Inside CU’s initial decision to strip student government’s control of budget

In early April 2018, University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced the CU Student Government (CUSG) would lose control of about 90 percent of its $24 million budget, which would be shifted to the purview of the university’s Student Affairs staff.

There was an immediate outcry from students, alumni, parents, faculty and community members, and in May, CU announced the decision on whether or not to shift control of the funds was “put on hold, and until further notice all offices should act as they did before.”

Boulder Weekly filed a public records request shortly after that announcement seeking to find out why the original decision was made, why the temporary reversal was issued and who was directing the effort to strip CUSG of control of its full budget. What we found were many voices who felt like the process was done without enough insight from those most affected by the decision, and the catalogue of emails and memos we received raised questions about the motivations of the CU administration, including the Board of Regents, and their reactions to peoples’ concerns.

The CUSG has been around, under various names, for more than four decades. Its roughly $24 million budget is large compared to other public universities. DiStefano pointed out in his original decision that “most Pac-12 schools have student government budgets of $1 million to $2 million and focus on student organization and event funding — not oversight of facilities and professional staff.” Arizona State, DiStefano pointed out, has nearly twice as many students as CU, but the student government operates with a $2.4 million budget.

“This decision brings CU Boulder in line with our peers,” DiStefano wrote.

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