Benson meets again with CU students, faculty
February 12, 2008
BOULDER – A question-and-answer session between University of Colorado students and Bruce Benson, the finalist to be president of the CU system, got testy Tuesday night, with one student yelling out, “You’re a jerk.”That brought on one of several warnings from student government leaders to focus on questions relevant to Benson’s candidacy.Benson, a former Republican fundraiser who founded an oil and gas company and has an undergraduate degree in geology, has stressed his successes raising millions of dollars for causes including education.But he has faced questions from students, faculty and legislators over his lack of an advanced degree, his history with the GOP, his position on tenure, and how he would support CU’s Nobel Prize-winning climate research given he built his career on oil and gas.He met with about 150 faculty and more than 300 students on the Boulder campus in separate meetings Tuesday.Benson said state funding for CU has dwindled from about $210 million to $180 million in the last six years and that his focus is on securing more money for CU.During one exchange with a student, Benson said he could not promise tuition would not rise. “I’m opposed to raising tuition, but we have to get funding,” he said. When the student then asked Benson if he planned to raise tuition, Benson told the student to listen to what he was saying, prompting someone to yell out, “You’re a jerk.”Another student asked about Benson’s personal relationship history. Benson declined to answer but told a questioner to do his research before talking.Both exchanges prompted student government leaders to ask students to remain respectful.Benson said he supports tenure, ended all involvement in politics, and knows the value of CU’s climate research.He said he looked forward to working with students. “I will bring you around,” he said.A forum with faculty Tuesday afternoon was more restrained, though professors still voiced concerns. Engineering professor Scott Summers told Benson, “I fear you,” and raised Benson’s past political involvement, while Jamie Nagle, associate professor of physics, said CU could do better than Benson.But geology department chair Mary Kraus spoke favorably of Benson, reminding colleagues of the funding woes facing higher education in Colorado. She said Benson donated generously to provide an earth sciences building, recruit respected faculty in her department and provide modern labs. “I’m enthusiastically supporting your presidency,” she said.