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Diversity, Inclusion Dominate CU President Finalist's Campus Tour

Mark Kennedy
Amanda Andrews
University of Colorado presidential finalist Mark Kennedy speaks at a forum on the CU Boulder campus Friday.

The University of Colorado presidential finalist Mark Kennedy spent the week touring the college system's campuses. At every stop, Kennedy was quizzed about where he stood on LGBTQ issues.

Kennedy's selection faces opposition from students, faculty and alumni who point to his voting record as a Minnesota congressman and budget cuts made during his time as president of the University of North Dakota.

He was asked about his ability to fundraise for climate change research with his conservative voting record on environmental issues. He was also asked about his lack of a Ph.D. and why he has been job hunting after a little more than three years at the University of North Dakota.

Monday: Warwick Hotel, Denver

Kennedy started the tour on Monday in Denver by telling the audience that he is a "champion" of inclusion on campus.

Chris Bentley was there, doubtful that Kennedy could effectively lead CU.

"I'm here with an open mind, but (have) read and seen enough stuff about him that he just seems like an all-around terrible choice," said Bentley.

Tuesday: CU Colorado Springs

On Tuesday, Kennedy stopped at the Colorado Springs campus where questions about diversity and inclusion dominated the conversation.

During his time in Congress, Kennedy voted against same-sex marriage and for the 2006 Marriage Protection Amendment that would amend the Constitution making marriage between a man and a woman.

Kennedy told the Colorado Spring audience that he was a champion of the LGBTQ community and asked them to consider his record at the University of North Dakota.

"We never had a dedicated staff to the LGBTQI+ community until I got there," said Kennedy. "We added that staff person, we added programming."

Wednesday: CU: Anschutz Medical Center

His voting record was again center stage at the CU's Anschutz Medical campus. A small group rallied outside while inside Kennedy assured the audience that he would not impose his values on the university when it came to stem cell research.

"My values here at the University of Colorado will be what's in the interest of our faculty, staff and students and from the state," Kennedy said.

Throughout the process, the board of regents have insisted that Kennedy's experience in business, politics and higher education make him a good choice.

CU Regent Leslie Smith was there, and she liked hearing that Kennedy believes in academic freedom.

"I'm keeping an open mind," said Smith. "I'm still getting emails from people, and come Friday I will have a definite idea of which way I'm going to vote."

Thursday: CU Denver

On Thursday a handful of students in the back of the room held signs as the audience once again asked Kennedy to square his voting record with the need for diversity and inclusion on campus.

Alumnus K. Richard Engel listened to Kennedy's answers with an open mind, but he still has questions.

"Does he have an idea of where CU should be going, does he have an idea of leadership? If he has one, I'd like to hear it," said Engel.

Friday: CU Boulder

The final stop was at CU's Boulder campus where the crowd was much more vocal than at other forums. Audience members booed and shouted at Kennedy as he revisited his views on diversity and inclusion.

CU regents voted unanimously earlier this month to make Kennedy their sole candidate. The final vote is May 2nd.

Stories written by KUNC newsroom staff.
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