The Denver Post, July 5, on the issue of free speech at the University of Northern Colorado:
Higher education’s commitment to free speech is often sadly fragile these days, and the latest evidence unfortunately comes from the University of Northern Colorado.
As The Tribune in Greeley recounts the story, an outfit that UNC calls its Bias Response Team has “sought to ‘strengthen’ a professor’s teaching by censoring what that professor can cover in class, and has advised another professor not to discuss some sensitive issues at all to avoid offending students.”
Mind you, these were cases in which the professors sought to air both sides of controversial topics, “including transgender issues.” But students offended by the presentation of arguments they opposed complained to the Bias Response Team, which initiated a crackdown on the professors’ academic freedom.
“I advised him not to revisit transgender issues in his classroom if possible to avoid the student’s expressed concerns,” a Bias Response Team member wrote regarding one professor.
The Tribune’s report was based on documents first obtained by HeatStreet, an online publication, and amplified by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an invaluable advocate for free speech on college campuses.
Dean of students Katrina Rodriguez did express second thoughts to The Tribune regarding the incidents, but not in the decisive fashion we’d have liked. “I would say that there are some aspects that we can revisit,” she said. “There could have been perhaps another way to look at this.”
Perhaps? There most definitely is “another way” besides allowing students to dictate class content based upon their personal desire not to hear an opinion they find offensive.
Students who can’t abide differing opinions on controversial subjects perhaps should postpone college until they develop greater psychological strength. Because college is all about exploring a range of opinions and theories — or at least it’s supposed to be.
Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, a graduate of the school, made this point eloquently in a recent letter to UNC President Kay Norton.
“It appears UNC leadership has decided that so-called ‘tolerance and diversity’ is justification for intolerance and intimidation,” Cook wrote.
“God forbid someone say something offensive!” he added. “But if someone does, have faith that young adults can handle, discuss, and debate the comment. Foster an environment that gives confidence to respond. That’s how you can help them become intellectually stronger. Instead, you choose to treat them like infants who need the Bias Response Team to parachute in to the rescue based on some anonymous compliant.”
The entire idea of a Bias Response Team responding to anonymous complaints has an unsettling aura about it. Cooke is right to be concerned about his alma mater.
The Aurora Sentinel, June 30, on abortion rights:
The thunderous U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down an attempt by Texas and other states to illegally outlaw abortion by regulating abortion clinics right out of business sends a clear message to equally unscrupulous anti-abortion proponents here in Colorado: Back off.
While the thorny issue of abortion and the laws affecting it are complex, the underlying foundation behind the strongly worded 5-3 decision by the court is crystal clear. Women have a constitutional right to obtain an abortion, and the government cannot contrive regulations infringing on those rights.
The shortsighted majority of conservative state lawmakers in Texas that created ridiculous and disingenuous abortion clinic restrictions, and their envious counterparts in Colorado, were put unequivocally in their places by this politically conservative high court. The right to abortion exists in the United States, primarily through a right to privacy, and can’t be usurped by flagrant scams like this one.
In Colorado, abortion rights are annually bombarded at the ballot box and on both the state House and Senate floors by equally nefarious groups and elected officials determined to find a way to sneak in limitations and restrictions. More often than not, these restrictions not only seek to limit abortion rights, but the measures almost always have unintended consequences that wreak havoc on other rights and the medical profession as well.
In the Texas case, anti-abortion activists considered their abortion clinic restrictions, disingenuously posed as needed to ensure the health of patients, as a clever end run. In reality, the high court said the deceit was obvious.
But by contriving medical regulations, the law would have had other far-reaching implications had it been upheld. It would mean state lawmakers could start regularly creating medical policy, rather than doctors.
And it’s no secret that insurance companies with deep pockets for lobbyists and campaign contributions would essentially have a new, legislative voice in the exam room with you and your doctor, where medically approved procedures could be denied simply because they aren’t available at clinics where you live.
