By Tori Mason

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – The University Of Colorado Board Of Regents unanimously named Mark Kennedy as sole finalist for president. Students, staff and alumni attended a rally at CU Boulder to protest their decision Monday.

Mark Kennedy (credit: CBS)

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“We are out here to reject the Board’s ridiculous decision making process that ignores student voices, ignores faculty voices, and ignores staff voices,” said a student protester. More than 1,800 students signed a petition requesting that Kennedy’s nomination be withdrawn.

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“Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Kennedy most go away,” chanted the crowd in front of Norlin Library.

Many believe the former Republican congressman has shown a lack of support for the LGBTQ community, voting twice against marriage equality. Kennedy’s also voted against grants for colleges serving African American and Hispanic students.

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In an open letter to the CU community, Kennedy writes that his “position on marriage has evolved. Would I vote the same way today? No.”

The majority of protesters aren’t convinced, saying they should’ve been given another option. CU student Victoria Acuna, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ and Hispanic community, says the university should have made diversity a priority.

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“The university is increasingly become more female, more diversified and we want to see that reflected in our leadership. There are five other unnamed candidates that they still haven’t released. Give us a chance to vet,” said Acuna.

The Board of Regents says they narrowed down their search to six qualified candidates before ultimately deciding on Kennedy as the sole finalist. In a statement from CU Board of Regents Chair Sue Sharkey and Vice Chair Jack Kroll, board members believe Kennedy’s “skills and experience in business, government and higher education would make him a great president of the University of Colorado.”

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Among protesters was former CU Regent Bob Sievers. Having been through this process before, Sievers recognizes that selecting a new president isn’t easy. He agrees that the board should have brought more than one candidate forward.

“It could turn out that this candidate would be alright, but it’s a big gamble,” said Sievers. “His experience in academia is thin. He comes from a school that’s not at the caliber of PAC-12 schools like we are now. It’ll be tough for him to get up to speed,” said Sievers.

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Sievers hopes they’re able to put politics aside and pick the best candidate for the university.

“The Regents need to hear this, both democrats and republicans. They need to know that this not a trivial choice. It’s probably more important now than it’s ever been in the past,” said Sievers.

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Kennedy is scheduled to visit all four CU campuses next week. The university encourages Boulder students to hear directly from Kennedy when he’s on campus April 26.

Tori Mason