Mark Udall, a former U.S. senator from Colorado and Boulder congressman, called Monday for the University of Colorado to reopen its search for its next president, days ahead of an expected vote on sole finalist Mark Kennedy.
Udall's call comes amid mounting controversy over Kennedy, currently the University of North Dakota's president, with many CU faculty members and students protesting the pick, largely over Kennedy's views on LGBTQ rights, abortion and other issues as a Minnesota congressman.
Supporters have called Kennedy a highly qualified pick who is being attacked for being a Republican, much as Bruce Benson was when he became CU president in 2008.
In a recent interview with CPR News and in a series of appearances last week at CU's four campuses, Kennedy defended his record in academia, saying his views have evolved over the years and that he would be an inclusive leader.
A regents vote is slated for Thursday.
In a statement to the Boulder Daily Camera, Udall called Kennedy an "honorable, decent man" who has "done nothing wrong or untoward."
But he added: “Too many questions remain unanswered and a new president who doesn’t have a broad cross section of support from all of Colorado’s stakeholders will be hamstrung from the very beginning of his or her tenure. That wouldn’t serve any of us starting with the new president and the university community.”
The former lawmaker said regents should consider other candidates in addition to Kennedy.
Udall's comments came after Gov. Jared Polis tweeted on April 19: "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."
Kennedy was the unanimous choice as finalist to succeed Benson of both Republicans and Democrats on the CU regents board. But more recently there have been signs of hesitancy among some regents.
Udall, a former executive of the Outward Bound outdoor-education program, served a single term as U.S. senator from 2009 to 2015. Previously he was a congressman from 1999 to 2009 and a state representative from 1997 to 1999.