Published in the Colorado Daily 4/15/92
THE TIGHTROPE by Evan Ravitz
Our fearless editor Clint Talbott noted Feb 13 that what's good
for the goose (former CU President E. Gordon Gee) isn't always
good for the gander (CU football coach Bill McCartney). And certainly
slick salesman Gee got away with using his office for political
campaigns in '88 & '90 while foot-in-the-mouth fundamentalist
McCartney has been (rightly) condemned for the same recently.
What's good for the Gees, and the elite who run our universities and world from their ivory towers? One didn't hear much about Elizabeth Gee until she died recently of a long bout with cancer.
Remember Trygve Bauge? He's the 12-year resident of Boulder from Norway known as the founder of the Boulder Polar Bear Club. He stopped by the Gees' mansion-on-the-range to suggest a way for Mrs. Gee to beat the Reaper- Gersen detoxification therapy. (Incidentally this therapy is illegal here thanks to the US cancer industry, although, with studies showing much cancer is caused by environmental factors, cleaning up your internal environment sounds like something to try before chemotherapy.)
Finding nobody at the guard house he went to the door and knocked, then the window. She called the police and they hauled the elfin long-haired good samaritan off to jail. His lawsuit is pending. Might Mrs. Gee be alive today if she'd greeted Mr. Bauge in the spirit he approached her? Trygve at least could have cheered her up.
How about E. Gordon? What good could the West do for this bow-tied Eastern dandy who gave secret deferred pay bonuses to an array of VPs and a 'lifetime' contract to Big Mac? (A 'lifetime' for fundamentalists like Ronald Reagan and Mac means until Armageddon, soon, like the year 2000.) Let's journey to San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, sometimes the coldest town in Colorado, The Northernmost outpost of the former empire of New Spain.
Gee and entourage came to San Luis twice to showcase what CU could do for this little 'third world' burg- study the local historic and religious vernacular architecture, create a town plan and promote tourism, not to mention public relations for CU.
My old friends Arnie and Maria Valdez discovered that although they were CU Architecture and Planning grad students, bilingual San Luis eighth-generation natives, and had a national reputation for expertise in building and restoring local architecture (and keeping poor people warm), CU was applying to NEA for a grant to study "culture and religious architectural form in the San Luis Valley" without including them and benefitting another student without roots or experience there, or 4 hungry kids to feed.
There were other problems with the application, which promised to "enable local people to understand their culture and take pride in it." Locals like the Monsignor were not involved, perhaps too stupid to understand their culture without outside assistance. The proposal to print 50,000 brochures to encourage tourism to fragile historic buildings or private 'Moradas' (Penitente churches) was not popular either.
They filed a discrimination suit with the Colorado Department of Education, but were convinced by a professor to also apply for a similar grant, which they did without help, but with the endorsement of CU. They won the grant, while CU's own proposal was turned down. In retaliation, the department refused to give them matching funds they had promised in writing. "No way in hell you'll ever get those Kellogg funds!" Bob Horn, the department's service director, told them.
When Gee came on his cheerleading mission, Maria's dad, Charles Mondragon sat next to one of Gee's handlers and told her he could embarrass Gee by asking why the University stiffed the natives, but would prefer a private audience at his office. Gee came to the office.
Maria tried to be christian about it and not accuse people of discrimination. At some point San Luis experienced one of their common power brown-outs and the lights dimmed and buzzed. Gee became paranoid exclaiming: "What's happening here, what's going on?", suddenly fearful in this town of brown people.
On another project, Maria did a historical overview for a Town Plan of San Luis and submitted family photos with a hand-written note asking that they not be published. Lo, they were published- Maria's work with Bob Horn's name!
Corruption is rampant in the School of Planning and Architecture- see the endless story in Westword 6/7-13/89. Arnie & Maria often saw cases of liquor being sent up to the head honchos.
The upshot is that Arnie & Maria left CU penniless (having counted on CU's promised matching funds) and are finishing up at UNM, along with many others. Their Valdez Associates recently beat out CU for a Colorado Historical Society grant. Maria, as outspoken as Arnie is quietly competent, says: "CU manipulates public policy under the guise of education, and has divided our community with its money."
What's good for the Gees, the Goose and the Gander? A priority on education, not public relations- clearly an expensive failure at CU. Educators listen as well as teach, PR only blusters and marginalizes those who dare to dialogue. Maybe what the Gees needed was Mr. Bauge's and the Valdez's feedback to get them back on track. Big Mac's getting some serious feedback. America's ruling elites are out of touch. All natural and man-made systems need feedback to be healthy. That's why we started the Voting by Phone foundation- to make it possible for Americans to have a regular voice in their government.
Evan walks the not-so-tight rope on the Boulder Mall and directs the Voting by Phone Foundation. He moved here 13 years ago from Taos, NM, from which he got his stage name, Evan from Heaven. San Luis is close by.