As Chalkbeat Colorado’s Jason Gonzales reports–over the last three days we’ve been subjected to an outpouring of discontent from Republican members of the University of Colorado Board of Regents over the impending departure of CU President Mark Kennedy, appointed only two years ago by the former Republican majority of the board over the fierce objections of the University’s faculty and student body. Kennedy, a former GOP member of Congress with a “culture warrior” right-wing record repellent to the “Zoomer” generation attending school today, was appointed to continue his predecessor’s mission of making Colorado’s flagship public university a “safe space” for ideological conservatives. As we’ve documented in this space over the course of years, it hasn’t gone well.
And today, the Republican minority on the Board of Regents are the only CU stakeholders mourning Kennedy’s ouster:
After nearly two years bemoaning their president’s slow responses and missteps on critical issues, University of Colorado students — particularly those of color — are celebrating the early departure of Mark Kennedy. They see his exit as a chance to steer the system toward a more progressive track.
Faculty who censured Kennedy a month ago also expressed relief…
Kennedy’s ouster comes as the nation has demanded leaders take more forceful action on racial issues. Observers say university boards across the country are seeking more active leadership on social, political, and economic issues confronting their students and the nation.
Students believe that Kennedy, a Republican and former president of the University of North Dakota, did not take up that mantle.
Instead, his comments frequently riled up University of Colorado students and, some students say, made life on the system’s four campuses difficult because his words maintained a culture that devalued people of color and others not in the mainstream.
During the contentious battle over Kennedy’s appointment in 2019, his critics warned that his record made him fundamentally incapable of meeting the needs of a school already beset with internal dissent over its overtly partisan political direction under Bruce Benson. Kennedy proved his critics correct, but the larger problem of CU being remade from the top down into a politically conservative–or at least “tolerant” of “conservative thought”–university predates Mark Kennedy. It was Benson and the four decade-long GOP majority on the Board of Regents who were responsible for the creation of the Benson Center, whose purpose was to bring conservative professors to CU who successively managed to top each other outraging the student body–and in the case of the latest such appointee, John Eastman, helping incite violence with Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani in Washington, D.C. last January.
With the historic flip of the Board of Regents majority last November, big changes are taking shape. The political fallout from this sweeping change is set to fall hardest on the Republican Regents who imposed Kennedy on the university, and promoted the Benson Center even as it brought embarrassments like Eastman to campus. And there’s one Regent in particular, at-large Regent Heidi Ganahl, who is widely rumored to be considering a run for a higher statewide office next year. Last December, readers will recall, Ganahl celebrated John Eastman for “riling folks up”:
In December, Ganahl gushed over Eastman, despite his controversial statements.
“There are fantastic folks who come in [to the Benson Center],” said Ganahl in December. “Right now, it’s Dr. John Eastman, who’s riling some folks up.” [Pols emphasis] Ganahl said the center teaches students about “the beauty of western civilization and the history,” and the faculty have “different point of view than most of the faculty at CU.”
Then this week, Ganahl raged over the departure of Kennedy, claiming “Kennedy is being fired for the high crime of not being a Democrat or left-wing academic to a new board majority who many days forget they serve the students of CU.”
Well folks, it looks to us like the only one who will history will record “forgot the students” is Heidi Ganahl. For a Republican hoping to disrupt the steepening trend of Colorado electing Democrats in statewide elections, it’s hard to imagine a worse way to hobble yourself out of the proverbial gate. And at every step, from lavishing praise on fringe-right John Eastman to placing herself on the wrong side of an 8-1 vote on Kennedy’s exit package, Ganahl has done this damage to herself.
We’ll say it now for the record: Colorado Republican comeback hopes lay elsewhere.