Paul Holden The controversy at Western Colorado University regarding an email written by President Salsbury condemning the Capitol Occupation has occupied the editorial pages and letters to the editor in the Gunnison Country Times and the Crested Butte News over the past few weeks. The most recent of these was a letter by a supposed environmental student at the university.
Columns & Opinions
The higher education landscape has experienced seismic shifts over the past several years and the impact of them is still escalating. Most of these changes significantly increase the financial challenges for small, rural, liberal arts focused, tuition-dependent schools like Western. A partial list of these includes: a shrinking pool of college-aged candidates across the country, diminished state support for Colorado public schools, rising costs of running a university— particularly one in the mountains, rapidly changing student and employer preferences in disciplines, and massive competition from new Front Range and online institutions. Amplifying these changes are the challenges in funding brought by a COVID-impacted state budget, along with a student base that is much more cost sensitive. Due to all of this, Western, more than ever before, needs to ensure that our limited resources are allocated to stabilize and grow enrollment, increase student retention, and to ensure efficient delivery of our educational mission. This necessarily means putting more money toward areas that have greater growth potential and less toward those with lower growth potential.
We had just wrapped up a campaign stop in Quigley Hall where, after another meeting or two of the trustees of Western Colorado University, the smart money says there won’t be anything at all going on. I was ebullient, unfamiliar terrain for me, sort of basking in the afterglow of what I had taken to be ecstatic reception of my talk, which had been, if not entirely rousing, basically close enough. My subject, “Western: University or Vo-Tech,” seemed pertinent and the crowd, all two or three music students, smiled, nodded and whistled tunefully at each of my targeted points.
I made a mistake two years ago: I took an avalanche safety class before I knew how to ski. In the afternoon of the second day of the three-day course, I looked down at a glade on the east side of Snodgrass and thought, “here goes!” as I dropped into what was the steepest, most technical descent I’d tried on two slippery planks.
Technically, winter is defined as the months of December, January and February, and spring begins with the first of March. As most long-term Gunnisonites know, that does not exactly apply to our climate. But, this year it certainly does. Winter was really over about two to three weeks ago as all of our snow began to rot and turn yucky — technically it’s sublimating, and it seems it was pretty early this year. Looking at recent past records for amount of snow on the ground (SNG), I see that December was close to average (4.5”), but we were a little below in January (6” vs 7.5”), and definitely falling behind so far in February (4-5”) which usually shows about 9” SNG. At the time of writing, Gunnison’s season snowfall is a little over 30” and about on track for our new normal of 40”/ winter, although that was boosted by that big, freak storm in September. Of course, there is another storm coming this week, so it’s not exactly spring yet.
The year just past seems like such a time. There is no question that 2020 was a difficult year, here as everywhere. Most of us were glad to see it finish. But we woke into 2021 with the realization that nearly everything that made 2020 a difficult year is still with us.
We’ve received mixed mail regarding Congresswoman Lauren Boeberts short but controversy-filled track record as the Western Slope’s representative in Congress. A few of our readers have voiced their support for her, making the case that her flashy stands in support of the Second Amendment and in opposition to Joe Biden’s electoral victory are important to maintaining our constitutional freedoms.
How many state lawyers does it take to follow state open meetings guidelines? More than two. That’s the answer from Western Colorado University’s Board of Trustees meeting last week The meeting was conducted almost entirely in executive session, meaning the public could not watch or listen to all but a few minutes at the beginning and at the end.
As a nature and wildlife photographer in Gunnison, my photography friend Joseph and I drive around a lot looking for scenes and animals to photograph. Day trips are common. We frequently visit outlying areas, such as, the San Luis Valley near Alamosa, Lake City, Montrose, Salida and more. We travel highways, by-ways, scenic routes and backroads in our search for the next shot and adventure. I do not have a TV and rarely keep up on news events. So, I had no idea a pandemic was spreading across the nation in early spring of 2020.