DENVER – University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman (search) announced her resignation Monday amid a football recruiting scandal and an uproar over a professor who compared Sept. 11 victims to a notorious Nazi.
Hoffman said the University of Colorado (search) needs a fresh start after the many controversies that have rattled the school, especially a football scandal that produced allegations of rapes, strip-club visits and alcohol-fueled sex parties for recruits.
"It appears to me it is in the university's best interest that I remove the issue of my future from the debate so that nothing inhibits CU's ability to successfully create the bright future it so deserves," Hoffman wrote in her resignation letter.
Hoffman, who has been president for five years, told the Board of Regents that her resignation is effective June 30 or whenever the board names a successor.
At least nine women have said they were assaulted by Colorado football players or recruits since 1997, and an independent commission reported last year that Colorado players used sex, alcohol and marijuana as recruiting tools.
Just last week, a sealed grand jury report leaked to the media said two female trainers alleged they were sexually assaulted by an assistant coach and that a "slush fund" was created with money from coach Gary Barnett's (search) football camp.
The grand jury, which finished meeting Aug. 19, handed up a single indictment accusing a former football recruiting aide of soliciting a prostitute for himself and misusing a school-issued cell phone.
A parallel investigation by then-Attorney General Ken Salazar (search) into the alleged assaults resulted in no charges; prosecutors cited concerns about evidence and the reluctance of the women to go forward with the cases.
There were other headline-grabbing incidents over the last year — the latest surrounding activist professor Ward Churchill (search), who likened World Trade Center victims to Nazi Adolf Eichmann (search).
Among other things, the professor said the people killed in the World Trade Center were "little Eichmanns," a reference to the Nazi bureaucrat who helped organize the murder of 6 million Jews.
In February, administrators took the first steps toward a possible dismissal of Churchill.
Board of Regents Chairman Jerry Rutledge said Hoffman would be missed, but added that the university "has suffered greatly from a series of controversies that seem to be growing, not abating."
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hoffman said her decision was based solely on a belief that her resignation would help relieve some pressure on the university.
"It was not prompted by the editorial, not prompted by pressure from the governor," she said. "To me it's about principle, it's about taking a very strong stand and putting the university ahead of myself or any other individual."
The Denver Post, one of the state's largest newspapers, said in an editorial Friday that the university would benefit from new leadership, and Gov. Bill Owens (search) has pushed for the dismissal of the professor.
A review of Churchill's speeches and writings is being conducted to determine if the professor overstepped his boundaries of academic freedom and whether that should be grounds for dismissal.
Hoffman said last week that Churchill would not be fired if the review turns up only inflammatory comments, not misconduct. She also said she feared a "new McCarthyism" that endangers academic freedom.