University of Colorado Boulder leaders updated the system’s Board of Regents on the campus’ coronavirus plans during the board’s Wednesday virtual meeting. CU Boulder erected several open air to promote social distancing. Regents also voted down a tuition-rebate measure and discussed a proposed antiracism measure. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

University of Colorado’s Board of Regents voted down a measure to provide tuition rebates and discussed campus readiness amid the coronavirus pandemic and a proposed antiracism measure at a virtual meeting Wednesday.

Regent Heidi Ganahl proposed a measure to give all full-time students a $1,000 tuition rebate per semester and part-time students a $500 rebate per semester for the next academic year.

“We all recognize that families are hurting right now and our CU students and families are hurting,” Ganahl said.

Ganahl said the university should use its rainy day savings to pay for the tuition credits, as well as make necessary cuts “to share the pain of our students and families.”

But the measure would equal a $130 million funding cut and would lead to hundreds of layoffs, further furloughs, reduce or eliminate deferred maintenance and possibly force the Colorado Springs campus to go completely online in order to close buildings to save money, Chief Financial Officer Todd Saliman said.

“We think this type of budget impact would have a negative effect on our ability to continue to provide a quality academic experience,” he said.

The measure would also severely deplete or exhaust financial reserves, Saliman said, leaving the system in a precarious position if there were more cuts in state funding or tuition revenue in the future.

System President Mark Kennedy also recommended against the motion, stating that he feared it would weaken CU’s ability to deliver on its mission and hurt academic quality.

“It would expose us to unnecessary risk at a time when we face perhaps more risk than we’ve ever faced in our lifetimes,” Kennedy said.

Ganahl said she was not proposing anything that would hurt the university, that the state of system’s financial reserves were being underplayed and there were budget cuts to be made other than terminating employees.

“I think now is the time to pay attention to the families and students who are reaching out and talking about the pain they’re experiencing,” she said. “I think we have to do something significant to show our students and families that we care.”

The motion failed, with Board of Regents Chair Glen Gallegos, a Republican, joining Democrats Linda Shoemaker, Irene Griego, Jack Kroll and Lesley Smith in voting against the measure. Republican Regents Sue Sharkey, John Carson, Chance Hill and Ganahl voted in favor.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano and Associate Professor Matt McQueen also gave updates on CU Boulder’s campus coronavirus preparations.

There are currently 33,027 students enrolled for CU Boulder’s fall semester, with 29,310 students enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid course. There are 3,717 students who are enrolled in all online classes this semester.

On-campus move in begins Saturday, and residence hall advisors already are back on campus and all have tested negative for coronavirus, DiStefano said.

But DiStefano cautioned that regents should expect to see a rise in coronavirus cases as the semester begins.

“We know we’re going to have positive tests as we return to campus. In fact, because our testing capabilities exceed those of the community, we will be discovering asymptomatic and presymptomatic carriers and that’s a good thing, because it’s going to allow us to work to prevent the spread of disease,” DiStefano said.

DiStefano gave the example of students moving back on campus — if 2% of students moving in test positive, that’s 120 new cases.

“That’s going to look scary but we’ve been preparing to address those cases, not to pretend that we’re not going to have them,” DiStefano said.

CU Boulder also will monitor infection rates, hospital capacity and campus density throughout the semester, DiStefano said.

McQueen, who leads the campus epidemiology lab, said the protocols in place give CU Boulder the best chance to mitigate serious issues this semester.

“With the types of testing and surveillance we’re doing, there will be more raw cases that we identify. We’re obsessed with looking at this curve and that may look bad given what we’ve gone through, but I’d emphasize what we’re trying to do is identify cases that otherwise wouldn’t be identified,” McQueen said.

Rather than focus on numbers, campus leaders are focusing on capacity — the ability to deal with case surges and to bring those down through testing and contact tracing, McQueen said.

Regent Sue Sharkey said she was very concerned about off campus students not being required to take a coronavirus test before coming on campus.

McQueen said some of those students haven’t left Boulder at all, or have been here since the beginning of August. The university is also looking at ramping up surveillance testing for off-campus students, McQueen said.

The Board of Regents also heard an update on an antiracism initiative proposed by Kroll in June. The motion was tabled and sent to committee, and system leaders last week gave updates on everything the university system is already doing to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

Kroll’s proposal was not scheduled for a vote and is still being worked on by university committees, but Hill said he was confused why the motion wasn’t being voted on and called on Kroll and Shoemaker to bring it to a vote immediately.

Hill said if they didn’t bring to to a vote, he didn’t want to hear about how Republicans were stalling or engaging in delay tactics.

“If you want to use this as some kind of political hot-button issue as we approach November’s election, that’s your prerogative, but people can know very clearly, on the record, to whom they will address their concerns about further delays on this issue,” he said.

Gallegos repeated that the proposal was being handled by the committees, that it wouldn’t come to a vote at Wednesday’s meeting and Hill should ask regents on those committees about when it would come before the board.

blog comments powered by Disqus