CU's Presidential Finalist: The Right Choice for CU?

In an announcement on Wednesday, the CU Board of Regents unanimously named Mark R. Kennedy the finalist to replace Bruce Benson in the CU presidency. Kennedy is currently the president of the University of North Dakota and has previously held the position of Director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.

Source // SayAnythingBlog.com

Prior to his time in the administration of higher education, Kennedy served as a member of the House of Representatives for Minnesota’s 2nd and 6th districts from 2001 to 2007. Kennedy attended the University of Michigan and received his Master of Business Administration degree from the Ross School of Business.

Kennedy’s voting record has shown him to be a strong Conservative, voting in 2006 to Constitutionally define marriage as one-man-one-woman and describing himself as “100% pro-life.” While holding office, he received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, was rated 7% by the ACLU for his anti-civil rights views, and was rated 17% by the National Education Association for an anti-public education voting record.

Source // Getty Images

In addition to this problematic voting record, Kennedy has somewhat of an unreliable record in higher education administration, exemplified during his time at the University of North Dakota. Only two years into his presidency at the university, Kennedy went on to interview for the presidency position at the University of Central Florida.

While he ultimately was not selected for the job, when he returned to North Dakota, many were unsure of the strength of his leadership and his dedication to UND after news broke of his job hunt. Eric Murphy, an associate professor at the University of North Dakota, said that Kennedy’s decision to look into a position at a new university so soon after being named president of UND lent to a “less stable environment no matter what he does.”

During his time at the University of North Dakota, Kennedy has made many controversial decisions, including cutting the women’s hockey team, demolishing multiple buildings on the UND campus to cut costs, and his comments regarding the reversal of his decision to hire his chief of staff from a remote working position. Kennedy alleges that the criticism regarding his chief of staff stems from a lack of understanding about "how a young African-American woman from the South could be as qualified and worthy" to take on the job, telling the Daily Camera that he is "quite confident it is about more than remote working."

In response to these comments, the former governor of North Dakota and the interim president before Kennedy's arrival, Ed Schafer, said that the issue was not with his chief of staff's race and gender but "was about President Kennedy bumping her position, without notice and without posting to an unneeded chief of staff, and then a large salary increase and then saying ‘oh, you don’t have to work here.’ It didn’t have anything to do with her color or her race or gender. It had to do with his actions."

Source // The Washington Post

During his time at George Washington University, it was also revealed that Kennedy also has a history of discrimination within the workplace, contributing to a hostile work environment. David Marshall, an ex-employee of the Graduate School of Political Management, accused Kennedy of discriminating against him due to his sexual orientation. Between Marshall and four other employees, many complaints were filed against Kennedy for homophobic behavior. He was ultimately fired by Kennedy for mishandling financial reports by the school. Prior to his firing, he mentioned that he was afraid of retaliation from Kennedy for filing complaints. Yet another employee mentioned that he was afraid to file any complaints about Kennedy's behavior at all for fear of retaliation.

Image result for george washington university graduate school of political managementSource // GWU Graduate School of Political Management

As the CU community reacts with disappointment and outrage, it is very clear that Mark Kennedy is not the best candidate for the president of CU. In an interview with KUNC, Denver Chernin, a junior at CU Boulder, agrees with this sentiment, saying, "The ideals of CU is [sic] that you can be yourself and find yourself at this school. Mr. Kennedy threatens these ideals that make CU the amazing place it is. He doesn't represent the students or the ideas we hold." Out Boulder County has started an open letter to the regents and CU YDSA and UMAS y MEXA de CU Boulder have begun organizing a rally against Mark Kennedy's appointment.

Kennedy's views are not compatible with many of the values our university system holds, given his voting record. The Board of Regents must also question Kennedy’s dedication to the presidency of our universities given his already flaky history with the University of North Dakota, as well as his anti-public education voting record. The regents and CU community need to ask themselves if Kennedy’s views should represent our university and if his voting record represents a commitment to bettering our community and  continuing to advance the progress of our university system.

In addition to questioning the finalist himself, I also question the regents' dedication to providing transparency to the CU body. According to the charge, a three page document that outlines the search committee's process and timeline, the regents had narrowed down the candidate pool to 5 candidates by this month. However, the regents are not releasing the names of the 5 candidates they were deciding between, preventing the community from knowing who else was eligible, and better suited, for this job. Moreover, it appears the regents and search committee ignored, or did not know, about Kennedy's voting record despite the fact that this search process takes about 6 months to complete.

Source // CU Boulder Today

After much backlash regarding his appointment, CU Regent Lesley Smith (D) tweeted, “Some information about Mark has come to light that is concerning; my colleagues and I will be exploring this further.” Smith also tweeted that feedback forms will be available on the CU website by the end of this week and as promised, they are on the website. There is a mandatory 14-day waiting period between the announcement of a presidential finalist and the official appointment. It is important that members of all CU schools voice their opinions on the appointment of Mark Kennedy as the next university president during this time.

Fill out the feedback forms. Sign the petitions. Show up at the rallies. Contact your regents. Let the CU Board of Regents know that Mark Kennedy does not represent the views and values of CU institutions.

Board of Regents contact information: 

Sue Sharkey, Chair - [email protected]

John "Jack" Kroll, Vice Chair - [email protected]

Linda Shoemaker - [email protected]

John Carson - [email protected].edu

Glen Gallegos - [email protected]

Heidi Ganahl - [email protected]

Irene Griego - [email protected]

Chance Hill - [email protected]

Lesley Smith - [email protected]

Kennedy will be visiting all CU campuses on the week of April 22nd. He will be on the CU Boulder campus on April 26th.