Charles “CJ” Johnson – CU Regent At Large

2024 primary — candidate q&a


Boulder Weekly sent candidate questionnaires to all state primary candidates. These are their written responses, edited for length and clarity. Find a full list of candidates and questionnaires here.

Office: University of Colorado Board of Regents, At Large
Campaign website:

Relevant experience 

Assistant athletics director, CU Boulder
Member, CU Board of Trustees
Member, Leeds Business School Board of Advisors

I have the lived experience of being offered the opportunity to attend CU, and it not only changed my life, but the life of my family, my children and generations to come. My goal is to make my CU experience the rule for others, and not the exception. 

I have over 35 years of direct experience with CU Boulder, the CU system and have served in various capacities within CU’s student government and also as a student athlete. 


  • Prioritize financial sustainability: Address funding challenges creatively to uphold education quality, manage tuition costs and boost financial aid accessibility at CU
  • Foster diversity and inclusion: Promote inclusivity, support underrepresented groups and cultivate a diverse community for a welcoming environment
  • Advocate mental health and wellbeing: Emphasize student wellbeing by prioritizing services and support to create a healthy campus environment conducive to learning and growth

Lightning round

Yes/no answers only

Would you support the University of Colorado’s divestment from fossil fuels? Yes
Would you support a tuition freeze or tuition cap policy within the CU system? Yes
Do you support elimination of tenured positions within the CU system? No
Do you believe higher education — in its current state — benefits the nation? Yes 
Do you support the Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling on affirmative action? No

When was the last time you paid rent? How much was it?

June 2018 – May 2023; $4,800-$6,300/month in downtown Denver

What are the top challenges facing the University of Colorado system today, and how will you address them?

  • Affordability
  • Accessibility
  • Sustainability and resilience

Affordability: Ensuring affordable tuition for students across our campuses in Colorado Springs, UC Denver and CU Boulder is paramount. With a recent increase in student applications to the University of Colorado, my focus is on making attendance for Colorado residents as accessible/affordable as possible for Coloradans within our University system.

Ensuring housing affordability is crucial for students and employees residing near campuses, research facilities, and healthcare institutions statewide. As a member of the CU Board of Regents, I aim to unite private and public partners in tackling the housing crisis affecting students and the CU workforce. This involves collaborating with local governments and organizations to develop innovative zoning and planning solutions that facilitate a wider range of housing choices.

Accessibility: Enhancing accessibility involves more than just affordability. It’s crucial to ensure that the University of Colorado appeals to students from Eads to Grand Junction, Pueblo to Thornton, from elementary to high school. My goal is to leverage the excitement surrounding CU’s athletics, research and innovative educational programs to showcase the system as an inclusive choice, encouraging a wider range of students to apply and enroll. By making the CU System more cost-effective and representative of Colorado’s diverse communities, we can attract a broader spectrum of students and staff.

Sustainability & Resiliency: The University of Colorado system manages a multibillion-dollar budget. It’s crucial to optimize processes to ensure resources effectively reach employees and students, making a significant economic impact in our state. By maximizing each dollar’s potential, we can enhance the support provided to the students and staff of our public institution. This strategic approach will position the University to attract the most talented individuals to our campuses.

What are the top challenges facing CU students today, and how will you address them?

  • Economy
  • Social justice
  • Affordability

The Economy: Inflation is impacting everyone, and students are feeling this burden. Students I talk to are struggling to keep up with their tuition and often question if the investment in a four-year degree will result in a career that can afford a life in Colorado.

Affordability: Families across the nation are conflicted on whether or not the return on investment for a college education still makes sense. This tragic reality is forcing students to make alternative decisions that can have a negative long-term impact on their future. Decisions regarding the cost to attain higher education must be made with this reality in mind. The choices families are facing can no longer be six-figure debt for students in exchange for a college degree. 

There are a number of ways CU can help reduce cost for students, such as establishing a more robust relationship with community colleges by accepting credits that can reduce time to graduation and more effectively leveraging technology to extend curriculum to citizens in more remote/rural areas of the state. The bottom line is as leaders we must innovate our way to more viable solutions for Colorado families. 

Social Justice: Addressing inequity and social injustice is crucial, with a specific focus on the U.S.’ role in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Engaging with protesting students against Netanyahu and meeting with Jewish American students and their families, who express safety concerns, has underscored the imperative for campuses to foster secure spaces for exercising our constitutional right to free speech. I am dedicated to actively listening and advocating for justice consistently. As a CU Regent, I will urge the board to demonstrate leadership and courage in allowing students to voice their opinions. Progress thrives through attentive listening and responsiveness.

What is your plan for limiting or reversing tuition and fee increases for students?

The two primary drivers for the increase in cost are tuition and housing. Unfortunately, the CU system faces significant challenges in both areas. Since TABOR was written into the state’s constitution, we’ve seen a drastic decrease in state funding for public colleges and universities and as a result tuition continues to increase to make up for the difference. This also disproportionately impacts Colorado residents because the allure of out state tuition has become more attractive to CU. 

