Kennedy named University of Colorado president amid protests

May 2, 2019

DENVER (AP) — The University of Colorado named Mark Kennedy as its next president Thursday amid protests that the former Republican U.S. representative is out of step with the school’s values.

Regents voted 5-4 along party lines in favor of Kennedy, who is currently president of the University of North Dakota. Kennedy has been criticized for his conservative congressional voting record, as well as for his responses during several open forums, since he was selected in April as the lone finalist for the job.

The concerns dealt mainly with his votes against marriage equality when he represented Minnesota in the House from 2001 to 2007. He voted against gay marriage and in favor of abortion restrictions — decisions that didn’t sit well with left-leaning CU students and faculty, The Denver Post reported .

Some regents began wavering soon after students and faculty protested the selection, and even Colorado Gov. Jared Polis weighed in by advocating for a president who “unites the board.”

“It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude,” Polis wrote in an April tweet.

Regent Lesley Smith, a Democrat holding an at-large seat on the board, said she could not vote for Kennedy because CU’s faculty did not support his candidacy.

“With the exception of a small handful, the overwhelming majority of faculty do not want Mark Kennedy to be the next president of our illustrious (flagship) university system,” she said.

During Kennedy’s tours across the four CU campuses, he shared his experience as a first-generation college student and touted his business acumen and academic accomplishments that included seeing North Dakota through difficult budget cuts.

“We’re not hiring Mark Kennedy to be a politician. He will not be a political president of the University of Colorado,” said Regent John Carson, a Republican from Highlands Ranch. “He will be the president of CU, period. And I have great confidence he will check his personal political beliefs at the door.”

Kennedy will succeed Bruce Benson, also a Republican, on July 1. His three-year, 15-day contract includes $650,000 in base salary for the first year, then $850,000 a year beginning June 15, 2020.


Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com