Colorado will soon lose an asset to Huntsville, Ala, and this has nothing to do with Space Command. University of Colorado Regent Chance Hill, a Republican on the Democrat-controlled board, quietly announced his resignation Friday to friends on Facebook. An Ivy League-educated military veteran and lawyer, Hill has accepted a job as political director for a Huntsville-based law firm. He would otherwise have served until January 2025.
This leaves Gov. Jared Polis with the authority to appoint his replacement, and we have asked him to consider appointing a Republican. Democrats control all elements of the state government and replacing a Republican with another Republican will not change this fact. Democrats would still control the board with a 5-4 majority. Coloradans, including Polis, know the best governance comes from the philosophical balance achieved when Democrats and Republicans work together toward common goals.
“I would never consider party registration for or against someone who I appoint for regent,” Polis told us Friday. “It’s the governing board of our state’s flagship university and needs a terrific board where people bring their lifetime of experience and vision to make CU including UCCS an even more amazing place.”
Polis mentioned the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs because it’s in the Fifth Congressional District, which Hill represents. It is the district from which the governor must choose Hill’s replacement, but regents make decisions affecting all of Colorado. Hill’s resignation raises complicated questions because it comes just as Colorado has redrawn district boundaries and will gain an eighth congressional district.
Hill told a member of The Gazette’s editorial board he made the decision to favor the interests of his family and because Colorado Republicans lack the “political infrastructure” to succeed at much of anything.
The loss of Hill to Huntsville removes one of the more promising members of Colorado’s narrow Republican bench. Our state’s loss is a gain for Alabama, a state so conservative it provides a political counterbalance to Colorado.
Hill distinguished himself as a regent by insisting upon and achieving more funding for UCCS. More than most other regents throughout the institution’s history, Hill understands that CU means much more than just the flagship campus in Boulder. It is CU-Denver, UCCS, and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.
Hill always stood for academic freedom and freedom of speech. Drawing on his legal prowess, he persuaded CU administrators they could not discriminate against a Christian students’ prayer group while validating other special-interest clubs on campus. Incredibly, the top administrators seemed confused about this fundamental legal principle before Hill helped set them straight.
More recently, Hill tried to forbid the teaching of critical race theory in a manner that accuses and judges students on a basis of race. In his futile effort, he forced left-wing regents to publicly favor this insidious form of institutional racism.
Though he would almost surely reject the offer, it is hard to think of a more appropriate replacement than Colorado Springs businessman Steve Schuck. An Ivy League-educated philanthropist, Schuck has devoted his life to the cause of improving education more than anyone we can think of throughout District 5 or all of Colorado. We hope Polis at least seeks Schuck’s advice in making the appointment.
Though seldom in the spotlight, the governing board of our state’s largest university system has enormous responsibility. Regents will choose the next CU president. The board makes routine decisions that steer four campuses. The quality of higher education in our state has everything to do with our ability to attract and retain good, high-paying employers.
We have seen the results poor leadership has had on CU. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, CU was a cautionary tale. It was best known for student riots, sociology faculty drug orgies, and a kooky left-wing professor who advocated terrorism and compared 9/11 victims to Nazis.
Before the CU presidencies of former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown and former energy executive Bruce Benson, the university was known more as a party school than an institution of academic rigor. It has made great progress in the past 12 years and cannot afford to lose ground.
Hill’s departure is a loss to Colorado, and we wish him well in Huntsville. His departure presents an opportunity for Polis — another man with a proven dedication to education — to name a good replacement.
Colorado Springs Gazette editorial board