University of Colorado teachers forced to swear they’ll uphold the US Constitution?

I’m an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where I teach about technology and business topics, including blogging, web site design, and online marketing. It’s fun, interesting, and I get to give something back to the community, lots of positive karma and all that.
To date, it’s been straightforward and really not much bother, other than parking, but that’s the same at any large college in my experience. Until this morning, when I got the following email…


“Dear Instructors: The University is now requiring that every instructor � whether credit or non credit � sign the official State of Colorado Oath. Recently it had become a quite publicized requirement for professors and permanent faculty.”
The message continues: “The oath itself is pretty straightforward and simple. Please print a copy of oath from this URL. You will need to sign the line near the top that says �Signature� and print your name underneath. Also, you get to choose whether you want to �swear� or �affirm�. Just cross out the word you do not want to use.”
Okay, so I can deal with some sort of oath, I guess. But let’s have a quick look at what the document says…
I solemnly {swear}* {affirm}* that I will uphold the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Colorado, and I will faithfully perform the duties of the position upon which I am about to enter.
Now that’s an odd thing for me to have to swear to in front of a notary public and have on file, isn’t it? Why would I have to even be conscious of the constitution to be an effective and valuable instructor for the University? Hmm…
Take a moment and go read the Constitution of the United States of America. Given that I’m not a senator, congressman, or President of the country, there’s really precious little that’s relevant at all. Maybe it’s all about the amendments? Nope, it’s still all about the laws of the land and nothing that can possibly have any impact or meaning on the workings of the University.
Maybe it’s the State of Colorado Constitution that’s interesting? According to the introduction by former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton “Did you know that the Constitution prohibits nuclear detonations in the state? [Article XXVI.] (This provision will surely come in handy if a foreign power threatens to drop The Bomb.) Or that planting a hedge on your property will not increase the property tax? [Article XVIII section 7.] Did you realize the Constitution gives you a right-of-way across public and private lands to build ditches and flumes? [Article XVI section 7.] More seriously, Colorado voters have limited the ability of government to impose taxes without the people�s consent [Article X section 20], and have limited the terms of state officials [Article XVIII section 11]. By the important power to initiate constitutional amendments, the voters of Colorado have been able to successfully rein in government.”
This still doesn’t really answer the question, so I’m rather stuck.
Fortunately, the University states explicitly in the Faculty Handbook that Oath is not vague or indefinite and does not curtail freedom of expression. Oath required of employees and faculty at state university, by which taker would swear or affirm to support the federal and state constitutions and laws is not vague and indefinite and does not have a tendency to curtail freedom of expression, since recognition of and respect for law in no way prevents the right to dissent and question repugnant laws.
This all seems very strange, and somehow I think there’s a larger political agenda afoot here, some sort of capability that the University is gaining to be able to terminate employees who, in some vague way, act against the Constitution, but how? I’d welcome any theories or explanation!

3 comments on “University of Colorado teachers forced to swear they’ll uphold the US Constitution?

  1. Ah… now the *real* question is whether they want you to uphold the “original” intentions of the founding fathers, or treat the U.S. constitution as a “living document”, subject to constant reinrepretation.
    The influential Heritage Foundation (founded by Colorado’s own Coors family) is of course a key proponent of “originalism”.
    You’re going to have to go back and read some of the writings of the founding fathers from the “red colonies” to discern what original intentions they had for all of the misguided academics that infest out society.
    I wonder… can you get away with mumbling the oath?
    Of course, maybe all they really want is for you evil academics to recognize that you have a solemn obligation to respect the constitutional rights of your students.
    — Jack Krupansky

  2. I also teach at the University of Colorado as an instructor and adjunct. (Come take my Photoshop for the Web course through CU Continuing Ed. It’s gotten rave reviews.) Anyway, I was really surprised to learn that even instructors of non-credit classes are now required to sign this oath. Apparently anyone who hadn’t signed by the end of this semester would not be paid! Now that’s what I call freedom of choice. Wait – we did get some choice. We could elect to either “swear” or “affirm” the oath. I did both – one under my breath.

  3. I have just come across your information about swearing an oath. This loathsome requirement reminds me of my student days at Boulder (1952-1956) and of experiences my professors (and even I) had during those dark and detestable times. It is regrettable that the stale, suffocating odor of those years has recurred. Had I known of these tendencies when a young man called to ask for a small contribution, I would have thought more carefully about making it.
    If the oath is as inconsequential as the Faculty Handbook has it, why have the oath in the first place? If, as I suspect it must have, the oath has consequences, it has no place in a university.
    Please email me more material about the oath and what reactions to it on campus have been.
    Thank you,
    Peter K. Breit ’56
    Prof. emeritus

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