerning the regents only.

Minimal Outreach to Constituents & University Community

No Regent Town Hall Meetings

Unlike many other publicly elected officials in Colorado, the Regents hold no town hall meetings during their tenure to inform and discuss university and higher ed issues with their constituents.

Instead, typical events attended by regents include the following, noted in the April 16 - 17, 2015 regent meeting minutes:
  • Carrigan represented the regents and CU at the 21st annual Colorado Council for Community and Justice's Power Lunch.
  • Shoemaker attended the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility Grand Opening on April 6.
  • Bosley, Carson, Gallegos and Sharkey traveled to Las Vegas to cheer on the Buffs during the PAC 12 basketball championship.
  • Griego attended the LAEF (Latin American Educational Foundation) Gala on March 14.
  • Ludwig helped UCCS celebrate the campus's 50th anniversary at the St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Colorado Springs on March 14.
       Regent Meeting Minutes, April 16-17, 2015, Section F, Report 1
Or these events noted in the June 22 - 23, 2015 regent meeting minutes:
  • Regents Bosley and Griego have been engaged with the University Treasurer's search.
  • Regent Carrigan attended a reception for the CU Denver chancellor search candidate.
  • Regents Carson, Gallegos and Griego attended the Capitol Conference, June 3-5, in Washington, D.C.
  • Regent Shoemaker attended the CU-Boulder Staff Appreciation Event in May.
  • Regent Ludwig joined Hybl March 30 to celebrate at one of the many events for UCCS's 50th anniversary.
       Regent Meeting Minutes, June 22-23, 2015, Section C, Report 4
Or these events noted in the February 18 - 19, 2016 regent meeting minutes:
  • In November, Regents Gallegos and Griego attended an Excellence in Leadership luncheon and lecture.
  • Regent Ludwig attended a UCCS 50th Anniversary Winter Wonderland Event that included Gov. Hickenlooper, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, members of Colorado Legislative Delegation and Mayor John Suthers.
  • Regent Carson in January attended a CU Advocates' CU Lunch and Learn program featuring V.P. Todd Saliman on the cost of education.
  • Regent Sharkey attended the Fall Sports 2015 Champions Recognition Dinner recognizing the Pac-12 Champions Men's and Women's Cross Country teams and individual academic/athletic award winners from soccer, volleyball and football on Jan. 12.
  • Regents Carrigan, Carson, Sharkey and Hybl attended the CU Advocates Day at the Capitol on Jan. 26.
  • Regent Bosley attended the ninth annual Donor Recognition Dinner for the CU Anschutz Medical Center on Feb. 11.
  • Regent Shoemaker attended the Distinguished Speakers Board featuring Rep. Jared Polis.
       Regent Meeting Minutes, February 18-19, 2016, Section B, Report 6
None of these events permit the kind of back and forth discussion of issues between regents and constituents that would be typical of a town hall meeting.

Limited Public Participation in Meetings of the Board of Regents

In the absence of town hall style meetings, periodic meetings of the Board of Regents are the principal way in which regents interact on substantive issues with the public and the university community.

Yet the conduct of the meetings makes it very difficult for Colorado residents and members of the university community to engage with the regents during the meetings.

Regent meeting dates and locations vary, meetings are not advertised in local media, meetings are not streamed live, the opportunity for public comments at meetings is limited, and publication of meeting minutes is typically delayed for two months until after the next meeting.

Locations & Dates

Regular meetings of the Board of Regents are held on varying dates and at rotating locations through the year.

The current policy is that each campus hosts at least one meeting per year; UCCS and CU-Boulder have two meetings on alternating years.The board schedules "hold" dates for possible special board meetings in March, May, Oct. and Dec. These are usually held at CU headquarters at 1800 Grant St. in downtown Denver or via conference call.

Since Bruce Benson became president of the university in 2008, the regents have chosen to hold many of their twice-yearly retreats at Mr. Benson's rural Silverthorne residence.

For further information on board meeting locations and dates see the board meeting page.

