BOULDER, Colo.-UND President Mark Kennedy was booed Friday morning during his final stop of a four-campus tour as a decision looms on his nomination to the University of Colorado presidency.
Kennedy is the sole finalist for the University of Colorado president's position, which oversees the Aurora, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver campuses. The Board of Regents is expected to vote Thursday to approve or reject Kennedy as president, the Boulder Daily Camera has reported.
He faced a tough crowd on the final day of his tour. Many of Kennedy's comments during Friday's forum were followed by yelling of various sorts. The crowd laughed when he spoke about unifying campus communities when giving his opening remarks. Kennedy also misspoke at the beginning of the forum, saying he wanted to make CU "the most exclusive," rather than "most inclusive" campus. The crowd booed and jeered in response.
Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Fenn said she studies native peoples in North Dakota, and reached out to contacts about one of Kennedy's strategic plan's goals, the Boulder Daily Camera reported. Kennedy wrote that he met with all tribal colleges to create "2+2 Finish in 4" programs.
According to the newspaper, Fenn said she was unable to find anyone who knew of this program. Fenn had asked who he met with and when.
Kennedy discussed a bus tour, offered to new faculty and administrators, which he took to visit tribal colleges. He said the program is not initiated at each tribal college, but has been established at one.
Reach later, Meloney Linder, UND vice president for marketing and communications, said the school has a relationship with Cankdeska Cikana Community College in Fort Totten.
Kennedy's voting record in Congress came up yet again during the forum, as it has at every stop during his tour this week.
Kennedy, who represented Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007, voted to restrict abortion rights and voted in favor of an amendment banning same-sex marriages.
A student asked Kennedy to give specifics on what types of benefits and supports he would give to students in the LGBTQ+ community.
"I'm a little suspect because you keep saying supports and benefits and blah, blah, blah, blah," the student said. "I want real support and benefits for students of color, for LGBTQIA students, for disabilities. What are you going to do when you get here?"
Kennedy said when he spoke about benefits he was talking about healthcare and retirement benefits that faculty and staff have. When speaking about supports, Kennedy said he meant the various support systems on a campus level.
From a system level, Kennedy said the system and the campuses can debate goals and aspirations for the schools.
"I'm interviewing to be system leader," he said. "I'm not going to reach into each campus and tell them what programs they should do."
Kennedy and the student went back and forth for some time.
"Don't hire him," one member of the audience said. "He don't know how to answer a g*d d*mn question."
Kennedy was pressed to publically apologize for his vote on same-sex marriage.
"I am pained that my actions caused others pain," he said. "I apologize that my actions caused the pain that you now describe."
One student, who said she was a conservative student leader at CU Boulder, asked Kennedy about his views on the First Amendment and what it means to him.
"As you can see they're not very welcoming to conservatives here because of obviously what they've been doing to you today," the student said.
Kennedy said campuses must have debates on difficult issues and also train students how to think critically. Part of that critical thinking includes listening to other points of view.
During his time at UND, Kennedy created the "Eye of the Hawk" lecture series, which brings in speakers with varying world views to talk about topics
"One of the things I would hope to do would (be to) come to each campus with people with starkly different views, preferably pulled out of the CU community, to have a conversation that will help expand all of our minds as to how we can think more broadly, embrace critical thinking, be prepared for whatever the future may hold," he said.
Another audience member asked about Kennedy's salary at UND and what he would be paid at CU. Kennedy is paid $365,000 a year at UND, along with use of the president's residence on campus.
Kennedy said money is not a driving factor for him. Instead, his driving factor is providing individuals the opportunity to get a college degree.
The official salary for the president's position at CU has not been revealed. Outgoing CU President Bruce Benson makes $358,000 a year, but has refused a pay raise for much of his time in office.
CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue said the board expects the salary will increase considerably over Benson's current rate.
"The board understands it is a function of the market and will adjust accordingly," McConnellogue told the Herald earlier this month.
The yelling and booing didn't stop after the forum ended, though. Students chanted as Kennedy left.
"Racist, sexist, anti-gay. Kennedy must go away," members of the crowd chanted as Kennedy left the stage.
Boulder was Kennedy's final visit to the CU campuses. Now, he waits to find out if the CU Board of Regents will affirm his appointment.