CU elects Mark Kennedy President on party line vote after raucous meeting

From left to right, CU Regents Linda Shoemaker, Glen Gallegos, Lesley Smith, Chance Hill, Vice-Chair Jack Kroll, Chair Sue Sharkey, University Counsel Patrick O’Rourke, Regents Heidi Ganahl, John Carson, and Irene Griego listen to testimony before voting on the appointment of new CU President Mark Kennedy.


Virtually every witness who testified at the CU Board of Regents special meeting held at the Anschutz medical campus on May 2 to vote on the appointment of Mark Kennedy, the sole finalist, as the next president of the 4-campus 64,000-student University of Colorado system, did not support him.

After two hours of often tense testimony the four Democrats on the board voted no and four Republicans voted yes, leaving chair Sue Sharkey, a Republican, to cast the deciding vote. Said Sharkey, “I will proudly and with strong conviction say yes.” A moment later, a student in the audience stood up and said, “You should be ashamed!” before leaving the room escorted.

Mark Kennedy with Sue Sharkey. Photo courtesy of Denver Post
Monica Edwards said she spoke as a student and employee of CU and that Kennedy was not the choice of students or staff of the university.

Bob Sievers, former CU regent and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was an early speaker. He said that many questions have been raised about Kennedy and that, like physicians, regents should “First, do no harm.”

Monica Edwards, who identified herself as a full-time employee at Anschutz and a student in the school of public health, said, “I think it is abundantly clear from visits to all 4 campuses that the majority of students and staff don’t want this person.”

CU Faculty Council (FC) Chair Joanne Addison, an English professor, said that FC does not believe that Kennedy is the right choice to lead CU and that 70 percent of FC believe he will not be able to meet the expectations of the position. She said that FC had a dialog with Kennedy focused on his 9-year record as an academician and did not find his claim of commitment to diversity and inclusion to be credible. After Kennedy was chosen by a 5 to 4 vote, Addison again addressed the regents. She said that Kennedy had promised to fully engage in shared governance. To that end, FC had two requests: 1) that a transition committee by formed with representatives from all four (CU) campuses, and 2) that consultants be brought in by the board of regents to design a method to effect shared governance. The regents did not act on Addison’s request, ending the meeting after approving Kennedy’s contract by an 8 to 1 vote.

Former CU Regent Bob Sievers addresses the board.

Republican regents supported Kennedy for different reasons. Glen Gallegos said, “People are passionate. This was an 8-month process…CU’s $1 billion in research funds have economic impacts throughout the state. He (Kennedy) will bring what’s needed to bring CU into the 21st century.” Heidi Ganahl pointed out that all nine regents were unanimous in selecting Kennedy to be the sole finalist. John Carson said, “We must ask if we believe in all forms of diversity, including diversity of thought.” Chair Sue Sharkey said, “I hoped to find a leader who had success in business, academics, and government.” She said that Kennedy didn’t intend to micro-manage the campuses and would work well with alumni and donors.

Democrat Linda Shoemaker said, “The 14-day vetting process brought out professors’ academically-based opposition to Mark Kennedy and overwhelmingly negative responses to his perceived ability to lead…CU deserves better..” Another Democrat, Lesley Smith reminded listeners that she had pledged to support CU’s faculty when she ran for regent. She said, “The overwhelming majority of the faculty do not want Mark Kennedy to lead this university…I stand with the faculty.” Irene Griego urged the board to “consider the thousands of messages (received) from the university community and find a leader who can unite us.”

According to the Denver Post, “Kennedy will receive $650,000 in base pay in his first year, a roughly 81 percent increase over outgoing CU President Bruce Benson, who is paid $358,500 a year. Starting in June 2020, Kennedy’s annual base salary will rise to $850,000. Kennedy earned $365,000 in base pay annually as president of the University of North Dakota, according to the Grand Forks Daily Herald.”

In 2008, popular outgoing CU President Bruce Benson, also a Republican, was hired on a 6 to 3 party-line vote.

Regent Lesley Smith said she supported the faculty, who were against Kennedy’s appointment.
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