For the most current and detailed information on board regular meetings as well as board committee meetings it is necessary to navigate through the BoardDocs system: go to CU BoardDocs, then click on the 'Documents' item on the left hand side, then click on 'page1.pdf.'

No Live streaming

The regents do not live stream their meetings over the web.

Minimal Notification / Advertising

The regents do not advertise their meetings in local media such as the Colorado Daily, Boulder Daily Camera or Denver Post.

The regents do not place day-of-meeting signage outside the building, or the room, they are meeting in on-campus to note that a public regent meeting is currently taking place inside. The regents leave this up to the discretion of the host campus.

The regents official policy on posting of meetings was last amended 9 years ago and states that "the glass case in the lobby of the Office of the President and Board of Regents" is the "official posting place" for notices of regent meetings:

Regent Policy 2F: Posting of Meetings

"The official posting place for notice of all regents meetings, including committee meetings, is the glass case in the lobby of the Office of the President and Board of Regents, 1800 Grant Street, Suite 800, Denver, CO. Informational notices of meetings may be posted on the regents website and published in the Silver & Gold Record [a faculty/staff newspaper closed down several years ago by CU administration]. Notices of meetings are also available to anyone upon request [to the regents' office]. Chancellors are encouraged to post regents meeting notices in appropriate public locales on their campuses.

Last Amended: March 22, 2007"

Regent Policy 2F: Posting of Meetings

Minimal Public Comments: Discretionary Regent Accommodation of Public Input at Regent Meetings

A one time only public comment period of 15 minutes duration is generally allowed at the start of the regular two-day on-campus meetings.

Speakers are normally given two minutes to speak, but are allowed to finish up their comments.

This policy is modified by the following considerations:

The board chair has discretion to allow the speaker to continue or board members to ask questions of the speaker.

The board chair also has the discretion to make available additional public comment time.

Public comments are not regularly scheduled during consideration of individual agenda items.

The board can hear whomever they want on an a specific item.
For example, consider this from the April, 2015, regent public meeting:

"Chairman Hybl said that during each public board meeting, it is the chairman's prerogative to set aside a portion of the meeting as a public comment session. Hybl usually allows 15 minutes at each meeting for public comment with speakers limited to 2 minutes per speaker. For today's meeting, Hybl said he lengthened the public comment session to a maximum of 30 minutes. He would first take general public comments and the remainder of the time allocated for speakers regarding divestment. The CU Fossil Free students have [been] requested to "bundle" their time and were given 14 minutes. He said several speakers representing an opposite view were present and also given 14 minutes either as a group or 2 minutes per speaker."

Regent Meeting Minutes, April 16-17, 2015, Section B
The regent policy of giving publicly-elected officials (i.e., the regents themselves) the ability to grant or withhold to their constituents public comment time at a public meeting, as they see fit, on an ad hoc basis, rather than having fixed times available, gives the appearance of a potential conflict of interest for the regents, particularly when there are speakers wanting to criticize the board or an agenda item.

On a typical hard-copy agenda handed out at a meeting, the only statement regarding public comments is this:

"Speakers are requested to limit their comments to two minutes. Groups with similar comments are requested to identify one spokesperson."

(For example, see) Regent Meeting Minutes, June 17, 2016, Section D, Number 2

Delayed Meeting minutes

The minutes of the regents meetings are not considered official, and made publicly available, until the board approves the minutes, typically at the following regular meeting.

The board does not post draft minutes of its meetings.

The result is that meeting minutes are typically withheld from the public for two to three months after a meeting, the time duration between regular meetings.

Limited Use of Technology by Regents to Communicate with Constituents & University Community

Although web technology was in widespread use by the turn of the millennium, the regents have been slow and ineffective in adopting it for their use at CU.

Apparently, the idea to use the web to post regent meeting agendas and related documents was brought up to the board in 2009 by Regent Merchant (Regent Meeting Minutes, March 12, 2009, page 3). It then took more than 3 years to get an online system up and working (Regent Meeting Minutes, November, 2012, Section B, Report 3).

