Pending a decision by the CSU System Board of Governors to split the CSU president and chancellor roles, former State Rep. Bernie Buescher said last week that his interest lies in the potential chancellor position for now and he is “very interested in CSU.”
Because he said it is very unlikely that the BOG make the decision not to split the posts, Buescher, who is fresh off a term as the chair of the Colorado committee that dictates budgets for state institutions, did not confirm that he would be interested in the CSU-Fort Collins president position.
“Right now, I’m interested in the chancellor position, because that’s what (the board is) talking about,” he said.
Buescher said that he did not want to get ahead of a decision still in the hands of BOG members but said he meets what the board has listed as qualifications of a potential chancellor — an already established good relationship with both Gov. Bill Ritter and the state legislature, plus the ability to work well with the business community and CSU alumni.
BOG spokesperson Michele McKinney said that no one is being considered for a chancellor role yet, as “there really isn’t a job offer out there.”
“There are a lot of steps to be taken before a job is even posted,” she said. Those steps include first making a decision about whether the board will even create two positions.
The board is considering splitting the president and chancellor duties for the first time in decades, as the CSU-Fort Collins president has traditionally worn both hats.
McKinney said the board feels that it may be in the best interest of all its campuses — CSU-Fort Collins, CSU-Pueblo and CSU Global — to have a CSU System ambassador stationed in Denver at all times to represent student needs to the state legislature.
She said that only former U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard and Buescher have expressed interest in the potential position to the board thus far.
Buescher, a Democrat who acted as chair of the Joint Budget Committee and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, lost his bid for re-election to the JBC chair this year.
Ritter has called Buescher “just a fantastic human being,” but Buescher drew criticism from Laura Bradford, his opponent in this year’s election, for his support of Ritter’s move to freeze mill levies.
By freezing mill levies — a tax rate on residential properties that determines what dollar amount per $1,000 of property net worth the state must pay to fund K-12 education — local sources would have been forced to fund K-12 education instead, and the state could have funneled its savings into areas like higher education.
The proposal was ruled unconstitutional in May.
Allard, Buescher’s potential competitor for the chancellor position, has explicit ties to the CSU campus — Allard and his wife are both alumni — but Buescher said his own links are expressed through the work he has done for higher education and with the students.
August Ritter, former student government director of legislative affairs, said Associated Students of CSU representatives were the first group of students ever to testify in front of the JBC and “that was because Bernie Buescher let (them).”
“(Buescher) said ‘Yes, we want to hear what you have to say about tuition and funding,'” he said. August Ritter said the state funding that ASCSU requested and what actually appeared in the finalized Long Bill this year were very similar.
The bill, which dictates student tuition rates and is written by the JBC, was a prominent subject of concern last year, when former CSU President Larry Penley added a last-minute provision to it that would have raised tuition by 43 percent.
At the last second, ASCSU representatives stopped Penley’s attempted revision, which caused a public rift between Penley and Bill Ritter and “rocky relationship” with the legislature, said Seth Walters, current student government director of legislative affairs.
The next chancellor, Walters said, must maintain a better partnership with state lawmakers.
“(Buescher) has this place in his heart for students and for making sure higher education is not only affordable but that the state is doing everything they can to fund it, which is difficult to do in Colorado,” August Ritter said, as the state ranks 49th in the U.S. in funding for higher education.
He said he has a huge respect for Buescher.
“He’s intelligent, has a great heart and is also really caring . those three factors would make him a great choice for CSU,” he said.
Buescher said his management style is collaborative and he spends a lot of time listening.
“When it’s the right time, I want to hear the concerns of students,” he said.
The BOG is expected to discuss the potential position split at its next meeting, set for Dec. 2 and 3.
News Managing Editor Elyse Jarvis can be reached at email@example.com.