Meet The Next Republican Who Wants To Run CU

Former Rep. Mark Kennedy (R).

The campuses–Rush Limbaugh likes to call them “campii”–of the University of Colorado are alight with controversy this weekend over the selection by the Board of Regents of a ready-made controversy–in the form of a “sole finalist” to succeed retiring CU President and Republican kingpin Bruce Benson, who looks to be at least the polarizing figure that Benson represented if not much, much more. CU Independent:

The University of Colorado Board of Regents have selected Mark Kennedy as the finalist to replace Bruce Benson as CU president, citing his commitment to bipartisanship and diversity. But since the announcement, community members have raised concerns about Kennedy’s civil rights record as a politician…

Late-breaking news Thursday night from The Denver Post revealed that a Tuesday article from the Grand Forks Herald rumoring Kennedy’s move caused the board to push up the date of their announcement.

Regent Linda Shoemaker (D-Boulder) told the Post that because of this, Kennedy was not fully vetted before being announced as a finalist to the public.

“We need the press and the public to do the job in vetting him,” Shoemaker told the Post.

More from the Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez:

After the announcement, public backlash from CU students, parents, alumni, faculty and the local community surfaced surrounding Kennedy’s voting record during his time representing Minnesota in Congress from 2001 to 2007, and other past actions.

Kennedy voted in favor of restrictions on abortion and against gay marriage. He was one of 236 members of the House to vote for the Marriage Protection Amendment in July 2006, which would have amended the Constitution to say that marriage consists only of one man and one woman. The vote fell short of the 290 votes required for passage in the House.

The CU Independent’s story goes deeper into ex-GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy’s voting record in the U.S. House, with a voluminous record of votes against LGBT and abortion rights. In addition the American Civil Liberties Union rated Rep. Kennedy at a dismal 7% against their scorecard.

While in Congress, Kennedy voted in support of several anti-civil rights bills, demonstrating an anti-LGBT and pro-life life stance. Kennedy also voted against support for college programs geared towards minorities and bears an unfavorable track record when it comes to higher education…

Representatives for Governor Jared Polis, Colorado’s first openly LGBT governor, declined to comment on Kennedy’s selection. Kennedy has said that his first phone call as CU president would be to Polis.

During Bruce Benson’s decade-long term as President of the University of Colorado, the institution has steadily pushed its public-facing brand toward the political right. Benson was personally consumed with the idea of “ideological balance” in the University’s faculty and curriculum, and did everything he could to promote this idea without setting off outright rebellion. The position of “visiting professor of conservative thought” was created so conservative think-piecers like Stephen Hayward could offend the student body from a position of scholarly authority. Meanwhile CU’s Leeds School of Business morphed into a white paper mill for Republican talking points on a range of economic issues.

Kennedy responded to the growing anger over his hastily announced selection as sole finalist with an open letter to the CU community, insisting that personal his views on issues like abortion and LGBT rights have changed along with the evolving “societal consensus” on these issues–consensus that’s hard to see in Mark Kennedy’s Republican colleagues today. That dryly-worded letter has by most accounts done little or nothing to ease concerns about his selection. Kennedy’s opponents on the Boulder CU campus are organizing a major protest for Monday at noon expected to be attended by hundreds if not thousands of students and faculty.

For a proud institution that has suffered from decades of fiscal neglect, followed by a period of improved solvency in exchange for corporate dependency and dubious politics under Benson, the choice of the next President is extremely important with profound implications for the future of the state’s flagship “public” university.

At first glance–which is all anybody has had–this choice doesn’t look good.

22 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Voyageur says:

    I have three college degrees.  A bs in journalism and ms in labor economics from cu and a paralegal certificate from CCD.

    Thank God I have one degree I can display without embarrassing myself.

  2. Smoking Mirror says:

    Journalism FTW, V'ger!

  3. gertie97 says:

    My favorite part of this is the regent who said the board wants the press and public to vet the guy instead of the regents.

    Remind me what it is that regents are supposed to do?


  4. davebarnes says:

    Campus —> Campi, not campii.

    I cannot believe I agree with Rushbo.

    I am beginning to think that you people flunked high school Latin.

