Old leopard, new spots?

A Republican who opposed same-sex marriage is about to become the University of Colorado’s president

Mark Kennedy, Republican, University of Colorado Boulder
Mark Kennedy, former U.S. Congressman

It looks like former Republican congressman Mark Kennedy might soon be confirmed as the president of the University of Colorado Boulder even though he has a history of voting against same-sex marriage — that is, unless student protestors get their way.

Last week, the University’s Board of Regents announced the 61-year-old’s candidacy, citing his “commitment to diversity.” Think Progress explains why some people take issue with that claim:

Kennedy served as a congressman representing Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006. While in office, he voted in favor of and co-sponsored bills that aimed to create a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. He also voted in favor of funding health care providers that do not provide information about abortions and against providing grants to black and Hispanic colleges.

The university later revealed that they “accelerated” their public announcement of Kennedy after a report by the Grand Forks Herald suggesting that he was under consideration for the job. The university rushed out their announcement before finishing the vetting process. One board member even said that they didn’t discuss his voting record during a vetting interview.

Regents board member Linda Shoemaker claims his anti-LGBTQ voting record was addressed during an exploratory interview the week before he was named. Another board member said that the vetting process is ongoing and that a lot had been done before his naming. And yet another said that they weren’t particularly bothered by his Congressional voting record seeing as the president’s main job are to secure donors and retain students.

Related: Republican governor pens letter to LGBTQ community apologizing for his awful homophobic colleagues

Shoemaker said, “It’s unfortunate we prematurely had to release his name because we didn’t even have the opportunity for our own staff to do the vetting that we would have expected to be done prior to announcing this finalist.”

In a recent letter to the university community, Kennedy defended his previous anti-LGBTQ votes, writing:

Like many friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress, my position on marriage has evolved. Would I vote the same way today? No. My record in supporting the LGBTQ+ community reflects a deep respect for the dignity of each individual. Students, faculty, staff and members of our community will have my full support and respect no matter who they love or how they identify. I am committed to be a leader for all.

At the University of North Dakota, I issued an anti-discrimination and harassment policy covering sexual orientation and gender identity as strong as similar policies at CU. At UND, we have attracted talented LGBTQ+ individuals to leadership roles and expanded programming in support of our LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff. I will ensure that senior university leaders share my commitment to nondiscrimination and the benefits of diversity.

The board has 14 days from the time of his naming to decide whether to hire him. With eight days left and students protesting, they could eventually rescind his candidacy and choose one of the other five unnamed candidates, but that seems unlikely seeing as they’ve already named him as their official candidate.

Over 5,000 people, including faculty and students, have signed an open letter asking the Board of Regents to reconsider his candidacy.  On Monday, students protested Kennedy’s visit to one of the university’s four campuses. They are planning a second protest on April 26 when Kennedy will hold an open forum on campus to address community concerns.