The board chose to adopt a commercial and proprietary system called BoardDocs to post meeting agendas, minutes and relevant documents.

The regents provide no online discussion forums.

Board web site

The web presence of the regents could provide for enhanced communication between the regents and the university community, yet this channel too is very limited in its use by the regents.

Regent Home Page

The regents home page is located here.

However, there is no mention of, nor link to, the regent web site on two of the four campus home pages: Boulder and Colorado Springs. On the Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus home pages, the link to the regent's home page is blended in to the copyright notice at the bottom of the page.

Regent Meeting Page

The regents meeting page is located here.

There is no mention of public participation at the meetings on this page, nor of the regents' policies for that participation, nor are there any links to the regent rules regarding public participation

There is also no mention on this page that many university public policy documents, presented to and used by the regents at their meetings, are stored along with the minutes in the BoardDocs program.

For the most current and detailed information on board regular meetings as well as board committee meetings it is necessary to navigate through the BoardDocs system: go to CU BoardDocs, then click on the 'Documents' item on the left hand side, then click on 'page1.pdf.'


BoardDocs is a commercial, proprietary software system from Emerald Data Solutions of Marietta, Georgia. It is used by the regents to provide a paperless (i.e., online) agenda for their meetings, and as an online agenda management tool during their meetings. Use of the BoardDocs program involves different conventions for presentation of information and navigation through the site than a normal website (for example, there is no 'back' button).

Public Policy Documents Repository

The regents also use the BoardDocs program as the repository for the public policy documents presented to the regents at their meetings.

No mention of the range of documents to be found in the BoardDocs repository is found on any regent web site page.

Public policy documents in BoardDocs are associated with the meeting at which they were presented to the regents. There is no index or other type of higher level organization of these documents.

These documents contained in the BoardDocs program are generally not available to internet search services such as Google.

Here are some of the documents to be found in BoardDocs:

Technology in Medical Education

Strategic Directions A Look into the Fiscal Future

Massive Open Online Courses

FY 2014 Student Fee Proposals

Financial Aid Presentation

Discussion and Possible Action Item: Call for an Evaluation on Diversity of Political, Geographic, Cultural, Intellectual, and Philosophical Perspectives

Term Contract for Richard (Rick) George as Athletic Director - University of Colorado Boulder

CU for Colorado - Outreach Programs Serving the State

Report to the Task Force on New Technologies Goldstein & Associates

Strategic Plan Athletics Complex Expansion

2014 CU Federal Legislative Priorities, 2014 CU State Legislative Priorities

Board of Regents Strategic Planning Documents

Draft Regent Priorities and Reporting

Deferred Maintenance Update

CU Boulder Program Prioritization Update 2014

Notice of Motion: Possible Amendment to the Laws of the Regents related to presidential succession and the creation a process for appointment of temporary and interim presidents

Executive Summary of 2014 Social Climate Survey McLaughlin & Associates

Proposal for a New College of Media, Communication and Information

Operating Efficiencies

CU's Online Education Initiative

Academic Prioritization Process

Understanding Performance-Based Funding

Enterprise Constituent Relationship Management Initiative (eCRM)

FossilFree CU Presentation []

Future Students, Future Revenues, Thriving in a Decade of Demographics Decline

The Higher Education State of the Union

CU Advancement/FoundationPartnership

Intercampus Concurrent Enrollment

No Faculty or Student Participation in Regent Web Presence

No students or faculty were involved in designing or implementing the regent web site, including the BoardDocs program.

As a commercial, proprietary software package the BoardDocs End User Agreement contains this typical business language:

7. Applications and Use of Service.

". . . Customer [CU] will not modify, adapt, translate, hypothecate, lease, disclose, loan, sublicense, resell, distribute or create derivative works based on all or any part of the Service, Applications or Emerald Intellectual Property or Marks, unless permitted by Emerald. Customer will not attempt to decompile, reverse engineer or disassemble the Service or Applications for which source code is not provided, and Customer will be liable to Emerald for any unauthorized copying, reverse engineering or use of the Service or Applications by Users. If Emerald supplies source code for any Applications to Customer, Customer is solely liable and responsible for the consequences of any modifications to such source code or Applications made by or for Customer, and all support obligations or warranties with regard to such modified source code or Applications will be void and of no force or effect as a result of Customer's revisions thereto . . . ."

