University of Colorado presidential finalist Mark Kennedy speaks while holding a “Core Values” pamphlet during a CU Faculty Council meeting on April 22, 2019 at the Warwick Hotel in Denver.
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The University of Colorado system Faculty Council on Sunday issued a report alleging the sole finalist for president misled the regents with his CV and statements during open forums, thus running “afoul of Regent Law and Policy regarding ethical behavior and integrity.”

University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy has faced criticism for his conservative congressional voting record and what some see as mediocre professional experience. The Board of Regents are expected to vote on his nomination Thursday.

The Faculty Council has been in staunch opposition of Kennedy’s nomination since shortly after it was announced. In a meeting with the council, members grilled Kennedy on his fundraising efforts, his commitment to academic freedom and his response, or lack thereof, to controversial issues in higher education.

Steve Bosley, a Republican who served as a regent for 12 years, criticized the council’s efforts, saying it is acting like an opposition political campaign.

“I think they demonstrated an unfair portrayal of him in some of the questions on the issues,” he said.

The council is alleging that Kennedy misrepresented programs for native populations, left out information about Title IX lawsuits at the University of North Dakota and overstated graduation rate increases on his CV and at several of the open forums last week, where Kennedy answered questions for each of the campus communities.

“Although it is evident, as Regent (Sue) Sharkey has indicated, that a deliberate process led the Board to advance Mark Kennedy … the Board did so without the above information, which delineates several instances in which it appears that Mr. Kennedy has already run afoul of Regent Law and Policy regarding ethical behavior and integrity,” the report states.

Kennedy, however, said Monday in a letter addressing each of the allegations that the council identified “no ‘ethical misconduct’ but instead misconstrues my record and responses to questions from last week’s open forums.”

“I have always and will always remain committed to providing strong ethical leadership,” he wrote.

Misrepresented

The Faculty Council’s letter begins with an assertion that Kennedy misrepresented his outreach to tribal colleges in North Dakota.

University of Colorado Boulder Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Fenn researched his claims, as she studies native peoples in North Dakota.

Kennedy wrote in his CV that he “met with all tribal colleges to establish 2+2 Finish in 4 programs,” which allow students to transfer from community colleges to universities to get four-year degrees.

At CU Boulder’s open forum Friday, Fenn said she couldn’t find anyone involved at tribal colleges in North Dakota who recognized the program.

She asked Kennedy to name the people he met with and when. He said the university has only one partnership with a tribal college.

In his response to the council’s letter, Kennedy said he never asserted that he personally met with tribal colleges for the program. He also said that saying progress was made on that plan does not mean it was completed.

Kennedy also told the press and the public at forums that he reached out to One Colorado, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, to advise him if he is voted president. However, One Colorado Executive Director Daniel Ramos released a statement saying that his organization contacted the Board of Regents first to schedule a meeting with Kennedy.

In his letter, Kennedy said that while One Colorado arranged the meeting, he proposed the idea to have someone from the organization advise him on LGBTQ issues.

Faculty Council also wrote in the report that Kennedy misrepresented graduation rates at the University of North Dakota. Kennedy stated in his CV that rates increased by 4% in 2017 and 2018. He also said at an open forum that diverse populations had the same rate increases as other groups.

The council wrote that the University of North Dakota lowered its number of required credit hours during that time period. It also found that diverse students did not experience the same 4% increase in graduation rates as white students. The rate for women increased by 1%; the rates for Asian and Native American students decreased; and the rate for nonresident aliens increased by 3%.

This table shows graduation rates for various student populations at the University of North Dakota during Mark Kennedy’s tenure as university president.

Kennedy rejected that assertion, saying that the rates for nearly all diverse populations increased by more than 8% over those two years.

“While the graduation rates for Asian and Non-Resident Aliens did not increase by more than the average rate, I am proud of the academic achievements of our diverse communities,” he said.

Missing information

Faculty Council also noted in its report that Kennedy did not disclose a pending lawsuit for Title IX violations at the North Dakota State University system, citing a Daily Camera story on the topic.

Kennedy said he “disclosed information that related to me personally in my application, rather than lawsuits against the University of North Dakota or the North Dakota State University system.”

Kennedy also has reiterated during the forums that his nine-year track record in academia shows that his political views have changed.

However, the Faculty Council said this is “demonstrably false.” While working at Johns Hopkins and George Washington University, he also was treasurer for Tim Pawlenty’s 2012 presidential campaign, a position that is not listed on his CV.

Pawlenty held views that were anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion and anti-stem cell research. Kennedy later advocated for Pawlenty to be considered for vice president because he “enacted bills and appointed judges to protect life, marriage, and the role of faith in our public square,” according to a post on the Powerline blog.

In his response, Kennedy said he addressed this issue at the open forum at University of Colorado Denver. He said he became involved in the campaign before accepting positions in higher education administration. He also noted that Pawlenty dropped out of the race about one year before Barack Obama publicly changed his stance on gay marriage.

“None of this negates the fact that, during my tenure in higher education, I have been an inclusive leader, and I have supported the LGBTQ+ community, both in policy and in action,” he said.

The council also criticized Kennedy’s fundraising abilities, citing a decrease in fundraising at the University of North Dakota in 2018 that some say was due to his alienation of major donors.

Kennedy cited in his response a recent $20 million anonymous gift for a new business school, which will bring this year’s total fundraising efforts at the University of North Dakota to a record high. He also cited his response in his original application that addressed a “challenging relationship” with a major donor.

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