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UND's Kennedy calls himself ‘a champion for diversity’ during second day of Colorado tour

University of Colorado presidential finalist Mark Kennedy answers questions during a open forum meeting on Monday at the Warwick Hotel in Denver. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy was on the road again Tuesday, April 23, making his case to a roomful of University of Colorado-Colorado Springs students, faculty and staff about why he is qualified to be president of CU.

Kennedy made his second of five stops in Colorado this week to talk with the CU community about his qualifications for the position and to discuss decisions he had made during his time in Congress and at UND.

He is the lone finalist for the University of Colorado presidency, which oversees the four-campus system.

Kennedy’s political affiliation and voting record were brought up again Tuesday. In the first question of the day, Kennedy was asked if he, a former Republican representative in Congress, could work with a Democratic governor and Legislature.

He said he has worked with both sides of the aisle on different pieces of legislation and is prepared to work with the governor and the Legislature no matter which political party is in control.

At least one Colorado Board of Regents member has said the board did not have enough time to properly vet Kennedy before he was announced as the only candidate for the position. Tuesday, a member of the audience asked if Kennedy would be receptive to the regents reopening the process and selecting other people to compete against him. The audience member, a CU alum and legacy donor, said he was concerned whether Kennedy was sensitive to populations of diversity.

Kennedy deferred questions about the process to the regents, but said he believes he has been “a champion for diversity” by making sure that more first-generation college students have the chance to go to school.

“I would reject the idea that I have not been a champion for diversity,” Kennedy said. “The two most animating things for me in higher ed — why I’m here, rather than in business or politics — is to reach out to those that had not had that opportunity to it before.”

Board Chairwoman Sue Sharkley said Kennedy was put through a “very rigorous” vetting process, noting that the board spent two hours in-person asking him questions on a variety of topics and then spent another hour with him on the phone to discuss different issues.

Kennedy was asked to give his personal definition of diversity, to which he replied:

“Life is a game of addition, not subtraction; the fullest sense of diversity is what I affirm,” he said.

Kennedy was also questioned about his stance on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Monday, during a meeting with the CU Faculty Council, Kennedy was asked if he had signed the Pomona letter. The letter was signed by hundreds of college presidents to affirm support for undocumented students. Kennedy had said he didn’t know what the letter was and added he did not believe there were any DACA students at UND, the Denver Post reported.

He had also mentioned that he did not believe a letter would be effective at changing the mind of President Donald Trump.

When asked to clarify his comments Tuesday, Kennedy said it would be more effective to go to Washington to meet with the White House and members of Congress in person rather than send a letter. He said he would be supportive of doing this at CU.

The CU Board of Regents is nearing the end of a 14-day waiting period before it can vote whether to appoint Kennedy as president.

The board likely will make a decision about Kennedy’s appointment in early May, according to CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue.

Kennedy’s next stop will be the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora on Wednesday. Thursday, he’ll be back in Denver to visit with students, faculty and staff before making his way to Boulder on Friday.