To the Regents of the University of Colorado:
We are concerned about the selection of Mark Kennedy as the sole finalist for President of the University of Colorado. Contrary to claims made in CU’s press statement, Mr. Kennedy appears to be a divisive administrator with troubled relations to the public and to the media–not someone who would maintain CU’s academic rankings and public image, or bring together our diverse students, staff, and faculty.
Colorado’s reputation as an open and inclusive place to live, work, and study would be damaged by the choice of Mr. Kennedy as President of the University of Colorado. As a member of Congress, Mr. Kennedy voted against stem cell research and against grants for colleges serving Black and Latinx students, and he voted twice against marriage equality. This record runs contrary to the Regents’ commitment to cutting-edge research and to “building a community of students, faculty, and staff in which diversity is a fundamental value.” Having a President with this voting record will make it difficult to recruit and retain faculty, staff, and students, especially those who are members of historically underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized groups within higher education. Mr. Kennedy’s record doesn’t reflect the values of voters in Colorado, who just elected Jared Polis as our first openly gay governor. Mr. Kennedy told the Denver Post that his position on marriage equality has changed with the social consensus, but CU needs a leader in diversity, not a follower.
We would like to emphasize that our concerns about Mr. Kennedy are not about his political affiliation. President Bruce Benson is a former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, and he has been a remarkably effective and unifying leader and advocate for CU. Mr. Kennedy’s record does not suggest that he will be able to be that kind of President. He has been a contested figure in his thirty months at the University of North Dakota, and missing from his record is any evidence that he has a commitment to higher education. Before his brief tenure as President of the UND, Mr. Kennedy’s community work shows no evidence of a broad commitment to education. Public higher education is under threat nationwide, making it important for leaders from across the political spectrum to advocate for the mission of public research universities.
Finally, we are concerned that the Regents have presented only one finalist for public comment. It does not seem that the Regents have succeeded in their pledge to “promote and uphold the principles of ethics, integrity, transparency, and accountability.” Rather, it seems that this crucial process has been conducted without community input.
For these reasons, we request that Mr. Kennedy’s nomination be withdrawn and that the Regents return to the task of finding a select group of qualified finalists who will represent the values of our state and our university.