MINOT, N.D. - Once upon a time I thought Mark Kennedy was going to be a good leader for the University of North Dakota.
I cheered when he made tough decisions like closing down the women’s hockey program which bled money because, despite vocal support from some, few showed up to watch the games or support the team.
My opinion on the man has changed.
Kennedy has not been a good leader. He is arrogant and blustery and infuriatingly oblivious to the ramifications of his actions. He’s alienated important factions of the campus community, not to mention some of the school’s biggest donors.
Suffice it to say I am not a Kennedy supporter these days.
So it’s odd I find myself defending him against some of the pushback he’s received after being named the finalist for the president of the University of Colorado.
Were the griping focused on Kennedy’s job performance at UND and elsewhere I would be sympathetic, but it sure seems as though the principle objection many have is he’s a Republican.
Or, at least, he was a Republican when he represented a Minnesota district in the U.S. Congress. Kennedy, perhaps as a way to ingratiate himself, has spent a lot of time of late disavowing his previous political positions, and at one point suggested criticism of him here red state North Dakota was the product of racism and misogyny.
Thanks for perpetuating that stereotype, Mark.
A recent Denver Post account of meetings Kennedy has had with the campus community shows him being grilled over his support for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students. He was questioned about his past position on gay marriage in Congress, which at the time was the same as Barack Obama’s.
A group calling itself CU Against Kennedy has created a website, and on it they’ve documented the man’s many sins against liberal orthodoxy, even including his rankings as a congressman from left wing groups like the AFL-CIO and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Again, I’m hardly a Kennedy sympathizer, but the CU community sure seems intent on living up to certain notions about how intolerant academia has become toward ideological diversity.
Which isn’t to say the left has a monopoly on this sort of thing.
Since Kennedy has almost certainly worn out his welcome in North Dakota, even if he doesn’t get the Colorado gig, I suggested former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp might be a good fit for his replacement.
The reaction was furious. Some of it from left wing Facebook troglodytes who don’t even bother to read the articles they’re commenting on these days - one described my praise for Heitkamp as a candidate as “ugly and uncalled for” - but much of it from people who simply don’t like Heitkamp’s politics.
She’s a Democrat, thus she’s unfit to lead UND.
That’s deeply unfortunate.
It doesn’t matter who is applying it, an ideological litmus test for a position like university president is inappropriate.
Society shouldn’t be a political team sport, where the only people you’re willing to support are those wearing your jersey.
Sadly, that’s how many on the left and the right view the world these days.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.