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CU Is Bipartisan In Decision To Protect Free Political Speech

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CU Regent Sue Sharkey talks with CBS4's Shaun Boyd (credit: CBS)

CU Regent Sue Sharkey talks with CBS4′s Shaun Boyd (credit: CBS)

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BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Academic freedom is the hallmark of any university, but maybe no place in country has gone as far to protect as the University of Colorado, the first public university to ban discrimination based on political philosophy and affiliation.

“We’re not just saying that this is what we believe in, we’re actually backing it up with action,” Regent Sue Sharkey said.

Sharkey, a Republican, first introduced the resolution last spring and admits there was pushback.

“The message I got was status quo,” she said.

She said she was told not to rock the boat, but Sharkey forged ahead, arguing a university needed diversity, not just of race and gender, but of ideas.

“The suppression of those ideas is not truly an education, it’s the death of education,” she said.

Sharkey found an ally in Regent Michael Carrigan, a Democrat.

“If there’s any place in our society where there ought to be a robust debate and exchange of ideas, it ought to be on a university campus,” Carrigan said.

Carrigan says, like Sharkey, he’d heard the stories.

“Students would say that because of their conservative viewpoints they were not welcome,” he said.

After months of debate, the vote was unanimous. The board didn’t stop at political discrimination. The new bylaw also barred discrimination based on gender expression and identity.

“The Board of Regents is the political body that I wish we would see more of in politics today; the Republicans and Democrats working across party lines,” Carrigan said.

“If we can do this at the University of Colorado, than this can be done at universities across this country,” Sharkey said.

The CU Board of Regents is also conducting a survey on all of its campuses. It wants to know if students, faculty and staff feel the university has a welcoming climate regardless of race, religion or political affiliation.

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