BoardDocs End User Agreement
The BoardDocs End User Agreement is a business document articulating standard business practices. It is not in any way a document expressing educational values.

It is not clear why the regents would choose to intrude commercial, proprietary business values into an academic and educational setting.

Those business values are antithetical to the values of exploration, innovation and open and creative collaboration inherent in an academic setting.

Students from the Computer Science Department, the Atlas Institute, the College of Media, Communication and Information, and other departments of the university are more than able to create such a web system.

CU Students

The regents could have approached this as an educational opportunity for student interns and faculty to create an innovative, open system, reflecting educational values, but instead, business values replaced educational values and this opportunity was treated as a corporate matter, rather than an educational opportunity.

As an example of what might be done, here is one possible alternative version of the agenda for the April, 2016, regular board meeting of the regents.

[Note: There is no direct web URL link to click on to get to the regents' version of this agenda; to view the agenda it is necessary to navigate through the BoardDocs program, in this manner:

with a web browser go to CU BoardDocs;
then click on tab "Meetings";
then click on tab "2016";
then click on item "April 6, 2016 (Wed)";
then click on the tab "View the Agenda" or "Print the Agenda".]
The web programming for the alternative version is very simple, well within the reach of a first semester web programmer. Since there would be no proprietary restrictions on this page, something like this could provide the foundation for a full and creative web system for regent documents, created, maintained and innovated by CU students and faculty.

Presidential Selection & Evaluation

Perhaps the most important functions of the Board of Regents are to select the president of the university and to periodically evaluate the performance of the president.

2008 Presidential Search

The Laws of the Regents, "Principles of Participation" state:

It is a guiding principle of the shared governance recognized by the Board of Regents that the faculty and the administration shall collaborate in major decisions affecting the academic welfare of the university.

Regent Laws, Article 5: Faculty, 5.E.5. Principles of Participation
Yet during the presidential search of 2008, the regents conspicuously ignored the recommendations of many university faculty and student groups, as well as the extraordinary motions of the Boulder Faculty Assembly.

As was the case in the 2005 search, in 2008 only a single finalist was brought forward by the regent search committee.

In both 2005 and 2008, the single finalist selected was a prominent member of the Colorado Republican Party, without advanced academic qualifications.

In 2008 the Boulder Faculty Assembly unanimously voted no confidence in the search process which produced only a single finalist:
	Motion on Presidential Search Procedure          BFA-X-M2-020408


	     Recent searches for the President of the University of Colorado 
	     have arrived at a single finalist; and


	     A single finalist diminishes the opportunity for significant 
	     University of Colorado stakeholders to participate in the 
	     selection process;


	     Let it be moved

	     That the Boulder Faculty Assembly has no confidence in the 
	     current process of selecting a new President; and

	     That the Regents change policies under Regent Policy 3-E 
	     (Searches for Administrators and Guidelines for the Appointment 
	     of Chief Officers of the University) to ensure that: 
	     (1) the search committee is more representative of campus student, 
	     staff, faculty, and administrative governance bodies;  
	     (2) the Regents engage in direct consultation with faculty governance 
	     groups on each of the system's campuses before the announcement of a 
	     final nominee or nominees; and 
	     (3) the search committee bring forward more than one finalist.
                BFA Motion on Presidential Search Procedure, February 14, 2008
	BF A-M-021408
	We respectfully request that the president search be continued 
	and that one or more additional finalists be brought forward in 
	complete fulfillment of the charge to the search committee and 
	the laws of the Regents.
                BFA Motion on CU President Search, February 14, 2008

