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Cut Here: Colorado State University – Pueblo’s budget crisis so far

ince the announcement late in the fall semester that Colorado State University-Pueblo was facing a budget deficit that would force layoffs, a storm of backlash has taken over the university and doesn’t seem like it will end soon. 

On January 6th, Chancellor Martin visited CSU-Pueblo in order to explain why it was essential that CSU-Pueblo fire 50 employees. According to Martin, one of the ways the school would be able to fix its $3.3 million budget deficit was to layoff faculty and staff. 

As would be expected, many faculty and staff were unhappy about this news, but Professor  of Sociology Timothy McGettigan made his disapproval for the announcement public in a big way. 

A chain of emails started to be sent to all faculty, staff and students following this announcement through the university’s email system, explaining to anyone who would read them what was happening and how McGettigan viewed the situation. 

McGettigan even helped to announce and set up two rallying events on January 16 and 17 to peacefully protest the job cuts.

The rally on January 16 at Sister City Plaza in Pueblo demonstrated a collective front against the proposed budget cuts and layoffs at the university. A crowd of more than 50 people cheered the speakers, waved signs and showcased a huge red and blue banner that said “Save CSU-Pueblo.”

Speakers included students, instructors and community members who oppose the cuts and felt CSU Chancellor Michael Martin does not have Southern Colorado’s best interests in mind.

However, nothing was viewed as a controversy until professor McGettigan sent his last email titled “The Children of Ludlow” that started a larger dispute at the university than just the potential 50 job cuts.

McGettigan compared the job cuts to that of the Ludlow Massacre of 1914, where the National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company fired upon a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners, which included men, women and children.

In the email McGettigan wrote, “In recompense for this unpardonable sin, CSU Chancellor Michael Martin has assembled a hit list . . . to terminate the 50 people who are on his hit list. In his own way, Michael Martin is putting a gun to the head of those 50 hard-working people while he also throws a burning match on the hopes and dreams of their helpless, defenseless families.”

McGettigan compared the way the central system administration was treating Pueblo to the bloody way coal mine owners treated their workers 100 years ago, and how, like a century ago, those without power were being mistreated. 

Hours after he sent this email, however, the university system deactivated his email account, claiming in a letter written by CSU Deputy General Counsel, Johnna Doyle, that the Ludlow email had violated the university’s Electronic Communications Policy, by electronically intimidating, threatening and harassing individuals with that email. 

McGettigan said that the deactivation of his university email made it impossible for him to do his job since the Blackboard account for his courses is based on the university email. 

CSU-Pueblo would later publicly defend its disciplinary action against McGettigan in a statement released to “Inside Higher Ed.”

“CSU-Pueblo is facing some budget challenges right now, which has sparked impassioned criticism and debate across our campus community,” said President Di Mare in the statement, “Considering the lessons we’ve all learned from Columbine, Virginia Tech, and more recently Arapahoe High School, I can only say that the security of our students, faculty and staff are our top priority.”

The way in which CSU-Pueblo President Di Mare defended the university’s  actions were not warmly received either. 

After President Di Mare released this statement, the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors, and the CSU-Pueblo Faculty Senate both voiced their disapproval for the continuing situation. 

The AAUP rejected the statement released by CSU-Pueblo, including the statement released by Di Mare, saying that Di Mare was reckless for her statement, comparing McGettigan’s email to that of the Columbine, Virginia Tech and Arapahoe high school shootings. 

“While any university president is obligated to insure the physical safety of their university community, associating peaceful and legitimate dissent with the violent intentions of deranged gunmen is the very height of absurdity and reveals an appalling lack of professional judgment in a university president,” said the statement released by the AAUP. 

“If she really thinks I was a threat, then deactivating my email would not have stopped anything such as a school shooting,” said McGettigan in an earlier interview regarding the email deactivation and Di Mare’s statement released afterwards.

Since then, the AAUP has made requests to acquire documents from the university under the Colorado Open Records Act.  These documents included a vast number of emails, charts and other documents concerning the budget at CSU-Pueblo. In one of these emails it was revealed that Chancellor Martin knew of the budget problems facing the university.

“If they can’t articulate a plan to save themselves, they aren’t a ‘meaningful regional university’ anyhow,” Martin wrote in one email sent in March 2013. What Martin wrote in this email would appear to only add to the distaste of Martin’s plan to save the university and the perceived disinterest Martin shows for CSU-Pueblo.

In addition to the AAUP receiving these emails, the Faculty Senate at CSU-Pueblo has also taken steps to voice its contempt towards the administration at CSU-Pueblo, particularly Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Carl Wright.

The letter said it was crucial that the Faculty Senate share its concerns with the provost to enhance communication and strengthen the shared governance at the university, something that appears to have been missing over the past few months. 

The Faculty Senate highlighted four particular areas of concern in this letter to the provost, which included a perceived inadequate and inconsistent communication, a perceived lack of familiarity with CSU-Pueblo, a lack of guidance and an unwillingness to work with faculty. 

In this letter the Faculty Senate specifically discussed how Provost Wright needs to establish a better communication with faculty, be visibly present for the faculty, provide ongoing information about initiatives, such as the South Metro Denver Campus, and explain how the budget cuts improve success. 

The latest event to occur in the CSU-Pueblo budget saga is that the CSU Board of Governors voted unanimously on February 14, to give CSU-Pueblo $5 million to help the university balance the budget.

However, the school must still continue with its plans to reduce expenses by $3.3 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which includes job cuts of 19 vacant staff positions and 22 existing positions. 

This $5 million comes after CSU-Pueblo made cuts to its budget by eliminating a total of 41 positions, 22 of which are currently filled.

“I am certainly a supporter of higher education, and it concerns me with the job losses,” said Pueblo City Council Member, Ami Nawrocki. “When you are talking about people losing their jobs it affects the entire community.”  

Certainly one would think that the continuing budget controversy at CSU-Pueblo is coming to an end, but with faculty, staff and students fighting for their voices to be heard, it may be awhile until we see the conclusion to this saga. 

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