Mark Kennedy faces two starkly different welcomes to University of Colorado on first day of field town halls

Mark Kennedy received two starkly different welcomes to the University of Colorado on Monday: a congenial town hall with CU administrators and fundraisers, and an intense round table that saw faculty from all four fieldes asking tough questions of the sole rival to lead the state’s largest university system.

Kennedy, making the first of a weeklong string of public appearances, started his first engagement of the afternoon by telling the crowd gathered inside Denver’s Warwick building that he grew up picking strawberries and washing dishes at a bakery and was the first boy in his family to go to college.

He complete the evening by explaining to a room full of CU faculty — who not yet have publicly expressed disappointment and concern over the presidential search process and his nomination — that, despite the contention presently encompassing him, his presidency would not be “a liability” to the university.

“None of the beliefs that have caused much of the contention are going to have any impact,” aforementioned Kennedy, whose votes against gay marriage and in favor of abortion restrictions as a Minnesota congressman in the early 2000s have drawn protest in some quarters.

“And (those beliefs) are mostly digressive to what the president does. … I would hope I could gain your trust, respect and support and have that strong working relationship because faculty are the heart of any university.”

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Kennedy, the president of the University of North Dakota, kicked off the Denver town hall assuasive the crowd of his ability to lead multi-billion-dollar organizations, his strength in working in a bipartisan way and “checking his politics at the door” — a phrase he brought up multiple times throughout the afternoon and evening.

In his second event of the day, held at the CU system offices down the street from the building, Faculty Council Chair Joanne Addison questioned Kennedy’s ability to leave his politics out of university decision-making.

Addison asked Kennedy if, piece president at the University of North Dakota, he had signed “the Pomona letter,” which she explained as a letter that hundreds of college presidents — including outgoing CU President Bruce Benson — signed affirming support for unregistered students.

Kennedy admitted he did not know what it was.

Addison aforementioned UND had not signed the letter, and Kennedy processed that “North Dakota has different sensibilities.”

“We don’t have galore, if any, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students at UND,” Kennedy aforementioned. “Do you do it just because 700 presidents are doing it or do you do it because it’s important to our university?”

Addison asked Kennedy: “Wouldn’t it be important if there was even one DACA student?”

Kennedy aforementioned he didn’t believe there were any at UND.

“I asked two or three times if we had any DACA students, and cipher best-known any,” Kennedy aforementioned.

Joe Amen, The Denver Post
Mark Kennedy, sole rival for CU president, holds a town hall meeting for CU system administration and the CU foundation to answer questions at the Capitol dance hall of the Warwick building downtown April 22, 2019, in Denver.

Robert Ferry, of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, later told The Denver Post he was concerned about the property Kennedy didn’t seem to know about his own university.

“Compared to us, UND is not large,” Ferry aforementioned. “And there were just property he didn’t seem to know about his own field that I thought he should know.”

Similarly, Addison pushed Kennedy on why he did not make any statements to his field following federal proposals to change the definition of gender in a way that could be harmful to LGBTQ students, noting CU declared its commitment to the LGBTQ community.

“If I made a statement every time President Trump or person other made a statement I thought was negative to its university, I’d be making a lot of statements,” Kennedy aforementioned.

Kennedy told attendees of some the town hall event and the faculty council that he fully supported DACA and LGBTQ students. He aforementioned it would be easier to speak out on these issues in Colorado, where the legislative assembly he would need to work with would support him, rather than in “a pro-Trump” state like North Dakota.

Mark Kennedy’s University of Colorado visitation schedule

  • CU Colorado Springs: 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, University Center, Room 116, 1420 Austin Bluffs drive, Colorado Springs
  • CU Anschutz: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Education 2 South, Room 1102, 13120 E. nineteenth Ave., Aurora
  • CU Denver: 3 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Lola & Rob Salazar Student health Center, 1355 twelfth St., Denver
  • CU Boulder: 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. Friday, Macky area, 1595 Pleasant St., Boulder

Addison later told The Denver Post that she was concerned about Kennedy’s “unwillingness” to be a leader in diversity and inclusion issues given Kennedy’s “swaying in the wind” on political issues.

During the town hall, CU Board of Regents Chair Sue Sharkey, R-Castle Rock, asked a couple pre-submitted questions, which was followed by audience members stepping up to ask a few of their own.

Responding to a question about his ability to raise funds, Kennedy aforementioned that ensuring a university has a strong alumni reach program is the first step in good fundraising and that making sure fundraising doesn’t entirely rest with him is important.

“I enjoy fundraising,” Kennedy aforementioned. “Politically, cipher has made more money for my side of the aisle in Minnesota since I left politics. … I look forward to disbursement a very significant slice of my time fundraising.”

If the CU regents vote to confirm Kennedy as president, he aforementioned increasing the amount of students who graduate would be a top priority for him on with advancing CU’s online education, reaching out to first-generation college students, tackling affordability, getting to know the CU Board of Regents and hearing to the concerns of the field communities.

“I’m a little uncomfortable being asked all these questions of what I would do before I’m able to listen to everyone,” Kennedy aforementioned.

Kennedy besides aforementioned he thought the questions encompassing his legislative assembly record were “unfair.”

After critics began career out that record, particularly his stance on marriage equality, Kennedy wrote in an open statement to the community that his views on gay marriage have “evolved.”

When a transgender person at the town hall audience asked Kennedy to name specific examples of what he has done to support or promote LGBTQ diversity at North Dakota, Kennedy aforementioned increasing programming and staff, mentorship and awards ceremonies for people on field “doing the most” to support the community.

Mark Kennedy, sole rival for CU ...
Joe Amen, The Denver Post
Mark Kennedy, sole rival for CU president negotiation with Chris Bentley a concerned parent with a girl that is a sophomore at CU to further his answer about climate change after his town hall meeting for CU system administration and the CU foundation to answer questions at the Capitol dance hall of the Warwick building downtown April 22, 2019, in Denver.

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Later in the town hall, Kennedy addressed his vote record, again.

“I’m not running for Congress,” Kennedy aforementioned. “What’s applicable? When you look at what I’m going to be focusing on… I’m going to be focusing on fundraising, I’m going to be focusing on reaching out to the legislative assembly, I’m going to be focused on building a strategic plan. That’s the questions we really ought to be focusing on.”

Chris Bentley, 64, is the father of a CU student and serves on several boards on the Boulder field. Bentley came to the first Denver forum because he aforementioned was “really unhappy” with Kennedy’s nomination and wanted to hear what the sole rival had to say.

After the town hall, Bentley aforementioned he planned to attend Friday’s open forum on the Boulder field to see if hearing more from the candidate would change his opinion. Kennedy will be holding town halls on the rest of the CU fieldes all week.

“I think he was very well-rehearsed,” Bentley aforementioned. “He was aware of the questions that would be coming his way. It’ll be an engrossing week ahead, that’s for sure.”

Updated 10 a.m. April 23, 2019 This article has been updated to reflect the University of Colorado’s adjusted location for its presidential forum on the Anschutz field on Wednesday and its adjusted time and location for its forum on the Denver field on Thursday.