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Colorado Editorial Roundup

July 12, 2018

Greeley Tribune, July 10, on University of Northern Colorado making progress on pay equity:

It would be easy to think, especially in the current cultural climate, we are making strides as a society when it comes to closing the gender pay gap.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Not only does a woman in America still make on average just 78 percent of what her male counterpart does, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but a new study by the Chronicle of Higher Education shows the gender wage gap still exists in higher education, and it’s actually gotten bigger in the past 15 years — both statewide (9.6 percent difference now, 9.3 then) as well as nationwide (8.8 from 8.6).

It’s worth noting the gap in higher education is substantially lower than the overall gap, but the fact a gender pay gap exists at all at that level of academia — long considered to be a bastion of the type of progressive thinking needed to close a gap like that — is a stark illustration of just how far we have to go in order to achieve equality in pay.

It’s also worth noting Greeley’s University of Northern Colorado bucks that trend. The school’s wage gap is smaller (4.2 percent in 2016, the most recent data available) and had shrunk considerably from where it was 13 years earlier (6.8 percent).

Kudos to UNC officials for taking steps to address inequality in pay. It’s nice to see our local college make progress on this important issue.

With that said, we also hope UNC doesn’t rest on the progress it’s made. The university has a smaller gender wage gap, but it’s still a gap. And, as far as we can tell, the gap exists here for the same reason it does elsewhere: Men still occupy most positions of power and salary decisions are discretionary in higher education.

That means, in order to achieve equal pay, colleges and universities likely will need to get more diverse at the top and definitely will need to get better at being deliberate about making salary decisions that promote equal pay.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, we don’t see any reason UNC can’t improve in those areas and continue to shrink its gender pay gap. And, hopefully, other institutions of higher education, especially those in Colorado, will be taking notes.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2uetccx

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Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, July 10, on Colorado State University empowering a pioneer:

Sometimes collaborations make so much sense that it’s hard to believe someone had to come up with the idea.

In the case of the Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief, it was Amanda McQuade who inspired the Colorado State University Western Colorado Research Center to consider how the fruits and vegetables it raises for research could make a big dent in the Grand Valley’s hunger problem.

McQuade certainly knew it. She had been driving a minivan over back roads in Mesa County, picking up leftover produce from area farms, which she delivered to local food banks.

Over time, more and more of the food she was picking up was coming from the CSU station on Orchard Mesa. So last year officials at the station gave her the resources to launch the alliance, instantly establishing one of the most innovative hunger-relief organizations in the nation and creating a blueprint for how other research farms can help communities battle hunger across the state.

“This is a really nice way to connect with the community in a broad way while still maintaining our fundamental agricultural mission,” said Western Colorado Research Center Manager Greg Litus.

In the past, the center sold surplus fruits and vegetables that weren’t needed for research. Now, it donates that surplus — more than 190,000 pounds last year alone — to local food banks and School District 51.

Under McQuade’s leadership, the alliance is more than just a distributor of harvest yields. CSU has provided a budget for McQuade to hire two interns from Western Colorado Community College’s agricultural science program. They coach more than 200 volunteers, manage a greenhouse and supervise fields.

The alliance hosted 230 students from local schools to plant more than two acres of crops at the research center. When those vegetables are harvested later this month, they’ll be served on the District 51 Lunch Lizard food truck and at the Food Bank of the Rockies. The alliance not only feeds the hungry, it teaches young people where food comes from, which is the foundation for nutritional awareness and healthy eating choices.

The research center is preparing to break ground a new building with a commercial kitchen, which will allow community groups to host events where people can learn about nutrition by harvesting and cooking fresh food.

The only thing that’s limiting the alliance’s reach is volunteers. McQuade needs more of them.

We’re lucky to have a pioneer like McQuade channeling resources into a formidable campaign to eradicate hunger in Mesa County.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2KNTgWq

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Cortez Journal, July 9, on a Fort Lewis College’s bold move:

The announcement by Fort Lewis College that the school is purchasing a river-running company may strike many in the Four Corners as an odd way to spend money at this point in time.

