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BOULDER – The notorious 4:20 marijuana rally usually held at a University of Colorado at Boulder quad was extinguished this year.

The rally once attracted about 10,000 marijuana enthusiasts, but it has been on the decline since the university administration took decisive action to prevent the event from happening in 2012. Security guards halted the entry of anyone who was not a student, and yellow tape blocked off Norlin Quad. Signs warned of the arrest of anyone who defied the orders. And for good measure, the grass was fertilized with a substance that reeked of fish.

This year, the continuation of strict enforcement of a closed campus, the statewide marijuana legalization, the Easter holiday, and competition with the annual Cannabis Cup, organized by High Times magazine near the state capital building in Denver, conspired to quash the controversial tradition in Boulder.

The disappearance of the 4:20 event at CU appears to have had some negative effects on the local economy. In previous years, the area immediately west of campus called “the hill” was packed with out-of-town customers on April 20. This year, the hill looked no more crowded than on an average week day.

“It’s pretty much been an ordinary day,” said Christopher Tew, an employee at The Root, a “hip-hop shop” across the street from the University of Colorado that sells marijuana paraphernalia. This despite a sale touted in a full-page advertisement in Rooster magazine, and the gift of a free glass pipe to every customer.

“I’ve actually sold more records than pipes today,” he said.

Melissa Zak, the chief of police of the University of Colorado Boulder Police Department, was among the law enforcement presence on campus, which remained empty save the few officers and a few students going to and from Norlin library.

She said that the combination of law enforcement and the Denver events “has effectively contributed to the decline of 4:20 at CU Boulder” to the point that she hoped it would “be a non-event for the university this year.”

Speaking less than an hour before 4:20 pm, she said that she reduced the number of police officers on campus from what they had been earlier in the day. The officers weren’t needed there, she explained, and their presence did not contribute to a healthy academic climate.

“There’s no need to introduce the police state to the campus,” she said.

Fix contributor Spencer Case is a philosophy graduate student at the University of Colorado. He is a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and an Egypt Fulbright alumnus.

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IMAGE: 4:20 celebration in its heyday – 2009 (YouTube screenshot)


Three female College Republicans at CU Boulder on Tuesday were denied their request for financial support from their student government to travel to CPAC, putting their plans in the lurch with the event just a week away.

Leaders of the campus College Republicans decried the decision as a violation of the school’s funding bylaws and an example of viewpoint discrimination in interviews with The College Fix.

College Republicans President Olivia Leyshock said she and her peers just wanted to “educate ourselves in something we find a passion and interest in, and that is what diversifies our campus.”

Leyshock said she’s not sure how she’ll get to the Washington, D.C.-based event now.

“As a student, I am living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “I don’t have the money to do this sort of thing.”

CU Boulder student Aslinn Scott, chairwoman of the Colorado Federation of College Republicans and a regular contributor to The College Fix, said she is upset by the decision.

“Here we have women stepping up to be the leaders of the College Republicans,” she said. “We all pay into the system, it’s all our student fees.”

“They are denying us a great opportunity. It’s inconsistent and unfair.”

CU Boulder College Republicans sought $800 to help shoulder the travel costs for Leyshock, Scott and another female student to get to the Conservative Political Action Conference, a three-day event that launches March 6. They planned to pay registration fees out-of-pocket. A fourth female student from CU Denver was set to come along.

Last week, the Arts and Sciences Student Government initially approved the funding request. But on Saturday, CU Boulder College Republicans were told that the decision would be overturned.

In denying the request Tuesday, student government leaders cited a campus policy which states that “fees may not be used in support of or opposition to political candidates or for political parties. Requests for student fee support of partisan political activities will not be entertained.”

“Unfortunately, your funding request does not satisfy this requirement,” Jerome Castillon, president of the Arts and Sciences Student Government, stated in an email to Scott. “I am aware that other student groups have received funding to attend partisan conferences and other political functions, but they were not funded by student fees.”