Additionally, students are faced with having to overcome an extremely expensive housing market within the state. I have proposed and will continue to work on public/private partnerships that would create affordable housing opportunities for students who qualify given their family’s economic situation. I believe this innovative approach to housing will positively impact CU’s ability to attract and retain more students of color. 

What, in your view, is CU’s role in addressing the affordable housing crisis within the communities where it operates? How could it be better in this regard?

Housing is perhaps the most important factor in driving up the cost of higher education. CU has a very important role to play in getting these costs under control. We are experiencing nationally a reduction in applications to colleges and universities (CU is an exception this year) in part due to the skyrocketing cost of housing. In order to sustain interest from high school graduates, we must make sure the cost to get a college degree doesn’t continue to outpace the earning capacity of middle and working class coloradans. 

As I mentioned in a previous question, CU must control housing assets that can be provided to students below-market rates. 

How would you evolve the Benson Center for Western Studies / Visiting Conservative Scholar program to balance academic rigor with diversity of thought? Please suggest three future scholars.

In wake of our current political environment, I believe CU and the Benson Center should work to strike a more balanced approach to its visiting scholar program. Past visiting scholars like John Eastman have negatively impacted the credibility of this particular program. 

I would like to see CU sponsor scholars programs that more broadly reflect the thoughts and ideas that are regularly expressed on our campus and beyond — scholars whose job is to provide perspectives rooted in research and study should not be in the business of promoting any particular political orthodoxy. 

While there are a number of qualified individuals I could list as future scholars, I would be most interested in soliciting the input of our student body as part of the decision-making process. 

[Editor’s note: Regents do not have oversight over the Benson Center or its hiring decisions, as it is privately funded]

CU Boulder recently published a new Climate Action Plan. How will you prioritize its implementation and curb the campus’ emissions of fossil fuels?

I’m encouraged by CU taking the lead and making public its Climate Action Plan which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (50%) by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. CU Boulder has a well established reputation as one of America’s leading research institutions, and I believe has a responsibility to provide knowledge and leadership on issues like climate change. Understanding the fluid nature of long term plans like the CAP I would be a champion for a sustained commitment and if possible an acceleration of the current goals set in the CAP.

How can CU ensure diversity within its system (students, staff, faculty, etc.)? Are there any populations that are being overlooked that you would like to see more emphasis on recruitment and retention.  

As a proud African American alumni of the University of Colorado, I am embarrassed at our inability to attract and retain students of color. In 1988, I was elected to serve as the president of CU’s Black Student Alliance. More than 35 years later, we have made little to no progress in effectively recruiting and retaining underrepresented students. In fact, representation on Boulder’s campus among hispanic and black students are far below their populations within the state of Colorado and as a percentage of the student body the black student population is lower than it was 35 years ago. 

As a student athlete, I participated in and benefited from recruitment and retention programs that were very successful at CU. This particular success was recognized amongst students (players) and staff (coaches) alike.  DEI outcomes are dependent on leadership’s will to hold accountable individuals and functions within the organization that are responsible for stated goals. In our ever changing world it is incumbent upon CU to diversify its population (students, faculty and staff) in order to prepare its student body for an evolving world that’s growing more diverse. 

What efforts do you make in your daily life to consider and understand people with different lived experiences from your own?  

It’s been my mission since serving in student government at CU Boulder in the late eighties to bridge the gap between people from different walks of life. I fundamentally believe that our success as a nation is directly connected to our ability to understand and respect differences. In my role as VP of DEI for Ball Corporation, I led the charge in making the company more inclusive for employees of all backgrounds. As a result, in 2019 Ball was recognized by Forbes Magazine as the top large employer in the United States for its DEI efforts. 

Under my leadership Ball was also able to earn a 100% score for six out of seven years on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index which evaluates companies acceptance of and relationship with members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

When’s the last time you changed your mind about something, and what was it?

I’m not certain it was the last time I changed my mind about something, but for the majority of my adult life I allowed political differences to largely impact the depth of my relationship with others. Over time, I realized my mindset was completely wrong and that I shared core beliefs about a number of things with people from different walks of life and with completely different political beliefs. I recognized my old mindset was part of the problem we face in our nation today. 

I have made a conscious decision to start relationships with things we share in common, like the desire to make sure our loved ones are safe and secure, values that include the need for our children to have access to quality education and the right for each of us to have fair and equal access that’s granted to every citizen within the constitution. I do believe that vigorous debate about issues can be conducted without the need to dehumanize those with different positions. I believe as public officials or thought leaders we must demonstrate civility in our public discourse to combat the self-destructive environment we now live in. 

What question would you ask a fellow candidate on the ballot?

I would be interested to know who is the one person (dead or alive) they would most want to have dinner with.


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