CU regent candidates debate funding, concealed carry, marijuana

Oct. 22, 2012

Eleanor Skelton
[email protected]

The CU regents make decisions that could impact the UCCS campus for years, and students and faculty had an opportunity to hear their arguments in person.

In the Oct. 8 debate in Centennial Hall, candidates of the upcoming CU regent election discussed issues like rising tuition rates, support of ethnic studies, legalization of marijuana, concealed weapons on campus, higher education for children of illegal immigrants and a specific example of a cost-saving measure each of the candidates planned to enact.

The debate, hosted by the Student Government Association, was open to students and faculty. Several school officials attended, including Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak; Brad Bayer, the executive director of Student Life and Leadership; and Sabrina Wienholtz, the student activities specialist with Student Life.

Tyler Belmont from the American Constitution Party, Republican candidate Brian Davidson, incumbent Democratic candidate Steve Ludwig and Daniel Ong of the Libertarian party made opening remarks, introducing themselves to the audience.

The moderators were Ingrid Henderson, a junior and radio host of the UCCS Radio Station; Whitley Hadley, a senior and the president of the Black Student Union; and Kevin Sutherland, a senior majoring in criminal justice and one of the SGA justices.

One of the most animated discussions of the night focused on increased tuition costs. To cut expenses, all of the candidates voiced support to offer more online classes.

“We need to take advantage of technology in the classroom, distance learning, online programs where they are appropriate, and I have experience doing such things in cost-savings while improving or maintaining quality on the Anschutz campus,” Davidson said.

“The real issue facing higher education is that we’ll have no public funding for public colleges in 11 years,” said Ludwig. “We’re going to be defunded by the State of Colorado because our constitution is tied in knots.”

Ludwig said that all of the candidates support affordable tuition. “No one runs for regent thinking that we should charge a lot more for college. That’s just not going to happen,” he said.

“It’s how we get there. I think we should increase online education by 25 percent at least in the next six years to begin to get economies … so we can begin to lower tuition that way.”

Ong showed his support for legalizing marijuana and argued that taxation “would provide an additional revenue stream for the state of Colorado, and that would also lower prison costs,” he said. “We spend about as much money for prisons [for] the state as we do for higher education.”

“We need to understand that public institutions of education as well as private institutions, not only in the state of Colorado, but throughout the United States, are locked in, essentially, competition of attracting the best students out of the student pool, attracting the best professors out of their respective fields, and attracting … the most capable administrators to make sure that the school is being run in a competent manner,” Belmont said.

“This is all driving costs [up] at a skyrocketing rate, and the fact that state funding has completely plummeted in the past several years is only adding to the issue,” Belmont said. A statement he had made earlier in the campaign sparked the moderators’ question on the higher cost of education.

Concealed carry also prompted animated discussion.

“CU is not above the law,” Davidson said. “The University of Colorado system is not its own country. We must support a safe environment while we respect Colorado laws and the laws of the United States.”

“I believe CU’s new policy on the issue is both consistent with Colorado law, and it’s safe,” Davidson said. “I support the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision that it’s not within the legal ability of an individual institution to make this decision.”

“I do not support concealed carry on campus. I would like the university board to be able to have authority to regulate that again or have the state say it’s excluded like it is from K-12,” Ludwig said. “I’ve been clear on that for the past six years, when the Students for Concealed Carry sued the University of Colorado, I was named first defender.”

“I think people with concealed carry permits would have the training,” Ong said. “We need to be able to prevent an Aurora … or Virgina Tech incident.”

Belmont, as a high school student himself, said, “[Being over 21] is only a couple of years over the age of high school, and I don’t trust a single person at my school to carry a concealed weapon.”

Tensions between Ong and Ludwig were evident throughout the evening, and both candidates often took the opportunity given by the moderators to respond to each other’s statements.

Toward the end of event, the debate shifted to the issue of legalizing marijuana. The moderators asked a question posed by Paul Perez and Polina Reynolds, officers from the UCCS chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The question dealt with Good Samaritan laws.

“Such laws exist to remove the fear associated with calling for help in drug-related incidents,” the question read. “They have been shown to greatly decrease injury and death as a result of drug emergencies and, particularly, alcohol overdoses.”

The students further described the laws, saying, “Students are granted amnesty from on-campus punitive sanctions should they report or call for help for themselves or for another student. Many campuses, including CU Boulder, have adopted such policies to improve safety, responsibility, and education. Would you approve the incorporation of such a policy in the CU system?”

Davidson responded, “Such policies, I think, are positive, not only on the university campus, but throughout.  Again, as a physician … who takes care of lots of different people, plenty of people who have been in illegal kinds of activity, I think it’s only sensible that we have some level of amnesty.”

Ludwig said, “I think that’s a great policy, and if it’s not in place, we should put it in place. It’s sort of a no-brainer.”

Ong mentioned that he lives in a neighborhood near the Boulder campus and has witnessed the students’ parties.  On the subject of alcohol, he said, “But I think Colorado had it right 30-some years ago when you could drink 3.2 beer at age 18 and then graduate to harder alcohol at age 21.”

Belmont said that he agreed “100 percent.”

“I believe that they should be fully implemented on all campuses of the University of Colorado. That also goes back into the issue of compassion just as a general society.”