In response, Scott emphasized the money was sought only for travel, not to support a political candidate or party, adding no student-fee dollars would go toward supporting CPAC directly. She also told Castillon that CPAC is not an official event of the Republican Party.

“The conference tends to draw people from all over the political spectrum; whether they are liberal, libertarian, or conservative leaning,” she stated. “The Republican Party may promote this event, but so does the Libertarian Party and independent groups.”

“I have heard from friends they had their Democrat friends attend to give a perspective on leaders in the conservative movement. So this does not fall under a partisan political activity either.”

The argument did not pass muster with the student government.

Scott said it’s frustrating because other campus groups with political leanings get student fee-based support. Indeed, some CU Boulder students were recently given funding to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference, scheduled for this weekend in Washington, D.C.

What’s more, Scott – a former CU Boulder student government legislative treasurer – said that everything from the Vagina Monologues to student groups that support legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage get student-fee funding. Student fees help fund attendance at gay-straight alliance conferences and pay for immigration reform and atheist speakers on campus, she added.

But the College Republicans get denied.

“It’s ridiculous,” Scott said. “They fund liberal events all the time.”

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David Barnett faced a low point in his life when his house was destroyed by fire in 2010.

The 43-year-old associate professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado – Boulder says he was stunned and shell-shocked. He’d lost almost everything.

Yet despite the tragedy, he retained his creativity, quirkiness – and desire to be the next tech-gadget entrepreneur to sweep the nation. And ironically, it was the fire that helped him get there.

Barnett invested his insurance money to help bring his brainchild – PopSockets – to life, and to the mass market.

“So the fire was quite good for me,” Barnett said. “I never could have afforded it without the fire.”

Today – after five years of hard work, 60-plus prototypes, Kickstarter hiccups, and that fire – and his dream is now a reality.

PopSockets are an accessory for smart phones and iPods. They’re two circular gadgets that connect to the back of tech devices and can expand out like an accordion a few inches, serving as a headset cord wrap, handgrip, a way to prop up the device, or a tool to help text or take photos with just one hand.PopSockets2

Barnett’s ah-ha moment began in December 2009, when he set out to resolve the problem of tangled headsets during his workouts at the CU Recreation Center.

For the earliest model, Barnett affixed two large buttons to the back of his iPod. The buttons allowed him to wind up his headset without tangling them, though the solution had drawbacks.

“I got made fun of a lot because it was so ugly and bulky,” Barnett said. “But then I found a way to make them collapse.”

Finding the right recipe for collapsible sockets was no picnic, since he had to find a material supple enough to collapse yet rigid enough to stay collapsed when desired. Barnett prototyped about 60 different versions of PopSockets before he found a model with all the desired qualities.

PopSockets made their public debut in early 2012 on, a website that allows entrepreneurs to attract investors for their products with videos.

Barnett’s video has him dancing in the philosophy department’s Morris Reading Room while demonstrating the many uses of PopSockets. He portrays himself graciously accepting a Nobel Prize for his brainchild.

The comedic, booty-shaking video garnered mixed reviews from the gadget-nerd-o-sphere.

Matthew Humphries of wrote of Barnett: “[Barnett's Kickstarter] video is either a love or hate affair depending on your tastes, but if you hate it, you definitely shouldn’t overlook what could be a very useful case design.”

One Kickstarter commenter was less nuanced: “Pay him whatever he wants… as long as he quits dancing.”

Barnett met his $12,000 dollar goal within five days, providing him with ample reason to dance. All told, he managed to net $18,591 dollars from his efforts. Barnett also netted $2,500 dollars for winning the 2012 Mercedez-Benz “Fueling Innovation” competition hosted by Wired Magazine.  

A deal with Case-Made looked promising last year, but ultimately didn’t pan out as hoped. Barnett offered refunds to about 25 percent of his Kickstarter backers who felt frustrated by the delays.

The first taste of commercial success came when Barnett found a manufacturer in China last year. Last October, his technology became patented, and in November, his product became available online.

So far, Barnett has sold over 1,000 pairs—without any major advertising campaign.