After all, FLC, which has seen an 11 percent drop in enrollment over the past nine years, announced a $4.16 million budget cut from the 2018-19 academic year in April, a cut that included laying off 11 staff members.

In addition, the school is in the midst of a change of leadership as its focus turns to improving its recruitment strategies and dealing with what many on the rim see as an identity crisis.

But looking deeper, the purchase can be considered a bold move at just the right time, and for some of the same reasons given above. While the name of the river enterprise and the purchase price have not been disclosed because of ongoing negotiations, nearly $120,000 toward the purchase has already been raised, sparked by a pledge of $25,000 in matching funds from a generous couple who sees the purchase as an opportunity not to be missed.

It is important to note that FLC stands to acquire more than river gear. There is enough equipment to outfit groups of up to 60 students and staff — or alumni donors and other benefactors — on multi-day academic or adventure trips. But at the heart of the pending sale are river permits for the San Juan River in Utah, the Chama River in New Mexico and the Salt River in Arizona, and the dependable access the permits provide.

The immediate beneficiaries will be the student body, especially those in the Adventure Education program, which offers both major and minor degrees, and the students who take advantage of the popular Outdoor Pursuits program that allows students to get out and explore the region’s diverse alpine, desert and river environments year-round.

In a letter written as part of the fundraising effort, Outdoor Pursuits founder Dolph Kuss, Outdoor Pursuits Director Brett Davis and Lee Frazer, chair of Adventure Education, explained that the purchase will benefit many other programs as well, including anthropology, art, biology, business, environmental science, geology and teacher education, in effect, turning the river channels into outdoor laboratories.

“Access to these rivers will help boost recruitment, retention, curriculum development across campus and alumni/donor experiences,” the letter reads.

We agree. And hope that the school is able to complete what looks to be a sound purchase.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2L973Tq

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The Pueblo Chieftain, July 9, on Xcel’s plans bringing renewed economic impact:

When Xcel Energy announced plans to partially close its coal-fired plant in Pueblo and increase its use of renewable energy, there were concerns about the economic impact the job losses here would have on the community. It turns out the overall economic impact may be positive, if a new study is to be believed.

Xcel plans to scale back operations at the Comanche power plant, which will result in the loss of about 80 jobs. Representatives from the utility company have said they expect those job losses to be absorbed mostly through retirements and other attrition over the next several years.

Meanwhile, the company plans to build and operate new wind and solar farms around the state, including several solar farms in Pueblo. According to a study by the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, that work will create hundreds of construction jobs within our community over the next five years.

Specifically, Xcel wants to contract with private developers to build three solar farms and two power storage/battery units near the Comanche plant, as well as a power transfer station and other improvements.

When the construction work is complete, the number of jobs associated with Xcel’s increased emphasis on renewable energy will drop. There will be some full-time jobs maintaining the new energy facilities, but not as many as the coal-fired plant required.

Still, the university’s study said the switchover will benefit Pueblo in other ways, including an estimated $21.9 million in taxes paid to local governments over the next 23 years.

The study projects other parts of the state also will benefit from Xcel’s renewal energy projects, with an estimated 416 jobs a year if averaged out through 2040.

All of that is dependent on approval by the Public Utilities Commission, which could make a decision as early as September, following public hearings and regulatory review.

Black Hills Energy provides residential and commercial service to the Pueblo area and most of Xcel’s customers are in the Denver area. However, Xcel’s biggest retail customer in Colorado is the EVRAZ Pueblo steel mill.

Much of Xcel’s fortunes are tied to the decision EVRAZ makes about whether to expand the mill here or not. If EVRAZ stays, then Xcel should be in pretty good shape for the foreseeable future. If EVRAZ doesn’t expand its local operations, there’s a chance it eventually would transfer some or all of its Pueblo business to other facilities elsewhere around the country. Which, it seems safe to assume, would put a crimp on Xcel’s plans.

Xcel is taking a bold step by turning to renewable sources to meet more of its energy needs. It’s a gamble that we have to hope is successful, for the sake of Pueblo’s economic development.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2LaO7ns

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