Jan 202003
Authors: Becky Waddingham

Returning CSU students, faculty and staff may be surprised to learn about a controversy surrounding a leading candidate to become the university’s next president.

On the first day CSU’s search for a leader was officially made public, Gov. Bill Owens endorsed Marc Holtzman, the governor’s technology secretary.

A public outcry over Holtzman’s credentials and the timing of Owens’ endorsement has erupted throughout the state and at CSU.

Linda Kuk, vice president for Student Affairs, said there has been consternation within the university.

“Some major concerns are that (some people) don’t feel that he’s adequately credentialed,” Kuk said on Friday. “People are concerned he’s never led a complex organization. Clearly, I think, there are concerns about integrity and issues of experience.”

Holtzman has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Prior to joining Owens’ Cabinet, Holtzman ran a profitable investment banking business in Eastern Europe and had previously worked for President Reagan.

Kuk said others are upset that Owens’ announcement and refusal to retract it has corrupted the search process.

“We had a process going, and people are now saying the process has been compromised,” Kuk said.

Perhaps more troubling for the university than a tainted selection process is the possible effect of the situation on CSU’s accreditation.

The president of the North Central Association, a Chicago-based agency that accredits CSU, told the Denver Post last week that “undue political influence” could jeopardize CSU’s accreditation or place it on probation. Sanctions could cause top faculty to leave and could hurt recruitment and enrollment.

Kuk added that students and alumni would worry about harm to their degree if CSU lost its rank.

Several other CSU administration officials were unavailable for comment last week.

The search for a president is supposed to be anonymous. A committee of students, faculty and staff was created to assist the Board of Governors of the CSU System, CSU’s governing body, which will eventually choose a new president. Search committee members intend to meet in February to review candidates and make recommendations to the board. Members of the Board of Governors are appointed by Gov. Owens.

Since Owens has already announced his top choice, other potential candidates might decide not to apply, thinking the governor’s pick will already be given top consideration.

“It very well could be, people who would have thrown their hats in might not,” Kuk said.

Kuk said there is nothing inherently wrong with Owens’ endorsement of Holtzman, however – just the manner in which he did it.

“He has every right to say he likes a person, just as you and I have every right to say who we like,” she said. “It really was in the timing. There was a process in place so all candidates could be equally considered. Making a public acclamation about a candidate really undermines the process.”

To date, both Owens and Holtzman’s camps have been mostly mum about the situation. Owens’ press secretary, Dan Hopkins, told the Denver Post Jan. 9 that Owens “does not intend to withdraw his endorsement,” despite backlash from Coloradans ranging from the Farm Bureau to CSU professors and Fort Collins residents.

Holtzman worked with Owens to create from scratch his cabinet-level position, intended to focus on bringing more technology businesses to Colorado. He served for a salary of $1 a year.

Holtzman said in a recent radio interview that he has three passions he tries to impress upon young people – “No. 1: Make a difference; No. 2: Have fun; and No. 3: Make money.”

He also said he is committed to public service.

“It is impossible in life to advance your own self-interests withough also advancing the interests of others,” Holtzman said in the radio interview. “Or, to put it in the words of John F. Kennedy, ‘a rising tide will lift all boats.'”

Holtzman is a conservative Republican who ran for Congress in the 1980s and lost, an experience he said taught him important lessons about self-doubt and perseverance.

Among his duties for former president Reagan was his directorship of Citizens for America, a conservative group focused on promoting Reagan ideas such as the Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly known as Star Wars. Citizens for America has also been linked to funding of the Nicaraguan contras during the Iran-Contra scandal.

Stay with the Collegian for continued coverage of the president search controversy.

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