CU Boulder Students, Employees Pass Resolutions Rejecting Mark Kennedy, Search Process
Each student government organization at the University of Colorado Boulder campus has passed resolutions rejecting the sole presidential finalist or the process that led to the selection.
Students are sending the resolutions to other University of Colorado system schools, and at least the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz campus is expected to take up a resolution next week.
Meanwhile, Regent Heidi Ganahl, R-at large, has asked one student organizer to “take a step back” on his protesting efforts.
The finalist, University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy, is facing backlash for his conservative congressional voting record and controversies he faced while working in higher education.
The search process began in September, after outgoing-CU system President Bruce Benson announced he is retiring in July .
In a Facebook message sent to Colorado Law student Johnnie Nguyen, Ganahl said: “I’d like to ask that you take a step back and meet Mark Kennedy when he’s here, ask him tough questions and ask how he feels about these issues 20 years later. There’s a reason all 9 Regents voted unanimously for him. I’d just like to see him have a chance, he’s impressive enough to have been recommended by the search committee of 17, and the full board of regents.”
Nguyen, who also is class president of first-year law students at Colorado Law, said he was disheartened and concerned to see a regent asking him to step back from protesting.
He said “it just speaks more volumes” that the regents are “silencing students.”
Ganahl has not been made immediately available to comment.
Nguyen also pointed out that the student code of conduct prevents students from demonstrating at the open forums, as it bars “interference, obstruction, or disruption of University Activity.”
While he said many students aren’t aware of the code of conduct policies, those who are afraid of punishment or retribution are hesitant to protest.
“I think some students ... just felt very silenced and unable to protest,” he said.
Others are concerned with the format of the open forums.
The CU Boulder Faculty Senate passed a resolution Wednesday expressing its “grave concern about the quality and qualifications of the finalist,” along with specific requests for Kennedy’s visit to CU Boulder on April 26.
Among the requests, the senate asked that faculty be allowed to ask some questions directly without moderation and that any moderated questions be reviewed and approved by faculty.
Nguyen also expressed concern about the moderation of questions.
CU system spokesman Ken McConnellogue said the fear is unfounded.
While submitted questions will be grouped into major ideas and asked, McConnellogue said there will also be time for the audience to directly ask questions at each open forum. When asked how much time will be set aside for that, McConnellogue said the open forums are one hour long but may go over.
“Our hope is that he has the opportunity to answer as many questions as possible,” he said.
So far, the United Government of Graduate Students, University of Colorado Student Government, CU Boulder Faculty Assembly and CU Boulder Staff Council have all passed resolutions expressing concern about either Kennedy, the search process or both.
The Colorado Law Student Bar Association first passed a resolution rejecting Kennedy, and many groups used the resolution as a starting template. Several several law students provided statements about Kennedy.
“People can and do change. But as a U.S. Congressman in his 40s, Mark Kennedy had plenty of time and opportunity to listen to the LGBT community, women, communities of color, and other minority groups. These minority groups were fighting for equality during his tenure as Congressman and for decades prior,” wrote Zachary Mueller. “Mark Kennedy did not listen to these voices, and his votes as a Congressman were detrimental to these minority communities. CU should be the loudest voice in the state for inclusiveness and equality . . . Regardless of his current views, because of his voting record in Congress, Mark Kennedy is not qualified to lead CU.”
The University of Colorado School of Medicine also will vote on a version of the bar association’s resolution. First-year medical student William Mundo, one of two student senators representing the School of Medicine, said the medical school’s senate will vote on the resolution rejecting Kennedy on Monday.
Mundo said senators spoke with constituents and found there’s a “pretty good consensus” that both the process and person who was selected are “not O.K.”
Many students at the Anschutz Medical Campus are concerned about Kennedy’s record of voting against stem cell research and abortion access. Some of his positions on abortion would criminalize health care providers, Mundo said.
Kennedy has said publicly that he would vote differently today on same-sex marriage and that he will not interfere with research policies, but Mundo said that’s not enough.
“I do respect that, but we need someone who’s gonna be an advocate for this,” he said. ”(...) I think inaction doesn’t necessarily equate to it being O.K.”
Mundo also criticized Kennedy’s stance on affirmative action. In an interview on Colorado Public Radio earlier this week , Kennedy asked to not answer a question on that issue, before pivoting to an answer about diversity.
“I feel like he’s not super clear on that. He kinda beats around the bush,” Mundo said. “I think it’s important for him to have a firm stance on that, considering a lot of the challenges that we’ve been having recently.”
That, combined with Kennedy’s congressional votes against providing grants to historically black and Hispanic colleges, concerns some students of color.
“He poses a potential threat” to CU’s progress toward diversity and inclusivity, Mundo said.
Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, email@example.com