In addition, the Boulder Faculty Assembly voted 40 - 4 against the single finalist brought forward by the presidential search committee:
	BF A-X-M3-020408
	Boulder Faculty Assembly Executive Committee Motion 
	on Support for Presidential Candidate Finalist Bruce Benson 
	C. Motion - "Support for Presidential Candidate Finalist Bruce Benson"
	The Boulder Faculty Assembly supports the nomination of Bruce Benson 
	as President of CU.
	This motion failed with 40 nays, 4 yeas, and 2 abstentions. 
                BFA Minutes, February 14, 2008, page 3

Although the 40 to 4 vote against the single finalist represented an extraordinarily unified and emphatic vote by the BFA, the regents as a body did not offer any substantive response to Boulder faculty concerns about either the nominee or the search process.

At the final regent meeting held to discuss and vote on the single finalist for president, February 20, 2008, just 6 days after BFA vote, only 2 of the 9 regents made reference to the BFA votes, and the board voted to deny - without discussion - a motion to reopen the search process and bring forward three to five finalists.

From the minutes of the meeting:

Regent Carlisle: Given the comments made by faculty, students, staff, and the wider university community around the state and the nation, I move that the Regents of the University of Colorado re-open the search process bringing forward three to five finalists with Mr. Benson counted among them, if so desired, in a public process.

Regent Carrigan: I second the motion.

Chair Hayes: Discussion? [No discussion] All in favor of the motion signal by aye. Opposed, same sign. Motion fails.

Comments of the Board of Regents prior to the vote, February 20, 2008, page 1

. . .

Regent Carrigan: Never in CU's history has a presidential nominee received [such] broad-based opposition. Of course, it is true this is the public's university as well but our faculty, staff and students are the life and blood of this school and they have overwhelmingly opposed Mr. Benson. Among the groups that have taken that position, the Boulder Faculty Assembly voted 10-1 and the Boulder Student Government voted overwhelmingly against as well. But this is more than just Boulder. The downtown Denver faculty was surveyed and voted 2-1 to oppose him and the Intercampus Student Forum representing all 50,000 students opposed his nomination. In contrast, I am unaware of a single formal group that endorsed the search committee's choice of Mr. Benson.

Comments of the Board of Regents prior to the vote, February 20, 2008, page 9

The regents then voted 5 to 3 to confirm the single finalist as the next president of the university.

Minutes for Regent Special Meeting February 20, 2008

Presidential Evaluation

A Private Evaluation

The regents conducted a 5-year evaluation of the president (begun actually as he was completing his 6th year in office).

On June 27, 2014, board secretary Patrick O'Rourke announced the completion of the 5-year evaluation of CU President Bruce Benson:

"O'Rourke said the University of Colorado completed a five-year comprehensive performance evaluation of its president, Bruce D. Benson, for the period 2008-13. The comprehensive evaluation is separate from the annual evaluation. The comprehensive evaluation is in accordance with regent laws and policies. Because of the broad scope of the evaluation, the board engaged an outside firm specializing in human resources consulting within institutions of higher education, Pepper Consulting Group, to receive and compile the confidential input and prepare the report. Seventy-one respondents representing all CU stakeholder groups provided input to the comprehensive evaluation of Benson. [Board Chair Michael] Carrigan noted that the overall assessment provided by the respondents is overwhelming favorable."

Regent Meeting Minutes, June 26-27, 2014, Section P, Report 2

Not discussed at the meeting were the following points:
  • there was no public announcement of the start of evaluation;

  • the evaluation was announced publicly only when it was completed;

  • there was no opportunity for public participation in the evaluation in the sense of self-selected public individuals volunteering their assessments of the president's performance outside of the private selection process implemented for the evaluation (although there may have been members of the public included among the persons selected privately to participate in the evaluation);

  • there were no open meetings or town hall meetings or other public forums held in which members of the public or the university community could discuss this matter, or voice their views directly to the regents;

  • only the announcement of the completion of the evaluation and the evaluation summary were made public: no information beyond the announcement and the summary were released by the university.
       Summary Evaluation Released by the University
The Summary Evaluation released by the university included little data on the status or progress of the university.

