CU-Boulder Student Leaders Take Unique, Unprecedented Action to Ensure Law School Building Gets Built

November 11, 2004

he University of Colorado at Boulder's new law school building will begin to take shape east and south of the current building in January, thanks largely to the commitment and civic mindedness of several student leaders, said Law School Dean David Getches. Facing a threat to the school's accreditation because of the law building's poor condition, particularly the law library, Getches sought and won the support of student leaders last April, including senior biology major Eugene Pearson. He, along with law student Brian Mason and undergraduate Richard Murray, now a first-year law student, drafted the student government's legislation. They all devoted long hours to lobbying fellow student legislators to win approval of a fee increase. Last April the University of Colorado Student Union approved a bill to assess all full-time students a fee to retire $21 million in bonds that will finance construction of the $46.4 million law school. The fee will begin at the time the building is completed in fall 2006 and will increase from $100 a year to $400 a year over a four-year period. The new fee will be assessed for 20 years until the bonds are retired. "This remarkable commitment by students to academic buildings is unprecedented," Getches said. "We know of no other university in the United States or elsewhere where students have taken on the role of directly funding building construction. "CU students are making history through this action but, more importantly, students at CU-Boulder have picked up the state's responsibility at a time of financial distress for Colorado," Getches said. For the students, it was a complicated and difficult choice to make on an issue where the need was clear: no one questioned that the CU law school needed a new building in order to maintain its accreditation and reputation. Several other campus buildings also would be supported by the fee. The question was whether students should be the ones to take responsibility for paying the debt. Pearson worked hard to make it happen. "When the Legislative Council was working on this last spring, the three weeks that we were discussing it I worked between 40 to 60 hours a week," said Pearson, a senior who has cut his course workload to be involved in student government. "There were days when I was getting more than 100 e-mails a day from students, faculty and staff all weighing in on the issue. "Even now, there's still so much negotiating and student involvement that I feel like we're in the middle of the process," Pearson said. "Students will be dealing with the funding issue for another 20 years until the projects are paid off. For me, personally, it will be awhile before I've got a perspective on what we've actually done. Until the law school opens, I don't think the magnitude of what the students did will be fully recognized." The student initiative will generate more than $100 million dollars for construction throughout the campus, replacing funding by the state Legislature that disappeared during the economic downturn. The business school is one of several programs to benefit from the student funding. All of the new buildings and additions also will be more "green" as a result of the student initiative. Pearson, now president of the Legislative Council, is credited with convincing the administration to adopt environmentally friendly "green building" standards that will affect all projects funded by the fee. The "green building" standards will require that 100 percent of the electricity for the new buildings come from renewable resources, making CU-Boulder's building requirements some of the most environmentally sound in the country. Demolition of the tennis courts on the site of the new law building began in October. Construction of the building will begin in January. For more information, see the Wolf Law Building special report. Contact: David Getches, (303) 492-3084 Eugene Pearson, (720) 317-6388 Jeannine Malmsbury, (303) 492-3115