Hoffman Resigns

University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman tendered a letter of resignation to the school's Board of Regents Monday. She intends to resign effective June 30, "or whenever the CU Board of Regents names a successor."

"It has become clear to me that, amid the serious matters the University of Colorado now confronts, my role as the leader of the University has become an issue," Hoffman wrote in her resignation letter. "It appears to me it is in the University's best interest that I remove the issue of my future from the debate so that nothing inhibits CU's ability to successfully create the bright future it so deserves."

CU Board of Regents Chairman Jerry Rutledge said Monday the university's governing board did not ask for Hoffman's resignation. Nevertheless, he said he saw it coming.

"In my discussions with President Hoffman in recent days it was apparent to both of us that her support had been waning for some time," he said. "Today, the University of Colorado finds itself at one of the most crucial junctures in our history. CU is one of the premier research universities in the country and it is the job of the regents to insure that our leadership is strong, our well-being is sure and our future is bright."

Hoffman's resignation comes in the wake of a year's worth of poor publicity surrounding a so-called scandal involving the football program. Also, in recent months controversy surrounding CU Professor Ward Churchill thrust the university into the national spotlight once again.

Churchill was criticized by state lawmakers for an essay he wrote on Sept. 11, 2001, about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in which he characterized victims in the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns" referring to the Nazi technocrat.

Churchill proved to be a dividing figure. While many faculty at CU-Boulder rallied to the tenured teacher's defense, saying he has the right to speak his opinion under the veil of academic freedom, many in the state legislature, as well as many loud voices in the Denver media, called for his ouster.

Last week, Hoffman defended Churchill's right to academic freedom before a large gathering of CU faculty. She also said attacks on Churchill's essay echoed the McCarthyism of the 1940s and 1950s.

Hoffman, a Republican, drew the ire of Colorado Republicans for her comments, and a handful called on her to resign.

Monday she obliged.

In her letter, Hoffman wrote:

"I do not take this step lightly or hastily. I love CU. I have given it my heart and soul these past five years. I deeply appreciate the enormous support and assistance I have received from the students, faculty, administrators, legislature and the larger CU community.

"The controversies we have confronted in the past year have helped clarify a set of values and principles I think are vitally important for the University's future. They are values and principles I personally hold dear. They include:

• Respect for the individual;
• Protection of free speech and academic freedom;
• Fiscal, academic, and behavioral responsibility and accountability;
• Acting in the best interest of the University, no matter what the pressures;
• Maintenance of an elected Board of Regents to provide a buffer against the abuse of power;
• Creation of a vibrant, well-supported public higher education system, because public education is one of the most important sources of upward mobility in our society, providing opportunity for young people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

"To that end, the larger CU agenda is quite clear, and I urge the Regents and my successors to continue to pursue it vigorously. It requires ensuring the financial health of the University; creating and maintaining an environment that is welcoming, tolerant and supportive of all students; stimulating learning, academic excellence and increasing the number of areas in which CU is a true academic leader; maintaining the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior; and rebuilding CU's reputation as the outstanding university that it is."

Last February, Hoffman put CU football coach Gary Barnett on paid administrative leave following comments from the coach about a former player, Katie Hnida. Hoffman reinstated Barnett in May.

On Monday, Barnett said, "President Hoffman has had to bear the burden of tremendous pressure, pressure that in many ways has been unfair. It saddens me to see that she feels it is best for her to resign. There are many including myself that support her efforts, her values and her leadership. She demonstrated courage and fairness in her actions to reinstate me. I consider her a valued friend."

With her departure, Hoffman becomes the third-consecutive CU president to resign amid controversy. Hoffman replaced former president John Buechner, who resigned in 2000 after receiving strong criticism for hiring a personal friend to run the university's Total Learning Environment program. Buechner took over for Judith Albino, who left the job when faculty at CU lost confidence in her ability to serve as president.

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