Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is asking the University of Colorado Board of Regents to be cautious with its nomination of a finalist for the CU presidency, urging the regents to find a candidate who “unites the board.”
Polis, a Democrat, tweeted Thursday about the CU presidency search, but the governor did not directly name UND President Mark Kennedy, who is the sole finalist for the position.
“As the University of Colorado moves forward in its selection process for a new President, it's very important that they find a candidate that unites the board. It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude,” he tweeted.
It is the first time Polis has weighed in on the situation.
When asked for further comment about the tweet, a spokesperson for the governor’s office responded with a statement: “CU is the flagship university of the University of Colorado system and fosters very important talent for our state. The next president will impact our state - not just CU.”
The Herald sought to speak to Polis to clarify if the governor specifically meant the board should reconsider or reverse Kennedy’s nomination. The governor’s office did not respond to the request.
Kennedy is the sole finalist for the CU presidency, which oversees the four-campus system. His nomination has been marred by criticism in Colorado, particularly from Democratic board members.
Republicans have a 5-4 majority on the board.
The Colorado system and Kennedy are now in a waiting period before any final decision can be made about the president’s position. Colorado law requires that a finalist’s name be public for 14 days before a candidate can ultimately be appointed to the president’s position.
Earlier this month, Colorado regent Lesley Smith, a Democrat who is an at-large representative, tweeted about Kennedy’s candidacy and his congressional voting record.
“Some information about Mark has come to light that is concerning; my colleagues and I will be exploring this further,” she tweeted.
Kennedy was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007. He voted to restrict abortion rights and voted in favor of an amendment banning same-sex marriage.
He recently said he has made decisions at UND that counterbalance his past voting record.
“I issued a strong anti-discrimination and harassment policy covering sexual orientation and gender identity at UND,” Kennedy told the Herald last week. “I remain committed to being a strong advocate for diversity.”
Sue Sharkley, head of the Board of Regents, said the regents had discussed Kennedy’s voting record during the interview process. Sharkley said last week that Kennedy’s views on issues like same-sex marriage should only matter based on how he feels today, rather than how he voted 15 years ago.
Students also have protested Kennedy’s nomination. A petition has also been started to ask the board to reconsider its decision.
In response to Polis’ tweet, CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue told the Herald that one of Kennedy’s first stops when he arrives in Colorado next week will be to meet with Polis.
“We look forward to the next steps in the process when the university community and Coloradans will get to hear from Mark Kennedy, beginning Monday,” he said. “The governor will be one of the first stops on his itinerary next week.”
Kennedy will visit the Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs and Anschutz Medical School campuses, where he will meet with students, faculty and staff.
The current president at the University of Colorado, Bruce Benson, is retiring from the school after 11 years. On April 10 the CU Board of Regents voted unanimously to make Kennedy the only finalist for the president’s position.
As the University of Colorado moves forward in its selection process for a new President, it's very important that they find a candidate that unites the board. It’s never good for a candidate or the institution if the board is split on a decision of this magnitude. #copolitics
- Jared Polis (@GovofCO) April 18, 2019