  5. The realist says:

    So discouraging that the Regents (who are either the governing Board, or are not) couldn't do better than this. I have a degree from CU and a Master's from UCCS. There are multiple CU degrees in my family. That they would select someone for President with these views illustrates this is not the institution of higher learning it used to be. Sad to see.

  6. mamajama55 says:

    CU is owned by the business community.

    Jake Jabs (the whack job conspiracy theory "Western Values" furniture magnate) gave $12 Mil to UCD Business and they're building a vanity events center for him. Jabs is a huge Republican donor, a Koch AFP funder, and personally helped shepherd Amendment 47, Colorado's "Right to Work" bill, into law.

    Google "Frackademia" and you'll find dozens of articles about how energy industries buy off research at major universities, including CU. Anadarko, Noble, and other O&G companies fund Leeds Business School, which explains why every oil and gas economics study they put out seriously inflates numbers to show a positive impact for oil and gas. The Leeds school was active in propagandizing against the 2500' setback rule, for instance. Leeds funder Common Sense Policy Roundtable (fake conservative "think tank) was also active in predicting economic DOOM as a result of passing  SB181.

    Former President Bruce Benson was always, and made no secret of being, a loyal oil and gas man first and foremost.

    Sure, CU is a bastion of liberal thought and all, and I've done UCD coursework myself. CU also funds an honest scientific group, AirWaterGas, that is compiling research on the public health costs of fossil fuel extraction.  But the lesson here is that one always, always has to follow the money. Otherwise, the interests of messaging for corporations take priority over honest academic research.

    Apparently our Board of Regents didn't get that memo.

    • Voyageur says:

      Isn't there a statute of limitations on whining about how the good people of Colorado crushed Stalinist 112?

      No?  Okay, then, break out the PBR and cheer!

      Ding dong, 112 is dead.

      112 is dead, 112 is dead.

      Joe Stalin's stupid plan is dead!!

  7. MADCO says:

    Sue Sharkey
    District 4, R
    2011-2017, 2017-2023

    CU Regent Kroll

    John "Jack" Kroll
    Vice Chair
    District 1, D


    Regent John Carson

    John Carson
    District 6, R

    CU Regent Glen Gallegos


    Glen Gallegos
    District 3, R

    CU Regent Ganahl


    Heidi Ganahl
    At Large, R

    CU Regent Griego

    Irene Griego
    District 7, D
    2011-2013, 2013-2015, 2015-2021

    Regent Hill


    Chance Hill
    District 5, R

    Linda Shoemaker, 2nd Congressional District, Current Term 2015-2021, Democrat


    Linda Shoemaker
    District 2, D

    Regent Smith


    Lesley Smith
    At Large, D


    How do they not get someone more experienced in higher ed?
    I know exactly nothing and I could name ten people who know about higher ed and un-defunding higher ed.

    It's clear the priorities of the Regents are political and logisitcal – not the students and staff of the UC System.

    Here are some questions for Mar Kennedy that I assure he cannot and will not answer.
    – Why do UC Health, UC Physcians and every other iteration of CU, UC, Health, Hospital, Medical, Medicine, etc, etc. get to use the University of Colorado name to brand their privately held, for profit strategy to take over the delivery of healthcare in Colorado, and elsewhere?

    – At what level of defunding does the entire UC system get to declare their independence and tell the Regents to get lost? less than 50% funded? Less than 25%? 12%? 6%?

    – Given that we now know that football causes brain damage (CTE), and the health and well being of STEM majors is correlated with the health and well being of our state and national economy, how is it justifiable that college football coaches are the highest paid state employees?

    – Solar generate electricity is cheaper than gas. As UC president would he commit to convert the UC system to solar as soon as the storage capacity allows?

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      The time has come for somebody to put their foot down and restore the reputation of our Faber by the Flatirons . . . 

      . . . and these folks look just like the foot to do it.

  8. Arvadonian1 says:

    Interesting fact….apparently Kennedy was involved with a feud with a high dollar donor to the University of North Dakota which resulted in their freezing donations so long as he was President of the University. 

    "Frankly, the governance and the leadership isn't there, so our confidence is less than it should be," Kris Engelstad McGarry of the Engelstad Foundation said.  She asserted that Kennedy has alienated donors, and given pay raises to people and changed their job titles to suit him.

    Source:  Bismarck Tribune, March 1, 2019

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