University of Colorado Regent James E. Geddes, 6th Congressional District
University of Colorado Regent James E. Geddes, 6th Congressional District (University of Colorado)

AURORA -- The University of Colorado's regents engaged in a spirited debate Tuesday about the intellectual diversity of the school's faculty -- with one regent charging conservative professors aren't welcomed at the university.

"Like it or not, the University of Colorado -- particularly the Boulder campus -- has a reputation for being a liberal campus," said CU Regent Jim Geddes, R-Sedalia, during the regents' monthly board meeting. "It is true that so-called conservative scholars are just not welcome at the University of Colorado.

"That's a problem."

Geddes has been a vocal proponent of the university recruiting more conservative scholars in the humanities when professors retire or leave the university in an effort to foster broader intellectual debates.

For the first time ever, campus chancellors on Tuesday gave reports to the nine-member, Republican-leaning board about intellectual diversity.

A few years ago, the board added political, intellectual and philosophical diversity to its guiding principles -- along with valuing cultural and geographic diversity.

As part of the discussion, CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano told the board about programs on campus that embody the tenet of intellectual diversity, including an internship program in Washington, D.C., that former CU President Hank Brown started and that allows students to intern with congressional members of both parties.

DiStefano also discussed the recent hiring of Steven Hayward as the Boulder campus' inaugural visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy. Hayward will teach classes in environmental studies and political science.

The chancellor also pointed out that CU-Boulder's student government executives are made up of leaders from both political parties.

Tyler Quick, a graduating senior and student government leader, discounted the idea that the Boulder campus is overwhelming liberal.

He said he took a "War, Peace and Strategic Defense" course: "As a self-professed pacifist, it certainly challenged my beliefs," he said in an interview.

Quick, during the regents' discussion, told the board, "I would challenge the assumption that all Boulder faculty are somehow commies."

That statement drew criticism from Regent Sue Sharkey, R-Windsor, who responded: "I didn't find the humor. It diminishes the case we're trying to make."

Regent Stephen Ludwig, D-Denver, said the university wants to ensure there are courses available to train students as critical thinkers to make sure they can understand all sides of arguments. He said he's concerned that the discussion about intellectual diversity is based on anecdotes and assumptions.

Regent Steve Bosley, R-Broomfield, prefaced his comments by saying that he isn't referring to political diversity amongst the faculty, but, rather, philosophical balance. He said if the majority of faculty in a program hold the same view on a topic, the university should seek to have representatives of the opposing viewpoint.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.