Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy

University of Colorado President Mark Kennedy will be stepping down from his position, announcing Monday that he has begun discussing a transition of the presidency with the CU Board of Regents.

Kennedy, who was hired as president in May 2019, said the transition would happen in the coming months.

“I appreciate the many smart and dedicated people who work hard every day to help the university meet its mission to serve its students,” Kennedy said. “CU is one of the country’s great public universities and I have every confidence it will continue to build on its strong reputation and upward trajectory.”

The move comes after the CU Boulder teaching staff voted to censure Kennedy on April 29 for actions and comments he made regarding diversity, equity and inclusion.

The Boulder Faculty Assembly passed the resolution condemning Kennedy's actions -- the first time it has censured a university president.

The resolution listed incidents where members said Kennedy failed to guide the university on diversity issues, including casual use of the phrase "Trail of Tears" in a faculty meeting in 2020 and not supporting the university's endeavor to guarantee international student visas.

"He isn't leading on diversity, equity and inclusion," said David Paradis, a CU Boulder senior history instructor during the BFA meeting.

Kennedy said the university community has made significant progress during his presidency in strategic planning, online education, diversity, equity, inclusion, fundraising and technology transformation.

CU spokesperson Ken McConnellogue said Kennedy has not yet officially resigned but is talking with the Board of Regents about separating from the university.

Board of Regents Chairman Glen Gallegos said the board will meet soon to discuss next steps. The board will select an interim president and then conduct a national search for the next permanent president.

“The Board of Regents will move quickly to determine our next steps and will work closely with President Kennedy in the coming months to ensure an orderly transition of the presidency,” said Gallegos and Board Vice Chair Lesley Smith in a statement.

“He has led CU though the pandemic and has been making progress on key initiatives we agreed to, so the university is in good position. We appreciate President Kennedy’s contributions and dedication.”

Even before his censorship, Kennedy’s presidency was clouded by controversy from the beginning.

When Kennedy was announced as the sole finalist for the presidency, community members demanded to know the identities of the other five candidates, casting doubt on the selection process. The university refused, inspiring protests and a lawsuit from the Daily Camera newspaper.

The CU Boulder Student Government also passed a resolution criticizing the selection process, saying there wasn’t enough student input. The search committee had one undergraduate student from Colorado Springs who was added after students protested that the committee only had a graduate student.

Outside of the selection process, CU students and faculty also criticized Kennedy’s selection because of his conservative congressional voting record during his time representing Minnesota.

In 2004 and 2006, Kennedy, a Republican, voted for and cosponsored bills to constitutionally define marriage as between a man and a woman — a stance Kennedy said he no longer supported in an open letter in 2019.

An ex-employee from George Washington University also claimed that Kennedy discriminated against gay employees while serving as the director of the Graduate School of Political Management in 2013.

The GW Hatchet reported that David Marshall and four other employees filed complaints against Kennedy for creating a hostile work environment for gay employees. Marshall also said he feared retaliation and was fired in May 2013 for allegedly mishandling financial reports. The university rejected Marshall’s claims.

In April 2019, the CU Boulder Faculty Senate passed a resolution expressing “grave concern about the quality and qualifications” of Kennedy and the CU Faculty Council LGBTQ+ Committee published an open letter asking the board to reconsider their support for Kennedy.

Kennedy’s selection was ultimately confirmed by the Board of Regents in a 5-4 vote on May 2, 2019, replacing former President Bruce Benson who retired after serving as president from 2008 to 2019.

With his upcoming exit, Kennedy’s stint at president will be the shortest since Alexander Bracken’s one-year term in 2000.

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