Nov 302011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Colorado State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder may have something in common in the coming weeks.

The state’s two flagship schools could share a congressperson soon. The final decision will be made after a lengthy state congressional redistricting process that happens every 10 years to reflect changes in the local population.

Democrats and Republicans have submitted maps to the state’s high courts they believe best suit the needs of the people of Colorado.

If liberals have their way, said Matt Inzeo, communications director for the Colorado Democratic Party, Fort Collins and Boulder would be placed in the same congressional district.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis would represent them both.

“We think that having the two major universities in the state lumped together really helps to drive that (the issue of higher education) home,” he said.

Inzeo asserted that members of Congress are expected to be aware of an array of issues –– like health care, transportation and foreign policy –– placing both CSU and CU-Boulder on one’s radar would increase the likelihood that they would pay attention to higher education.

“Year, after year, after year, the state legislature is having major problems finding the funding for our major universities,” he said. “We thought it was important to have a strong congressional partner to address this issue.”

Sam Starr, president of CSU’s College Democrats, agrees.

“This is a fantastic thing for any college student regardless of political affiliation,” he said. “With two universities in the same district, we comprise a larger part of the district as a whole. We are going to be a greater force when it comes to election time.”

Republicans, however, contend that the changes would put two communities together that, besides having universities, have little in common.

“The traditional agricultural interests of Larimer County have been highly represented for over 30 years,” said Ryan Call, who chairs the Colorado Republican Party. “Larimer County is ranked 10th in terms of Colorado agricultural counties by the value of the agricultural products sold by the counties … Boulder County is 29th.”

And on top of being a different community in terms of its farming interests, Call also argues that CSU and CU-Boulder have varied educational mission focuses. CSU, for example, focuses heavily on agricultural research, whereas CU-Boulder may have a bigger emphasis on the liberal arts.

He added: “We also believe that higher education interests are actually better served by having two representatives in Congress as opposed to just one” with universities in their districts.

John Straayer, a professor in CSU’s Department of Political Science, agrees in part with the idea but cautions against giving it too much credence.

“Members of Congress are important connections for the universities in terms of federal funding. Being able to push two buttons instead of one might be better,” he said. At the same time, however, “whoever represents (Fort Collins’s old district) is going to be sensitive to CSU anyway.”

But when it comes to Call’s assertion that CSU and CU-Boulder are too different to be represented well by one congressperson, Straayer disagrees.

“If you dial back about 60 years, that would be true. But these universities are not that different anymore,” he said, citing their shared status as the state’s major research institutions.

The idea that Larimer County’s farming interests wouldn’t be represented under the Democrats’ proposed changes, he said, was also moot.

“Larimer is not a purely agricultural county anymore. This is 2011-2012, this is not 1960 anymore,” Straayer said.

The CSU College Republicans could not be reached in time for comment.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at

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