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Leaked CU Presidential Candidate List Ignites Controversy

Photo: Genessa Gutzait · The Sentry

Leaked list includes “more qualified” candidates

Nearly eight months after the CU Board of Regents announced Mark Kennedy as the sole presidential nominee for the CU system, the previously unknown list of other applicants was leaked to The Colorado Independent. The list of nearly 30 applicants included former Colorado governor Bill Ritter, former U.S. representative Bob Beauprez, and former Rutgers University chancellor Debasish Dutta.  

Last April, the public announcement of Kennedy’s nomination inspired controversy across CU’s four campuses, particularly with regard to his conservative congressional track record. During his time in the House of Representatives, Kennedy voted against gay marriage, denied funding for stem cell research, and voted to restrict abortion access nationwide, as noted by the Independent. According to the Democratic members of the Board, Kennedy’s previous political acts were unknown when the Board selected him as their final nominee. However, as reported by the Independent, Kennedy’s political conservatism cost him the presidential role at the University of Central Florida in 2018.  

In the process of selecting former President Bruce Benson’s replacement, the Board of Regents appointed a search committee to work alongside an independent search firm. The selection committee, co-chaired by Democrat Regent Irene Griego and Republican Regent Heidi Ganahl, featured only two student representatives. Additionally, five of the seven community members on the selection committee were Republican voters. After whittling down the list of 30 applicants, six were invited for interviews with the Board, five of whom were Republicans.  

On April 28, just weeks after Kennedy’s nomination, the Faculty Council of CU released a report on Kennedy’s ethical misconduct, calling for the end of his candidacy. According to the report, Kennedy misled the search committee and Board of Regents by “(1) presenting inaccurate information about his accomplishments on his CV; (2) omitting information from his CV; and (3) making misleading or entirely inaccurate claims while on our campuses.”   

Initially, the board unanimously voted to nominate Kennedy. However, following the public outcry from all four CU campuses and the community, the final vote was split down the party line, with the five Republican board members in favor of his presidency and the four Democratic board members against it. On May 2, 2019, Mark Kennedy was confirmed for his role of President at CU, and subsequently signed a three-year contract with the university. Following the leak of the list, the Republican board members have announced an investigation to find out the anonymous informant.  

Former CU regent Jim Martin believes that the Board of Regents’ decision to hire Mark Kennedy is fundamentally political, and that the Board ought to explain their decision to the campus and community. According to Martin, the leaked list illustrates the political polarization of the Board as an elected organization.  

“The university needs to be more open, transparent with not only students and faculty, but with the state of Colorado,” said Martin.  

As of January 10, the Board of Regents has yet to communicate with the student body regarding the future of CU and President Kennedy. In a statement made to The Denver Post, the Board of Regents wrote of Kennedy, “As a proven leader in business, government and education, Mark Kennedy has the skills to lead CU as its president. We are confident in him and want him to succeed. His success will be CU’s success.”  

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