With that, Barnett was able to reward a majority of his backers who stuck it out with credit at his website.

One early fan is Barnett’s colleague in the philosophy department, Associate Professor Chris Heathwood, who claims that no fewer than five pairs of PopSockets are known to exist at the Heathwood residence.

“I like the photo grip,” Heathwood said, demonstrating a “selfie” pose with his phone. “The grip is surprisingly nice. So if I’m taking pictures, I can do one hand pretty easily.”

Barnett said the PopSocket future looks as bright as the PopSockets themselves, which feature a variety of hip and colorful designs. A new PopSockets case for the Iphone 5 is forthcoming, as are several major business deals.

And Barnett claims that he will soon unveil new products that use his now-patented technology.     

“People said to me: ‘What if you don’t sale a single one? You’ve put all that work and money into it for nothing,’” Barnett said. “I can probably honestly say it wouldn’t bother me a bit. I’ve had fun and I’ve learned a lot.”

He later added, “It would be great, though, if people actually bought these on the market.”

Barnett lives in Boulder, Colo., with his wife, Nikki, and their 4-month old daughter, Emily.

Fix contributor Spencer Case is a philosophy graduate student at the University of Colorado. He is a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and an Egypt Fulbright alumnus.


Allegedly it’s a man’s world inside the University of Colorado – Boulder’s philosophy department, according to a report by the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women Site Visit Program.

Somehow, with a name like that, you know it’s not going to turn out well.

“The University of Colorado on Friday made public an independent investigation that found pervasive sexual harassment and bullying within the philosophy department, a report that has now led administrators to remove the chairman and suspend all graduate student admissions into the department until at least fall 2015,” the Daily Camera reports:

The committee’s report on the philosophy department cites 15 complaints made to CU’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment since 2007, and found that female members of the department are leaving or trying to leave at disproportionate rates after reportedly feeling anxious, depressed and demoralized. …

Many philosophy faculty members … acknowledged that problems existed, however they said they felt the report exaggerated the extent of the issues. …

The 15-page report, delivered to CU officials in late November, found:

Many instances of sexual harassment occurred while faculty and graduate students were socializing after hours, which often included heavy drinking.

CU’s philosophy department has a reputation among the international philosophical community of being extremely unfriendly to women.

Many members of the department reported working from home, dropping out of departmental life and avoiding socializing with colleagues because of the workplace environment.

Read more.

IMAGE: Grafixtek.Flickr


If a group of ethnic studies professors has their way, two recently remodeled dorms at the University of Colorado Boulder will be given difficult to read and pronounce - yet culturally sensitive – monikers.

Initially, the dorms were to be renamed after Chief Niwot and Chief Little Raven, two Arapaho chiefs known for their peaceful methods in dealing with early American pioneers and settlers.

That decision came in July, when the CU Planning Board approved the new names for the dorms. The newly remodeled Kittredge Central was to be renamed Little Raven Hall, and likewise Kittredge West was to become Niwot Hall.

However, members of the Native American and Indigenous Studies department want the dorm Little Raven Hall to be called “Houusoo” (pronounced Hosa) and “Niwot Hall” to be dubbed Nowoo3 (pronounced Nawath).

Whether students, parents, and visitors are able to read or correctly pronounce Houusoo or Nowoo3 is not a concern among the professors who signed a Nov. 13 letter to campus leaders calling for the name changes.

“While the orthographies might initially seem foreign or hard to understand to non-Arapahos and non-Natives, choosing to spell Nowoo3 as Niwot would be equivalent to spelling Charles de Gaulle’s name phonetically (Sharl duh Gahl), which is culturally chauvinist and clearly primitivizing in a Native American context,” the letter states.

Professors affiliated with the CU Boulder Native American and Indigenous Studies department were not happy about the “Anglicization” of the chiefs’ names, the letter states. According to these professors, anglicized or phonetic spellings of the chief’s names are not sufficient enough in honoring their memory.

