Former Colorado Sen. Mark Udall asks CU system regents to reopen presidential search

Former senator weights in, and Faculty Council issues report on candidate's CV

University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy, the sole finalist for president of the University of Colorado system, speaks Friday during an open forum at Macky Auditorium at CU Boulder.
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall

As the day draws closer that the University of Colorado system Board of Regents is expected to vote on the presidential search finalist, regents are facing increasing opposition to their search process and nomination.

University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy has been named the sole finalist in the presidential search. Kennedy has been criticized for his conservative congressional voting record and what some called a lack of authenticity during his visits to CU’s four campuses last week. Faculty, students and alumni have also criticized the search process which led to his nomination.

The regents are expected to vote on naming Kennedy president on May 2, though the time and location of the special meeting is yet to be announced.

Several student government organizations, staff councils and a group of alumni are calling on the regents to reopen the search or start over from scratch. While some oppose Kennedy as a candidate, others are more focused on the search process itself.

A call to reopen

Former Sen. Mark Udall issued a statement Monday morning calling on the board to reopen the presidential search.

“Too many questions remain unanswered and a new president who doesn’t have a broad cross section of support from all of Colorado’s stakeholders will be hamstrung from the very beginning of his or her tenure,” Udall wrote. “That wouldn’t serve any of us starting with the new president and the university community.”

Udall wrote in an email that Regent Linda Shoemaker, D-Boulder, and Krysten Joyce, a health policy consultant at Kaiser Permanente, helped him craft the statement.

Udall represented Colorado as a senator from 2009 to 2015. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives at the same time as Kennedy, though he said he “didn’t know him well.”

While Udall is a Democrat who held different views from Kennedy, he said he believes Kennedy is an “honorable, decent man.”

“Mark has done nothing wrong or untoward,” he wrote. “He competed for the presidency under the rules and process set by the regents.”

Udall asked the regents to reopen its process and include more finalists, in addition to Kennedy. He also said that time pressures shouldn’t rush this important process.

“Finding a broadly supported, special leader for CU, however long it takes, can and must be our number one priority,” he said.


On Sunday, the CU system Faculty Council issued a report alleging that Kennedy misled the regents with his CV.

“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 delinates 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 at the end.

University of Colorado Boulder Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Fenn researched Kennedy’s claims regarding tribal colleges in North Dakota. Fenn’s studies native peoples in the state.

Fenn presented some of her claims on Friday at CU Boulder’s open forum. On Kennedy’s CV, he said he met with all tribal colleges in the state to create 2+2 Finish in 4 programs. However, Fenn said she couldn’t find anyone familiar with the program.

At the forum, Kennedy was asked to name the people he met with, and answered that they have only one partnership with a tribal college.

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 put out a statement saying that he reached out to the Board of Regents to schedule a meeting with Kennedy.

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

Faculty Council also wrote in the report that Kennedy misrepresented graduation rates at the University of North Dakota. Kennedy said on 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%.

Throughout the open forums, Kennedy repeated 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.

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.

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.

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