Apr 032007
Authors: James Baetke

He has criticized the governor. He has criticized the Colorado Department of Higher Education. And he has criticized Colorado lawmakers.

Now CSU President Penley is reaching out to the same people he blasted one week ago in response to the defeated amendment that would give the university an additional $34 million in spending authority.

Penley, who recently returned from Washington D.C., met with the CSU faculty council on Tuesday and will also address the student body in the Associated Students of CSU Senate chamber at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

Penley is fixing what some argue is his smudged reputation and what he said is the “significant underfunding of higher education overall.”

The president is reportedly convening with some of the same government groups he called out in a series of press releases and mass e-mails sent to students, charging entities like the CDHE for not dealing with CSU fairly.

The meeting could not be confirmed with the Office for the President, but some ASCSU students and state legislators insist such a meeting should happen.

Controversy unfolded last week when CSU submitted an amendment to the state budget, or Long Bill, 45 minutes before the deadline. The university was looking for spending authority to charge full-time students for 12 credits, instead of the current nine.

The amendment was narrowly defeated and resulted in Penley charging Colorado policy makers, including Gov. Bill Ritter, with giving CSU the short end of the financial stick.

“As I have told the governor, this is not a situation that has developed overnight for CSU,” Penley said in a statement Friday. “We cannot wait patiently for years into the future hoping to see it resolved.”

Sadie Conrad, ASCSU vice president, said the student government was left in the dark and angered by Penley’s decision to allegedly tiptoe around ASCSU and the student body.

“We were very angry as a student body last week,” Conrad said. “We had a lot of suspicion and mistrust.”

After the political dust settles, Conrad said Penley can still earn back the respect of the lawmakers, students and policy makers.

“I would definitely say (Penley’s image) has been tarnished, but I think it’s fixable,” said Conrad, who met with the president Friday and said he vowed to work on opening up communication to students.

For Sen. Steve Johnson, a Larimer County Republican and freshman member of the Joint Budget Committee, the relationships Penley broke will take time to heal.

“This is a real violation of the culture of the legislature,” Johnson said. “You don’t surprise people with amendments.”

Johnson sides with Penley in saying that higher education needs additional financial help, but does not share the same view CSU is suffering an inequity of treatment compared to other Colorado universities.

“We all want what is good for CSU,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to support anything without the support and participation of the students.”

Penley has maintained his approach was legal and fair and that the proposed amendment was not a tuition increase.

“At the end of the day, it’s charging students more,” Conrad said.

Other Colorado and national universities are joining the trend of increasing the credit gap, but many are doing it incrementally and not at once.

“CSU needs to admit they made a mistake,” Johnson said.

City Editor James Baetke can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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