Kennedy is not the leader CU Denver needs
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from a letter written by CU Denver SGA President Matthew Kriese addressed to CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell and the CU Denver Board of Regents.
As my time in this role comes to a close, I have been tasked with evaluating whether or not Mr. Mark Kennedy would be a proper fit as leader here at CU Denver. To ensure that my view of Mr. Kennedy was derived from the most objective standpoint possible, I wanted to provide him the space to articulate his values and vision for CU. I watched every public forum he participated in, I had the opportunity to meet with him alongside CU Denver’s governance group, and I studied his past work in Congress and in academia. Myself, as well as my Vice President Frida Silva, have dedicated the past two weeks to thoroughly evaluate if Mr. Kennedy would be the proper fit for the staff, faculty, and especially students of CU Denver.
The litmus test we needed to see whether Mr. Kennedy was the right fit was if he understood and could articulate how his past has isolated and marginalized members of the CU community. This required Mr. Kennedy to seek out forgiveness from these community members and present a legitimate plan to overcome the barriers that his past decisions made between him and the students, faculty, and staff around him. Mr. Kennedy’s political record does not need to be explored again in this letter; however, the ramifications of this record on this community absolutely need to be considered. In his open letter to the University of Colorado community, he wrote, “Like many friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress, my position on marriage has evolved. Would I vote the same way today? No. My record in supporting the LGBTQ+ community reflects a deep respect for the dignity of each individual. Students, faculty, staff and members of our community will have my full support and respect no matter who they love or how they identify. I am committed to be a leader for all.” Answers like this were reiterated throughout his forums and private discussions as well. I do not doubt that people are capable of change. I do not doubt that Mr. Kennedy is capable of change. But I am not convinced that he has proven this sort of ideological shift that has occurred within him.
At no point in his interactions with our community did I detect that he apologized for his past actions. Apologies carry with them an understanding of the ways in which past actions have left others in marginalized positions. That should go without saying. I am not convinced that Mr. Kennedy fully understands the importance of this sort of acknowledgment. Merely saying that his mind is changed is not enough. What his current voting record would hypothetically look like is an insult to those around us who were insidiously impacted by his real voting record in the past. I have had dozens of interactions in these past few weeks from a myriad of faculty, staff, and students from underrepresented communities who have expressed that they are truly worried for the protections they currently experience at our University. They have expressed fear that the communities they have built and cling to will fall by the wayside. These fears are grounded in the profoundly valid doubt that Mr. Kennedy has truly changed in the manners he insists he has.
Changes in leadership always lead to uncertainty for the future. I hope that when these concerns have been expressed to you, you see how these fears are far beyond a mere uncertainty for the future of this system. People around you feel genuinely unsafe through this appointment. As elected officials who have been charged with voting on behalf of your constituency and providing a voice for your communities, I implore you to hear their fears. There are certainly candidates who possess the necessary traits of a leader you saw in Mr. Kennedy that also align with the values of this institution. Your vote on this matter will have ramifications on CU greater than I can express. I hope that the scope of the task ahead of you does not blind you to desires of your community. I hope you vote with their safety and wellness in mind.
I wish you all clarity of mind and wholeness of heart in the days to come. Thank you again for your service on this manner.
All the best,