Nov 062008
Authors: Madeline Novey

State and university officials said Thursday that the current high stability in the CSU System Board of Governors will balance changes CSU will incur as a new face takes the presidential reigns after President Larry Penley’s shocking resignation Wednesday.

CSU spokesperson Michelle McKinney said that while Penley’s move follows a national trend of university presidents typically holding a position for three to five years before moving on to another institution, it came as a surprise as she said Penley’s initiatives have a large amount of support from the BOG.

University employees close to Penley expressed shock over the move, saying that they never expected it.

The BOG’s Chief Academic Officer, Russ Meyer, who had met in a social setting with Penley and his wife a few weeks ago, said that he was not expecting the resignation at all and that he did not know it was Penley’s intent to do so.

“You’re really never expecting a resignation when things are going so well,” McKinney said.

President of CSU-Pueblo Joseph Garcia said that he can’t speculate on Penley’s sudden resignation and did not have access to information other than the official letters from Penley and BOG members.

Garcia said that he is going to take Penley at his word — that he plans to pursue other leadership positions in higher education — regarding his reasons for resignation.

Penley’s highly publicized resignation came just two days after a BOG evaluation committee met in executive session with the president.

Garcia said that future presidential candidates are likely to have questions about what “precipitated” the resignation and that they will have to turn to Penley and the BOG for those answers.

While Garcia and Meyer agreed that the Pueblo campus will feel little to no impact, it is impossible to say how the BOG will be affected by the change.

Both said the level of change will depend on who takes CSU’s helm in Penley’s absence and whether the BOG decides to maintain the unusual dual structure of the President-Chancellor position as the most effective in the future.

With CSU Provost and Senior Executive Vice President Tony Frank named as interim president until Penley’s official resignation on Nov. 30, Meyer labeled himself a “Tony Frank fan.” The BOG said Frank is a top contender for the permanent position.

“If I were to make the decision myself, I would choose Tony because he’s one of the good guys,” Meyer said, adding that the decision is ultimately up to the BOG.

After crediting Penley with his services to the university — especially his attention to the green movement at CSU — newly elected County Commissioner Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins said that he strongly advises that the future president facilitate greater open-discussion with state officials and taxpayers when tackling the complex Colorado higher education funding system.

Johnson strongly criticized Penley in 2007 after he introduced a last-minute clause into the Long Bill, which dictates university budgets, that would have increased tuition by more than 40 percent.

He said that he wouldn’t doubt that funding woes from a huge shortfall in state funding to the university and dwindling alternatives for revenue streams were motives for Penley’s resignation.

Johnson praised Penley for very “wisely” trying to improve the university’s fiscal health by searching other funding avenues. He added, however, that the future president should “think outside the box” in the future and increase communication with the legislature on financial matters to lessen the burdens on students.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter looked to the future, saying in a Thursday press release, “I look forward to working closely with the next CSU president and the Board of Governors as we tackle the economic, job, education and other challenges facing Colorado.”

Senior Reporter Madeline Novey can be reached at

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