Education

Fight For and Against Mark Kennedy as CU President Gets Even Uglier

Mark Kennedy making a point during an appearance at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs last week.
Mark Kennedy making a point during an appearance at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs last week. YouTube
The debate over whether former congressman Mark Kennedy should become the next University of Colorado president has only gotten nastier in the wake of his appearances at CU campuses last week — sessions marked by concerns over and pointed questions about his hard-right politics and allegedly shaky record at the University of North Dakota, his previous academic stop.

The university's Faculty Council subsequently issued a "Report on Mark Kennedy and Ethical Misconduct" that listed eight reasons why he shouldn't take over the $4.5 billion enterprise that is CU — assertions that Kennedy promptly attempted to undermine, as laid out in excerpts from an "Open Letter Addressing Faculty Letter" below.

Linda Shoemaker and Irene Griego, two members of the board's Democratic minority, have now publicly said they'll oppose Kennedy when the regents sit down to vote on his candidacy — they're expected to do so at a meeting scheduled for today, May 2 — even though they joined their colleagues in unanimously naming him the sole finalist for the position. Meanwhile, Republican regent Chase Hill went nuclear in a Facebook post declaring his support for Kennedy in language that was positively Trumpian.

"Come Hell or high water, I will proudly and unapologetically vote Yes this Thursday to appoint Mark Kennedy as our next CU President," Hill wrote. "Whether he is confirmed or not remains to be seen. But I will not reward a small, well-orchestrated Far Leftist mob — who in my opinion represents a mentality as dangerous to this nation’s future as any foreign threat we face. The Far Left has deployed shameful tactics in this context. And as long as the Far Left engages in this bullying behavior, we must confront them. Perhaps some day we will demonstrate that they cannot win through intimidation. It’s up to us."


Because Republicans represent a majority on the Board of Regents (a rarity in current statewide politics owing to last November's blue-wave election), the GOP contingent can essentially hire Kennedy despite any and all misgivings as long as there are no defections from the ranks, and they have a history of sticking together. Note that the previous two CU presidents, ex-Senator Hank Brown and former gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Benson, hail from the same party.

But Dems aren't mutely sitting on the sidelines. Governor Jared Polis tweeted, "It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude." And Mark Udall, who represented Boulder in the U.S. House of Representatives before becoming a one-term senator, issued a statement that reads in part, "Too many questions remain unanswered and a new president who doesn’t have a broad cross section of support from all of Colorado’s stakeholders will be hamstrung from the very beginning of his or her tenure."

As for the Faculty Council, its chair, CU Denver English professor Joanne Addison, writes via email that "I’d prefer for the report to speak for itself, especially given that Kennedy hasn’t responded directly to the issues raised (he responded, but not directly to the specific issues we raised)." However, Addison shared data from more than 2,800 feedback forms submitted by faculty, staff, students, administrators, alumnae and community members, as collected by the council's executive committee. The results were exceedingly negative toward Kennedy, as seen in the following graphic, which depicts the overall rating by constituency.

click to enlarge UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO FACULTY COUNCIL
University of Colorado Faculty Council
Here are the eight problematic issues for Kennedy as identified by the Faculty Council, with each standard-print item juxtaposed with his italicized reply.


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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts