BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 5-4, along party lines, to make Mark Kennedy the next president of the CU system. Kennedy was the sole finalist for president in the vote that happened Thursday afternoon.
Kennedy is currently the president of the University of North Dakota. He was also a U.S. Congressman for Minnesota, and had a conservative voting record.
“Honored and humbled,” were Kennedy’s words to the media after the vote. He becomes the university system’s 23rd president.
Many believe the former Republican congressman has shown a lack of support for the LGBTQ community, voting twice against marriage equality. Kennedy has also voted against grants for colleges serving African American and Hispanic students.
“The order of the day is to build unity,” Kennedy said. He said he knows how to do that — coming from a family with many siblings squabbling over where to go to dinner.
The metal detectors at the meeting door were a strong sign of the divisions leading up to the vote.
Democrat Linda Shoemaker said she hoped she’d come to regret her “no” vote in future.
Republican Heidi Ganahl countered, “I personally am excited about the future of CU and certain Mark Kennedy is the right choice to take us there.”
During the vetting process Kennedy was exposed to deep criticism of his prior stances against gay marriage and abortion.
A woman who identified herself as Melissa, a student and staff member told the Regents, “The University of Colorado medical school is one of the only ones in the country to teach abortion and has lectures on abortion and it’s a terrifying thing to have someone who has come out against abortion to be in charge of our medical school.”
The 5-4 vote was right down party lines with the Republicans holding the slim edge. There were tears in the audience — and anger at after the vote.
“I’m looking forward to listening to learning, to engaging to building those bridges, that’s what I am focused on,” Kennedy emphasized.
He takes over the job on July 1, replacing Bruce Benson. Kennedy’s contract calls for $850,000 salary which includes $200,000 worth of incentives.
The CU Board of Regents had previously released a statement that called Kennedy a “proven leader with a diverse set of skills… with a passion for higher education… and a strong commitment to diversity.”