Holy Crap, Mark Kennedy is a Disaster

Former Rep. Mark Kennedy (R).

Yesterday, the newly-minted “sole finalist” for the position of President of the University of Colorado, former GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota, began his tour of the CU system’s four campuses–a crucial opportunity for Kennedy to ingratiate himself with students and faculty, and address the many questions about Kennedy’s anti-LGBT, anti-reproductive choice record in Congress that have resulted in angry protests over his selection to lead Colorado’s flagship public university.

As FOX 31’s Evan Kruegel reports, yesterday’s introduction did not go well:

“Mark Kennedy as a leader is problematic, and he’s unqualified,” said CU Law Student Perdeep Singh-Badhesha. “I think this is going to be the easiest of all the forums he goes to. These were softball questions, and I think he still did a very poor job.”

Singh-Badhesha says he’s concerned with Kennedy’s political views, at a school system known for welcoming and promoting LGBTQ rights…

Kennedy fielded numerous questions from the crowd, saying his political past won’t have an impact on how he handles businesses as president.

“None of those votes are going to come into play, they’re just not going to come into play. [Pols emphasis] The real question is, how good are you at running a university? That’s the question we really ought to be focusing on.”

The Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez:

“None of the beliefs that have caused much of the controversy are going to have any impact,” [Pols emphasis] said Kennedy, whose votes against gay marriage and in favor of abortion restrictions as a Minnesota congressman in the early 2000s have drawn protest in some quarters.

“And (those beliefs) are largely irrelevant to what the president does. … I would hope I could gain your trust, respect and support and have that strong working relationship because faculty are the heart of any university.”

Here’s the deal: if you do not think the President of the University of Colorado’s voting record in Congress against LGBT and abortion rights is relevant to his duties, you are probably not a member of those two classes of people. If you are an LGBT student, staff, or faculty member, having a President of your university who has proven himself inimical to your rights is a huge problem. It’s worse than the present example of Bruce Benson, who although certainly a conservative Republican does not have a voting record as a lawmaker openly hostile to LGBT rights.

To us, this statement perfectly captures the disconnect between a man who cast his lot long ago, and present ambitions that simply don’t fit with his record. Mark Kennedy may not be “running for Congress,” but it’s absurd to suggest that his record in Congress is not germane to the decision of whether he is appropriate to serve as President of the University of Colorado. Perhaps most damning, there’s no evidence of contrition over these votes against the rights of large portions of the CU community at all, only the insistence that “the beliefs”–meaning Kennedy’s beliefs–are “largely irrelevant to what the President does.”

In short, everyone who imagined this guy would make a good President of the University of Colorado, including his partisan Republican supporters on the Board of Regents, made a mistake that invites fundamental questions about their own competence. Not only is it time to start over with the search for a new CU President, but the next candidate(s) need first and foremost to not insult the CU community’s intelligence like Mark Kennedy did.

25 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoBlue says:

    The GOP Regents don't give a fuck about the institution. They hate higher ed and want to either destroy it or turn CU into the next Liberty U.

    Mark Kennedy is their perfect choice, which only shows how out of touch they are.

    • Voyageur says:

      Good to hear from you again, Blue Lady.  I've missed your insights and passion.  You doth rock, Madam.

    • Arvadonian1 says:

      Yep.  Same thing they've done to elementary and secondary education over the last 30-40 years.

    • marklane1351 says:

      Remember when everyone hated Bruce Benson. He only had a B.A.. He was the former chair of the Colorado Republican Party, and a failed gubernatorial candidate. He was unfit for office and he was going to run C.U. into the ground. He raised a shit load of money and he is one of the best things to happen to C.U. in recent history.

      • Wong21fr says:

        Benson also knows how to a) keep his mouth relatively shut, and b) raise and make money.  b) is pretty much the only thing that is relative for a CU President as it races to become the premier private school in Colorado for out of state students to party at.  Not sure if Kennedy has the same fund-raising prowess in-state, but it looks like the CU board is looking to cast a bigger net to get the monies.


  2. unnamed says:

    I am curious, was he ACTUALLY unanimously agreed on as the Regents' pick?  

    • Voyageur says:

      As I understand it, the only other applicant was Sarah Palinsmiley

    • JohnInDenver says:

      Short answer … I've seen nothing indicating he was a unanimous pick. 

      The Regents set up a process that resulted in defining the requirements, advertising for and recruiting of people to apply, narrowing down to five or six, interviewing them, and advancing Kennedy as the "finalist." He then comes in for structured show & tell sessions with selected individuals and groups, who can provide feedback to the Regents before they take a final vote to offer the job and begin negotiating specific contract terms.

      If the Regents are sensible, they won't act on a bare majority, and certainly not an absolutely partisan majority.  I don't know how sensible the current group is, but they did organize themselves to have co-chairs, with one Republican and one Democrat in those positions.

      • Davie says:

        The initial Denver Post article stated it was unanimous in the sub-headline:

        At least one CU regent, a Boulder Democrat, expresses concern about finalist following unanimous vote

        But, after this 2 week vetting/cooling off period, that will surely change.

  3. Early Worm says:

    And he is a carpet bagger. If you insist on hiring a homophobic, anti-choice former Republican lawmaker, we got plenty of those right here in Colorado. We don't need to import any more bigots.

  4. Wong21fr says:

    Welp.  CU had a good run as the state's flagship university system- but all things must end.  Time to focus on CSU for the future.

    CU is pretty much a party school for wealthy out-of-state students anyways.

    • Voyageur says:

      Hey!  Us poverty-stricken in-state students had some great parties there, too!

    • Early Worm says:

      CSU just hired a new president, Joyce McConnell, its first female president.  She is currently a provost and VP for academic affairs at West Virginia University. Unlike Kennedy, her career has been in academia, not politics. From the press release announcing her appointment, "McConnell led efforts at WVU to improve gender equity and Title IX education and compliance, engaged in higher-education policy work with the university’s board and state leaders, focused on raising faculty salaries, promoted excellence in research and graduate education, and played a key role in promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels." 

      There is a random CU connection – the President of WVU is Gordon Gee.

      • Voyageur says:

        CSU has parlayed its old aggie status into some cutting edge environmental stuff.  McConnell sounds great.

        Now, if the school will just stop calling its women's athletic teams "Lady Rams!"

  5. Davie says:

    Much to Mr. Kennedy's chagrin, his current employer seems happy to bid him adieu, so how CU Regents thought he deserved to be the sole finalist is the real problem.


    • JohnInDenver says:

      Most academic Presidents shift after 4 or 5 years.  Since my brief and undistinguished stint at CU-Boulder in the late 80s, there have been departures of Gee, Albino, Buechner, Bracken, Hoffman, Brown & Benson.  Benson (2008- Present) is the only one to last more than 6 years.

      Reasons vary — incompatibility, need for a scapegoat, burnout, better offers, accomplishment and retirement.

      I'm wondering if they should look for diversity — at least find someone whose last name is in the back half of the alphabet.

  6. Diogenesdemar says:

    . . . so how CU Regents thought he deserved to be the sole finalist . . . 

    Ummmm, . . .

    . . . maybe, perhaps, he was the only white, male, right wing, conservative, nutter ideologue to apply????

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