This type of end-run legislation is dangerous for the health of everyone. Medicine and questions of medicine must be left to the medical profession, and that community was unequivocal in calling out the Texas law for the quackery it was.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to reduce or prevent abortions, but the way to do that in Colorado and other states is by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. Rather than continue to focus on these expensive, illegal and unethical attacks on clearly upheld rights, anti-abortion activists should work harder to fund proven, successful programs that provide free, quality birth control, and educate and empower women to control and ensure their own reproductive health and outcomes.
But this final and powerful decision was clear and absolute: The right to abortion exists, and government contrivances limiting that right will not be tolerated. So stop.
The Greeley Tribune, July 4, on unemployment in northern Colorado:
Even as the oil and gas boom that powered Weld County’s economy in the years after the Great Recession has turned to a bust, the county’s unemployment rate has stayed stable.
There are several explanations for this. For one, Weld does have a large, diverse economy that doesn’t rely solely on energy development for employment. It’s also true, of course, that many jobs in the cyclical energy industry have always been transitory. It’s a good bet many of those who flocked to Greeley during the boom simply went home to Texas or Oklahoma as things returned to normal here. The last explanation, though, is likely the best. Experts say many of those who have recently lost work in Weld’s oil and gas fields have found work in Larimer County.
Larimer had 3.7 percent more jobs in December 2015 than it did in the same month in 2014, ranking it first among nine large Colorado counties and 46th nationally, according to a recent report by The Denver Post, citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Weld, on the other hand, saw a 3.1 percent drop in employment last year, ranking it last in Colorado and 333rd out of the 342 large U.S. counties, the bureau reported.
This might strike some as concerning. After all, no one wants Weld to devolve into a bedroom community for a wealthier neighbor to the west.
Still, the numbers reveal a deeper truth. It’s one given voice by Rich Werner, president and CEO of Upstate Colorado.
“There is no border between Larimer and Weld counties. We have a regional workforce and a regional economy.”
In fact, it’s that regional economy that explains the other part of the recent report. Despite Weld’s recent job losses, the county’s unemployment rate in May was 3.6 percent. That’s down from May 2015, when it was 3.9 percent.
The strengths and weaknesses of the Weld and Larimer economies complement each other. This year, with oil prices low and work scarce, those in need of jobs are finding them in Larimer County. In other years, though, when the tech industry struggles, it’s been Weld’s ag, energy and manufacturing sectors that have powered the northern Colorado economy. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago we were writing about Weld leading the way on job growth.
The recent employment numbers offer a telling example of the value of regionalism. Too often we focus on the differences between the counties, rather than the ways in which they are interconnected.
The truth is, we’re better together than we could ever be apart.
The Loveland Reporter-Herald, July 5, on Colorado wildfires:
On June 19, a fire broke out in the remote forest northwest of the small town of Walden, Colorado.
Nearly a month later, the fire is still going strong, with an estimated 5 percent containment and 13,275 acres (more than 20 square miles) burned. Fire officials believe it will probably be extinguished only when nature does so when the snow flies this winter.
That blaze, called the Beaver Creek fire, isn’t even the only active fire in the state right now, either. Two other fires on the Grand Mesa in western Colorado are consuming national forest resources and the time and attention of fire crews.
While this year has seemed to be a relatively quiet one for fires in Colorado, there have been enough incidents here and in other Western states to turn the skies orange at sunset and, when the conditions are right, bring the haze and smell of smoke to the Front Range.
Unfortunately, the forecast doesn’t bode well for the rest of the summer, either. Various long-term weather outlooks show the climatic conditions are ripe for above-average temperatures throughout the summer, and precipitation forecasts show a probability of normal rainfall — with below-average rainfall predicted for states northwest of Colorado.
Add to that ominous reports from U.S. Forest Service rangers and Rocky Mountain National Park law enforcement personnel that campfires are being abandoned without having been fully extinguished, and the recipe is complete for wildfire.
For Colorado residents, the admonition to be vigilant on wildfire conditions is most appropriate because they are the ones likely to be farther off the beaten path, where metal fire rings aren’t in place and a forest ranger isn’t on constant patrol.
It only takes a few seconds to double-check a campfire to make sure it is drowned and cool to the touch. Now is the time to be vigilant against a natural disaster that can often be preventable.
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