Regents delay taking official stand on state transparency legislation

Sharkey won’t ask for board vote before April meeting

A proposed resolution that would have expressed support for state legislation calling for greater financial transparency at institutions of higher education was tabled by the University of Colorado Board of Regents on Wednesday.

Regent Sue Sharkey had brought to the meeting at 1800 Grant St. a resolution calling for board support of  House Bill 1252, Transparency of Higher Ed Financial Information, which would require more detailed financial reporting in the form of searchable databases of all revenues and expenditures at many higher education institutions across the state.

Sharkey tabled the resolution until the board’s April meeting, though she said she strongly supports what the legislation is seeking.

“I know there will be a lot of tweaking done,” Sharkey said of the legislation, which is being considered at the Capitol. “This (delay) will give regents a chance to ask questions of their legislators, and at the April meeting, more information will be available.”

As initially proposed, HB 1252 only would have applied to CU, Colorado State University, the University of Northern Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines; before the bill advanced from the House Committee on Education to the House Appropriations Committee, it was amended to include all higher ed institutions that receive College Opportunity Fund money, therefore affecting several more four-year and two-year public and private institutions across the state.

The bill also stipulates that additional information on faculty members – such as number of classes taught, amount of grant money received, reimbursement amounts including travel – be provided in the database.

Kathleen Bollard, vice president for academic affairs, spoke during the meeting’s public comment period, stressing she was speaking solely as an individual faculty member. She said CU faculty should be given time to comment on the proposal before the regents take an official position on the matter.

“Faculty have not had a chance to weigh in,” she said. “Faculty salaries are already provided online. No other group of public employees is being asked to provide the level of detail (that this would require).”

Regent Irene Griego said she appreciated Sharkey’s tabling of the resolution.

“This gives us time to get feedback … from our stakeholders, including our faculty,” Griego said. “We need to know what this (database) is going to look like in practice. The span of work that our professors put in on a daily basis is not just teaching a class. It’s service, research, preparation for class – there’s a lot of work that goes into that.”

Regent Tilman “Tillie” Bishop also said he appreciated the tabling, and that unknowns about the legislation need to be addressed, including the cost to the university of establishing and maintaining the expanded database, before he could state an opinion.

“We’re looking for places to cut (expenses), not add,” Bishop said. “The proposal that the database be updated every five business days – I don’t know what that does to an already busy staff.”

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for April 18-19 at CU Denver.