It was comprised largely of two principal sections: anecdotal 'significant achievements' of the president, and estimations of the president's personal characteristics by respondents, summarized in the 'word cloud' (a kind of frequency chart of word usage in responses) below.

A Private Result

Although the work of the president is to implement policies and procedures for the university, a public institution, the specifics of what the president had done over a five year period were deemed a "personnel" matter by the university, and so not public information.

The university released a summary of the evaluation but refused to release the complete version.

The university denied a Colorado Open Records Act request by a Forum reporter to release the complete original report of the evaluation.

It is unclear why the university would regard this information as private personnel information regarding the president only, and not as information regarding policies and programs of the university, to be made public.

A Forum reporter then brought suit against the university in Denver District Court (Case Number 16CV295) and obtained the complete evaluation document in a settlement with the university.

The complete Comprehensive Evaluation of Bruce D. Benson, President University of Colorado for the period 2008 - 2013 is made public here for the first time.

Significant Issues Not Addressed in the Report: Graduation Rates and Finances

Two areas, central to the progress and purpose of the university, were not addressed in the comprehensive evaluation: graduation rates and finance.

As for graduation rates, CU Boulder can no longer be considered to be a "four year college." CU Boulder's four year graduation rate is below 50% (CU Graduation Rates). CU is in fact struggling to become even a marginally "six year college." The Boulder chancellor has set a goal of a six year graduation rate of 80% in 2020 (Student Success).

CU 4-Year Graduation Rates

Source: University of Colorado System Office, Office of Institutional Research

CU Boulder can no longer be considered to be a 4-year college
CU Boulder is struggling to become a marginally 6-year college

The implications for students of CU Boulder no longer being a four year college are large, yet there is no mention or discussion of this issue in the evaluation.

There are no financial statements included in the evaluation to indicate the direction and current status of the university's financial condition, a central responsibility of the president. The finance section of the evaluation (Key Successes, 3. Finance, Comprehensive Evaluation p. 7, document p. 14) is based largely on anecdotal information, not on systematic or comprehensive data.

The president also controls a large President's Initiative Fund, and apparently also makes private donations to the university. There is no information in the evaluation regarding any of these financial transactions.

The actions of a publicly-appointed head of a public institution in making personal and secret financial contributions to the institution raises substantive questions of institutional transparency and accountability.

The lack of any attention in the evaluation to these core matters of presidential responsibility renders the actions of the chief executive officer of the university in large part unaccountable to the regents.
Response to this article from the Chair of the Board of Regents, Irene Griego (November 14, 2016):

"There are topics within your article that we plan to explore, such as whether to livestream our meetings or whether the regents should hold town halls. Each of us interacts with our constituents in various ways, and we also use the shared governance process to obtain feedback from the university community. We take informing both the University of Colorado community and the broader community about higher education very seriously.

I regret that you don't approve of the processes by which we take public comment. Some public entities don't take public comment at their meetings, but the Board of Regents has always felt that public comment is important. When the Board of Regents has addressed topics of particular public interest, we have expanded the time for public comment and invited comments from those who were particularly interested. We do, however, attempt to structure our meetings with a set time and time limitations for public comment both to provide regularity and to ensure that we progress through our agenda in a timely manner.

The Board of Regents selected BoardDocs as its online method of providing public access to the board materials. BoardDocs is a national leader in providing this service, has a platform that allows agenda items to be properly processed through administrative requirements, and that provides an indexing feature. It was neither economical nor efficient for the Board of Regents to develop its own technology for this purpose.

The Board of Regents takes seriously its obligation to evaluate President Benson's performance and to provide meaningful feedback to him about the Board of Regents' expectations. Consistently with the requirements of both the Open Meetings Law and the Open Records Law, these are personnel matters that we discuss confidentially with President Benson, while providing a public performance rating. We do not plan to change our practices for presidential evaluation, as we believe they are serving the Board of Regents and President Benson well.

We appreciate your interest in the University of Colorado and the Board of Regents. As public officials, we have an obligation to understand our constituents' concerns."