The University of Colorado Board of Regents met last week to discuss a handful of increasingly hot topic issues from concealed carry on campus to increase tuition. Henry Larson, the editor-in-chief of CU independent was at the meeting.
Half A Century Later, CU Students Continue To Fight Concealed Carry On Campus Alexis Kenyon
Alexis Kenyon, KGNU: Okay, so there’s been a lot of big news that came out of the meeting late last week. Give us a rundown.
Henry Larson, CU Independent: So February 9 was when the Regents held their meeting And there were a few big pieces of information that came out of that. I think first you had two advocacy groups show up to sit in on the meeting itself. You had members of the United Campus Workers, which is the CU Boulder union. You also had several gun violence prevention advocacy groups and members of the student government. And they were there to talk about a concealed carry ban on campus.
The other piece of news that they discussed that’s noteworthy is the university is expecting to increase tuition by about 4% for all of its *incoming undergraduate and graduate students as they expect a lack of enrollment and some budgetary strain in the next fiscal year.
Alexis Kenyon, KGNU: Yeah, this is a complex issue the idea of raising tuition on students. Tell me what the discussion was during the meeting.
Henry Larson, CU Independent: Yeah. Yeah, so it’s, it’s pretty complicated. This was a discussion that was brought by the university system’s budget officers. They presented to the Regents and they said that they were expecting to have some budget shortfalls, and some strains placed on them in the coming year. And that’s due to a lot of reasons: inflation, a lack of enrollment, there are some people that say that increased wages are also adding to that stress.
But there are also a lot of minor causes per campus. So, for CU Boulder, they say that the constant need for construction and development of campus facilities is costing a lot of money. There’s an increased emphasis on needing more technological upgrades on campus. That’s costing money.
And then the other picture that the university leaders have been saying forever now is that the state isn’t giving them enough money. And, of course, state officials and the university leaders go back and forth on this all the time.
But right now, the state could be allocating anywhere between 6.8% and somewhere around 13% of an increase in their normal funding for the next fiscal year.
Alexis Kenyon, KGNU: How much are they talking about increasing tuition? And what are you guys already paying?
Henry Larson, CU Independent: 4% increase in tuition *for all incoming undergrad and graduate students. Right now out-of-state students could be paying around 30,000 a year.
Alexis Kenyon, KGNU: That’s a lot of money.
Henry Larson, CU Independent: Yeah. In-state students pay less. I pay less as an in-state student. It’s pretty variable, but CU Boulder has a reputation as an expensive school.
Alexis Kenyon, KGNU: Right. And this is a state school. It’s not a private school.
Henry Larson, CU Independent: That’s right. The university also saw some interesting financial challenges earlier at the end of 2022. The CU foundation’s financial investments didn’t do as well as they’d hoped. They lost several million dollars in their investments. And so university leaders have basically been on the back foot, fiscally speaking.
Now, this is an investment portfolio that’s valued at over $2 billion. So it’s already quite valuable, but they have been facing some financial challenges and so I think they’re looking for ways to recoup those losses without putting more strain on the coffers they have.
Alexis Kenyon, KGNU: Okay. So concealed carry also came up in this meeting. Tell me about this.
Henry Larson, CU Independent: Yeah. Yeah. There are only about a dozen schools in the country that allow concealed carry on campus and CU Boulder is one of them. And so, on February 9, you had several student government members and gun violence advocacy groups at the meeting who are arguing for the Regents to reintroduce a ban on concealed carry.
Alexis Kenyon, KGNU: Right, and this has an interesting history with the Board of Regents. Tell me about that.
Henry Larson, CU Independent: It does. And the history goes back to 1970, pretty much. You know, this was the era of the Vietnam war. There were anti-war anti-military protests and an ROTC office at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs was bombed.
Around that same time, there was also a massive anti-military anti-war protest on the CU Boulder campus, starting at the university’s Memorial Center.
The Regents’ initial ban on the concealed carry of firearms was not because of gun violence prevention groups. It was because of anti-war protestors and domestic terrorism in the 1970s.
That ban on concealed carry was later upheld in 1994. Then you get into 2003. Colorado state legislature passes a concealed carry amendment which says that concealed carry permit holders can carry throughout the state, except in a few places like government buildings, places with security checkpoints, public primary and secondary schools.
The Attorney General at the time, Ken Salazar, issues an opinion saying that this amendment should not infringe on the Regents’ ability to dictate how they run their campus.
It’s nonbinding, however, and so a group of student activists and Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, SCCC, sues the Regents and say that this law, the concealed carry amendment, should prevent the Regents from banning concealed carry on campus.
SCCC loses its initial attempt in 2008. But in 2012, the Colorado Supreme Court hears their appeal and overturns the decision, meaning that the Regents have to overturn their ban on concealed carry.
But that doesn’t stick around forever.
Many years go by and you have increased advocacy around gun violence. 2012, of course, was also the year of the Arvada shooting. And then in 2021, at the Table Mesa King Soopers, it hits far closer to home for the CU Boulder community members.
And so there are several bills passed by the county legislature signed by Gov. Polis restricting firearm access and use in the state. One of those overturns the law that the Colorado Supreme Court used to say that the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus were right. This means that the decision in the Regents versus SCCC is void. It doesn’t apply anymore.
So, now it’s 2023 and student government leaders are saying, because this Colorado Supreme Court case is no longer relevant, we want the Regents to take action and ban concealed carry on campus.
Alexis Kenyon, KGNU: What was the response?
Henry Larson, CU Independent: The response was, “We’ll think about it.”
It was a far better response than these activists who have been pursuing this for about a year now, probably maybe a little longer than a year. It’s far better than they’ve heard in the past.
But they went and they spoke in front of the Regents and the Regents said that they’re going to be able to take this to the committees that discuss these issues. Their meeting is on April 17. And then that committee will then decide whether to send this issue back to the Regents to vote on it. The earliest they could do that would be April 27.
Whether or not that happens is somewhat up for debate. The members of the campus affairs committee that would hear this issue are somewhat split, actually, both in partisan affiliation and in their stance on gun control. It’s not entirely clear how they would vote.
So there’s a lot that’s up in the air about how university leaders will move when they’re talking about this ban.
Alexis Kenyon, KGNU: That said, I mean, since that meeting less than a week ago, there have been two gun threats, or at least two gun scares, and news about guns, if not on campus, then right next to campus. I mean, do you think the frequency of gun-related news is going to affect their decision?
Henry Larson, CU Independent: I think if there’s one thing that Boulder residents have been more aware of since 2021, it’s the sheer amount of times gun violence or the threat of gun violence has entered our lives and been prominent in the way we think about going about our day to day.
You know, I covered the King Soopers shooting the day it happened. The hour it happened. And then, throughout the coming days that followed and I’ve seen the way the community has changed in many ways. I think that there’s a very clear reason people don’t want to see concealed carry allowed on campus.
And that’s not to say there aren’t people who are advocating for concealed carry because there are people. Especially, people who responded to the story that we wrote about this issue were saying, you know if the Regents pass a ban on concealed carry, they’re not going to comply with it.
And I think that’s really interesting because this is a deep-seated right that many people feel they have and the issue of safety doesn’t ring true for them as it does for people who are incredibly concerned about the presence of firearms in day-to-day life.
*correction: a previous version of this did not include the word “incoming.”
Half A Century Later, CU Students Continue To Fight Concealed Carry On Campus Alexis Kenyon