“Neither phonetic spellings (Hosa, Niwot) nor literal translations … of these options seems culturally sensitive and attuned to the unique political status of Native Americans and Arapahos in Colorado, specifically,” the letter states. “Houusoo and Nowoo3 were the names these pivotally important and pacifist-oriented chiefs were known by, and we should honor them in their own languages in their own home (i.e., Boulder).”

The name change has already been approved by campus officials and the request is slated to go before the CU Boulder Board of Regents in February for final approval.

CU Boulder would not be the first institution of higher education to name buildings in the native language of the person or culture they are honoring.

These other institutions include Stanford University, with a native themed residence hall called Muwekma-Tah-Ruk; University of Massachusetts Amherst has a Native American student community named Kanonhsesne; and a library at the University of British Columbia is named Xwi7xwa.

By continuing this trend, the CU Native Studies department states “CU Boulder would be consciously and mindfully joining its peer institutions in meeting scholarly standards of 21st century Indigenous Studies research.”

However Thomas Lifson, editor and publisher of American Thinker, asserts that the professors of CU Boulder might have crossed the line of cultural sensitivity and into the realm of ridiculousness despite their best intentions.

Lifson states that the professor’s requested spelling change of the dorms’ names “was both a product of academic formalism – the Native American Studies people after all have a stake in the standardized form of Romanization of the Arapaho Language – and political correctness, contained in the impulse to put the preferences and interests of the tribe above the need of the users – the members and guests at the University who are unfamiliar with the notation. Because CU is an academic institution, academic formalism is to be expected.”

Fix contributor Julianne Stanford is a student at University of Arizona.

IMAGE: Wally G./Flickr


Performances by teaching assistants portraying prostitutes - everything from a sex slave to an ‘upper-class bar whore’ – is allegedly at the crux of a controversy in which a popular and eccentric professor at one of the most liberal universities in the nation claims she is being forced to retire.

“It is with a sad heart that I share the news that I am being pressured to accept an early retirement package by the University of Colorado,” CU Boulder sociology professor Patti Adler wrote on her Facebook page Saturday. “The culture of political correctness along with the culture of fear shoved me through the process in less than a week without even a complainant or a legitimate investigation. It is frightening that a full, tenured professor would be treated this way on the first time a concern is raised, with no possibility to react to the concerns.”

Adler teaches a popular class called “Deviance in U.S. Society,” which looks at “how groups of people have the power to shape social definitions and apply them onto others,” according to an online syllabus, which does not mention the prostitution monologues.

“We will then look at the consequences for those defined as deviant of this label,” the class description states. “We will look at how people come to develop a deviant identity and what that means to them in the exercise of their everyday lives.”

The controversial prostitution lecture “is given as a skit in which many of Adler’s teaching assistants dress up as various types of prostitutes,” the Daily Camera reports. “The teaching assistants portrayed prostitutes ranging from sex slaves to escorts, and described their lifestyles and what led them to become prostitutes.”

One former teaching assistant also told the Camera she portrayed an “upper-class bar whore.”

“Students said Adler … told the class that she was being forced into retirement because the administration thought her lecture on prostitution was inappropriate, degrading to women and offensive to some minority communities,” the newspaper added. “Adler told her students she tried to negotiate with the administration about leaving the skit off the syllabus. Administrators allegedly told Adler that in the era of sex scandals at schools like Penn State University, they couldn’t let her keep teaching.”

In a statement to the Daily Camera, a university official said Adler remains a professor at the university and noted “the university cannot force anyone to retire, especially a tenured faculty member.”

Students, meanwhile, have rallied to keep the professor on campus with an online petition and social media campaign. Comments on Adler’s “Rate My Professor” page are mostly good, saying the scholar’s tests are very hard but her lectures are fun and interesting, although several students wrote Adler is weird.

The Daily Camera reports Adler has worn a bikini to class as well as dressed as a homeless person to illustrate deviance; many students said they believe the situation amounts to “an attempt to squash creativity among professors who teach in nontraditional ways or about provocative subjects.”

Read more.

IMAGE: Jay Verspeelt/Flickr

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