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Carman: The University of Colorado could use a hero. We can only hope Todd Saliman is up to the challenge.

Saliman is clearly qualified to be CU president. But it's too bad regents decided we don't need to about the other candidates for the job.

The court-approved black op that is the process the University of Colorado Board of Regents employs for selecting a new president apparently has fulfilled its top secret mission and reached its conclusion.

Todd Saliman, who has been serving as interim CU president since June, has been named sole finalist from a field of 39 candidates, 38 of whom shall remain nameless. 

Saliman, former senior vice president for strategy and government relations and chief financial officer at CU and a former member of the Colorado General Assembly, unquestionably brings strong bona fides. 

Diane Carman

It’s how he stacks up compared to the other candidates that’s the irksome mystery.

Since taxpayers are on a need-to-know basis and the regents have decided we don’t need to know that information, we have to take it on faith they got it right this time.

If all goes as expected, Saliman will succeed Mark Kennedy, who was president of the University of North Dakota (motto: “Cooler than you think”) before he came to CU. The regents selected him in 2019 from a field that included former Gov. Bill Ritter, former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, former Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, the president of Penn State, a former chancellor of Texas A&M, the chancellor of Rutgers University and the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, among others.

The regents never justified their decision. Instead, they railed against the journalists from the Colorado Independent who managed to get a copy of the list of candidates and published it online. 

Never mind the competition, from the very start, it appeared Kennedy’s days in the ivory tower would be numbered.

The Boulder faculty didn’t like the guy. His longstanding views against marriage equality and abortion rights, and the lousy track record of UND in achieving racial diversity among students and faculty members triggered protests even before Kennedy was officially hired. 

At a rally in Boulder, groups opposed to Kennedy’s selection referred to him impertinently as “anti-queer, anti-union, anti-abortion, anti-immigration, anti-public education, anti-environment, anti-Palestine, anti-science, anti-civil rights.”

Let’s just say it was not a propitious start.

Many also expressed concern about his lack of experience at a large research institution since CU’s enrollment was significantly higher and its budget eight times larger than that of UND. 

Then things got worse.

In 2021, the Boulder Faculty Assembly voted to censure Kennedy for a “failure of leadership with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion.” 

It was the beginning of the end. 

The board, with newly elected regents who were not charter members of the Mark Kennedy fan club, voted to accept his resignation and pay him $1.3 million to go away quietly.

All I can say about that is thank goodness he wasn’t the football coach or it would have cost us a whole lot more.

All that was seriously embarrassing for our flagship university, the $5.2 billion CU system. But it was not nearly as mortifying as the awkward (and continuing) John Eastman affair.

Eastman, you’ll recall, is the guy who tried to stonewall the U.S. House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection by refusing to release the emails he sent to Rudy Giuliani and other White House goons, saying they were protected by attorney-client privilege. 

The 101 emails were believed to include his recommended strategies for obstructing Congress in its process to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election and suggestions for how to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overthrow the will of the voters.

A judge rejected Eastman’s defense and ordered the release of the emails, saying they may have been used in furtherance of a crime — which is expressly not protected by attorney-client privilege. 

It may be asking a lot of a law professor working with the likes of Giuliani, but even your average third-grader can Google attorney-client privilege and learn that much.

In other buffoonery, Eastman gained notoriety in 2020 for suggesting that Kamala Harris might be constitutionally ineligible to serve as vice president because her parents were immigrants, something at least one constitutional scholar described as “racist nonsense.”

Until recently, the nincompoop Eastman held the position of Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought, the only position I know of at CU that explicitly requires applicants to adhere to a prescribed ideology, an ideology that apparently rejects such things as Article 11, Section I of the U.S. Constitution.

It’s affirmative action for conservatives, and clearly the standards aren’t very high.

So, here we are in 2022 at the end of yet another presidential search and this time CU needs some serious reputational rehabilitation. It needs a hero.

Enter Todd Saliman.

As a member of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, he earned a reputation as an advocate for preschool through college education, mental health care, child welfare services and for creating local systems to help at-risk young people. 

He’s known for revising CU’s budget process to make it transparent and more comprehensible. He’s a CU alum and a lifelong Coloradan.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

It’s a shame the regents didn’t allow him to show us how well he measures up against what surely was a diverse field of talented applicants with sterling credentials. 

It’s not fair to him or to us, and just leads to more distracting and debilitating controversy.

Still, for everyone’s sake, let’s hope for a calmer, more stable and productive tenure this time.

Good luck, soon-to-be CU President Saliman. 

You’re gonna need it.


Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.


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