Though his interest in the CSU chancellor role is drawing criticism from local advocacy groups who say his socially conservative stances are exclusionary, former U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard told student leaders Friday his work in higher education would cross party lines.
Allard met with Taylor Smoot and Quinn Girrens, president and vice president of the Associated Students of CSU, in a closed-door session to determine what the needs of CSU students look like and how he could best fulfill those duties as chancellor, Smoot said.
The chancellor position is one that the CSU System Board of Governors officially created just last Wednesday in an effort to keep a system head in Denver at all times to adequately represent the structure — which includes the CSU-Fort Collins, Pueblo and Global campuses — to the state legislature and act as a fundraiser.
Allard, a CSU alumnus who recently ended his 12-year tenure in the U.S. Senate, called BOG chair Doug Jones soon after former CSU President Larry Penley’s Nov. 5 departure to express his interest in the then-only potential chancellor role.
Local advocacy group Progress Now made their opposition to the idea of Allard’s chancellorship publicly known almost immediately after the former senator announced his interest, saying Allard’s top priority during his tenure was “interfering in other people’s privacy by pushing to amend the U.S. Constitution to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples.”
Smoot, who called Allard “a great guy” who had given much to CSU in his time and lobbying efforts in Denver, said the former senator’s visit was a testament to the fact that he is taking his interest in the role seriously.
Smoot said that though he was originally hesitant to support Allard, who Time magazine once called “The Invisible Man” who “almost never plays a role in major legislation,” Allard reassured him that his party affiliation would not play a role in his work in the chancellor position.
Steve Wymer, a spokesperson for Allard, said the former senator would be best fit for a fundraising, legislative and figurehead position.
The board, which posted the chancellor’s official job description Wednesday, said it will seek out a chancellor with both a strong understanding of academic values and the culture of higher education and proven experience in operating in a political environment.
“The Board thinks it’s great that someone with (Allard’s) experience in public service is interested in serving a leadership role at CSU,” head BOG spokesperson Michele McKinney said at the end of last year.
McKinney said preferential treatment would not be given to a candidate with a political background.
In November, Seth Walter, ASCSU director of legislative affairs, said he believes Allard would help CSU form positive relationships with the state legislature, who had “a little bit of a rocky relationship” with former CSU President Larry Penley.
Gov. Bill Ritter publicly disagreed with Penley’s attempt to add a last-minute revision to the Long Bill that would have increased student tuition by 43 percent.
“Someone with experience in politics would be able to conduct the position very efficiently,” Walter said.
News Managing Editor Elyse Jarvis can be reached at email@example.com.