Dear members of the University of Colorado School of Medicine,
As Faculty Senate President, my fellow officers and I wanted to contribute our thoughts to the controversial choice for the next president of the University of Colorado by the Board of Regents, a choice that has raised concerns and anxiety throughout the CU campuses and faculty. Recently, the Faculty Council raised some important points that have centered around an incoming president towards supporting three defining principles laid out in the revised Article 5 of Regent Laws and Policies including a focus on collaborations and shared decision making between the administration and the faculty, the right of faculty to academic freedom and the right of faculty to determine their own curriculum without interference (https://www.cu.edu/doc/article-5-policy-5-finalpdf). As we review these suggestions, we liken it to “inalienable rights” that serve to make institutions of higher learning a beacon of intellectual exchanges, be it liberal or conservative, that provide an example to the world that discourse and free discussion on our campuses is the heartbeat that drives us to grow. Simply stated, we agree with the Faculty Council that these are critical acknowledgements that any new president of our CU system should be encouraged to strongly support.
Views and considerations, ideas and beliefs can evolve over time with experience and we should allow for evolution in this regard. Mark Kennedy’s past congressional record has raised some concern and to this end, the Faculty Council brought to our attention within the School of Medicine (SOM) that the search committee did not formally include a diversity officer from our campuses; however, our understanding from Patrick T. O’Rourke, Vice President, General Counsel and secretary to the Board of Regents believes that the university administration and Regents fulfilled this basic requisite by including Kathy Nesbit, Vice President for Administration on the search committee. She served former Governor Hickenlooper as chief human resources officer in the past administration.
So, we pause and ask the question, has former congressman Mark Kennedy truly evolved in his thinking on diversity and inclusion or does his roadmap since leaving office continue to take him in a circuitous direction that passes the same mile marker over and over again? These are questions that should be raised and discussed in a civil but firm manner at the upcoming presidential forums this week. We strongly encourage you to be there and engage (https://www.cu.edu/presidential-search/finalist-open-forum-schedule) and provide important feedback (https://www.cu.edu/presidential-search/forms/cu-presidential-search-feedback).
As to the Denver Post’s Sunday opinion that perhaps we underestimate Mark Kennedy and should approach him similar to Bruce Benson in terms of fundraising prowess rather than academic achievements, we recall the famous quote from Tom Wolfe’s screen adaptation of The Right Stuff. When deciding to support the space program at a critical juncture in our country’s history, Gus Grishom replies to Gordon Coopers statement “You know what makes this bird go up? FUNDING makes this bird go up, with a simple refrain “No Bucks…No Buck Rogers”. Like it or not, in this day and age, its critical. We would say actions speak louder than words but taking two steps back here and reflecting on Mark Kennedy’s ability to fundraise, if that is indeed the most important quality of an incoming president, we reflect across major universities and presidents that have taken places to the next level and yet bring a sense of compassion, humble leadership and empathy to the lives of everyone on their campus. Donna Shalala is but one example of a person who believes in diversity and inclusiveness, while at the same time someone who leveraged her relationships, people skills and remarkable ability to bring people together to raise somewhere in the range of 1 billion dollars for the University of Miami.
Where are these candidates and why would we settle for anything but the best? We suspect that many of you desire a candidate that appreciates our western culture and yet brings national stature and reputation to collectively excite us. Are we bringing in a person who simply checks the boxes of the trifecta or can we find someone who possess the right fundraising skills along with a mind frame of innovation, service leadership, academic achievements and thoughtfulness that takes our proud campuses including the SOM to the next level? Does he have the graciousness and ability to lead by “lighting a fire inside us rather than under us”? Is he a “relationship” leader who has a commitment to fairness and consensus. Is he right for CU? Our consideration of his previous actions and responses to recent queries is certainly reason for pause.
SOM Faculty Senate Officers 2018-2019