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UCD's new conservatism class is funded by...conservatives

Students at the University of Colorado Denver will be able to take a new class on conservative thought this summer thanks to the efforts of the Leadership Institute, a Virginia-based organization dedicated to taking campuses back in time. The class, Conservative Political Thought in America, incorporates the writings of some big thinkers from the pantheon of conservatism/libertarianism, like Russell Kirk, Murray Rothbard and George Nash, and will be taught by Department of Political Science instructor Ryan McMaken.

UCD's information on the class, available on the poli-sci department's website, reads, "This is a course covering the intellectual history of American right-wing movements since the New Deal. The course will seek to help students gain a better understanding of these movements by examining the sometimes bitter debate between conservatives and libertarians on the American right." More information is available at a site called www.rightwingthought.com, and the Leadership Institute has apparently implemented similar programs at Brown University, the University of Virginia and American University.

It's unclear how many of UCD's other classes are designed by outside organizations with specific agendas — a spokeswoman for the university didn't return a call from Off Limits seeking comment, and another UCD employee declined to speak on the record — but we're guessing that a class designed by conservatives for conservatives might benefit from a few suggestions for term-paper subjects in Conservatism 101 that deal with the realities of being a conservative today. Here are two possibilities:

How to communicate with an Obama birther or Tea Party member

Conservative political principles have little to do with conspiracy theories about the birthplace of Barack Obama or lowest-common-denominator radio pundits, but you're all under the same GOP tent now. To keep the crazies from voting for like-minded nuts, how do you explain old-school conservative principles?

How to compromise on a candidate

Your candidate campaigned on promises of lower taxes, smaller government and conservative fiscal management. But once he got into office, he signed on to a bill endorsing a gay-marriage ban and then directed millions of dollars to a pet project being financed by a donor — one that will actually make government bigger. Oh, and then he cut taxes — for the rich, but not for you. Ah, politics. Explain that compromises can be hard to take and what a conservative can do to rationalize what is happening.

News cycle: With so many topics to handle in this election cycle, students in UCD's new class on conservative political thought may not have time to take on bike sharing. But that wasn't the case back in 2010, when GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes insinuated that Denver B-cycle was part of a mysterious United Nations plot.

But perhaps they should be concerned after all. According to Denver Bike Shares director Parry Burnap, B-cycle is trying to help poor people. In 2011, the nonprofit received a $25,000 grant from the Kaiser Foundation's LiveWell Colorado to help B-cycle recruit users from poor neighborhoods and people living in Denver Housing Authority projects. It wasn't an easy task: To check out one of the red bikes, you need a credit card — something a lot of low-income people don't have — and you have to deal with throngs of hipsters standing in line with you. So B-cycle issued free annual passes — in card form — to some people and waived the usage fees.

But it didn't work, at least not right away. "The response was startlingly low," Burnap says. But B-cycle tried again this year and is getting a better reaction. "It's a complicated process," she notes. "This should be a transportation alternative for everyone, not just early adopters, who, according to our surveys, tend to be wealthy, well-educated and white. We want to make it accessible and affordable for everyone. We are not there yet."

Nationally, she adds, bike-sharing programs aren't that popular in poorer, more diverse neighborhoods, where "there are cultural and behavioral barriers, as well as safety and infrastructure problems."


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